Dr Harvey Karp

Dr Harvey Karp

By Dr Harvey Karp


Once Baby arrives, it’s easy to put all your focus on your new tiny bundle. After all, they require a lot of care! But in looking after their little ones, so many mums and dads neglect to care for themselves and that can have some serious consequences. An estimated 1 in 5 new mums and 1 in 10 new dads suffer with perinatal depression or anxiety. So as tied-up as you are right now with your bub, it’s important that you tend to your own needs too as they say, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first. Here are five ways to look after your own mental health as a new parent.

  1. Sleep

Sleep makes us feel rested, but did you know it also soothes the brain center associated with stress and anxiety? Exhaustion is one of the top triggers of perinatal depression and anxiety, so it’s so important that you find time to get quality rest when you can. As much as you’re able, get yourself in the “good sleep” habit. Try to get outside for sunlight during the day and keep artificial lights to a minimum at night (screens emit blue light that reduces your brain’s natural sleep hormone, melatonin). Avoid caffeine after noon and alcohol may make you sleepy, but it can actually make sleep less restful. Use white noise (low rumbly sounds work best) and do something to calm your mind and prepare it to catch some ZZZ’s, maybe a little breathing meditation (more on this in a moment), before you hit the hay.

  1. Ask for—and accept—help

Research tells us that another issue that can hurt a new mum or dad’s mental health is a lack of “practical support”—someone to hold the baby, help make a meal, etc. So, when people offer to lend a hand, put them to work! Or, consider other stress-reducers, like using a grocery delivery service or a SNOO, which can calm crying and aid a baby’s sleep. It’s like having an extra pair of hands during the first six months of a baby’s life. But professional help in the form of a therapist, medication, or a support group, is also very important if your mental health is struggling. Fortunately, today it’s easier than ever to find emotional support and virtual therapy online. Don’t be afraid to speak with your healthcare provider to figure out the right treatment for you.

  1. Make self-care a priority

Your happiness is the foundation for your happy home. That’s why a parent’s self-nurturing is more important than a spotless house. Consider this your permission to put off some “pressing” tasks, like doing the dishes or folding the laundry, and take a bit of time to refill your tank, like taking a bath, reading a book, or a date-night massage with your partner.

  1. Take a deep breath

When there’s just no time for a bubble bath, a few minutes of slow breathing can quickly give you some peace. Breathing is the body’s automatic stress-reducer. When you have a calm moment, sit comfortably, totally relax all your tiny face muscles, drop your shoulders, and slowly breathe in as you silently count to five. Then, release your breath as you count to seven. Doesn’t that feel nice?

  1. Cut yourself some slack

Remember, perfection is only found in the dictionary. Parenthood requires extra flexibility. You’re tackling one of the most difficult jobs in the world, so all the other things you feel like you “should” be doing can be put on hold!

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