COPMI - Children of Parents with a Mental Illness - Keeping families in mind

Managing with a new baby

Mum and new baby

The responsibility of a new baby often seems overwhelming. But there is lots of help available if you ask for it.

Typical feelings

Mothers and fathers may worry unnecessarily because they don’t know how most parents feel after childbirth. Many new parents feel overwhelmed by the intense emotions of birth and the stress of early childhood. They can experience conflicting mood swings ranging from joy, fear, confusion, sadness to frustration, isolation and love.

A familiar fear for mothers in particular is that they are being criticised or judged as inadequate in some way. Rest assured it is quite common for these emotions to occur when you are a new parent.

It is also very normal to resent the change in your identity and loss of your free and spontaneous lifestyle as your new baby calls on you 24/7!  It is also quite common that new mothers and fathers suffer from physical exhaustion and lack of energy. This is where having support is really important – both physically and emotionally.  

The importance of a support system

For the first few weeks at least, be sure you’ve engaged the support systems around you – from your partner, family and friends to healthcare professionals.

Make sure you ask for help when you’re struggling - it’s the sensible thing to do and shows you want to be a successful mother. Getting support will reduce the impact of your illness on your parenting.

Remember also that there are others in the same boat who will probably be experiencing the same feelings. Consider joining a Mothers or babys group, or catching up with those in your antenatal class for additional support and to share your learnings and experiences.

Remember you can always call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Or call Parentline in your state.

Connecting with your child

Baby hands

When you respond to your baby your confidence in parenting develops. You learn to read its cues, and baby’s self-esteem and development grows through this warm and trusting relationship.

However when you’re unwell it may be harder to recognise baby’s signals and this can have an impact on your child.

Babies need to know they are loved. They need to feel safe and to trust their basic needs will be met. If you are struggling, try practicing to smile as you interact with your baby as this can reassure them. Enjoy contact through play. Let your baby teach you how to play and to have fun. 

If you feel you can’t respond positively, ask someone in your personal support network to come and play with the baby for a while - and ensure you get time to rest.

Play tips

  • Babies like being held and rocked, to be read and sung to
  • Older infants like peek-a-boo games and noisy, colourful objects
  • Remember playing with a baby is not wasting time ... it’s very productive  and encourages healthy emotional and mental development
  • Ask your health care professional to help you learn how to play

Checklist for new mums

  • Talk to your doctor about if and how your illness or medication may affect your parenting.
  • Find out what additional help is available – home help, social workers, support groups.
  • Tell your support people how they can help – and let them.
  • Make time to play with and enjoy your child.  

Links to other support/materials



Need to talk to someone?

Are you a parent with depression or anxiety?

Help your family understand. Find out how to discuss mental illness with them.