Dr Helen Webberley GP for Oxford Online Pharmacy, explained to The Huffington Post UK: “Being a new mum is hard. Your life changes, your body changes, your relationship changes and you have a tiny baby that is completely dependent on you.
“Add to that the daily bombardment from the media of telling you that if you don’t play classical music, eat your five a day, avoid all alcohol and sugar during your pregnancy, then your child is likely to be obese, diabetic, stupid and not live as long. It is no wonder so many new mums feel overwhelmed.”
But now a new study from the University of Exeter has found that mothers who have repetitive and self-focused negative thoughts about their own problems can end up having poorer quality relationships with their babies.
So it is more important than ever that mums learn to stop worrying about being a ‘good’ mum and work to eradicate self-doubt and negative thoughts, because they’re not helping anyone. Least of all, you.
Here are 10 things the experts recommend doing to focus on all the things you’re doing well.
Remember you’re not alone.
One of the most isolating parts of motherhood is feeling like you’re the only one who is struggling, while Instagram-perfect-parents have it all figured out. But that’s not the case.
Mumsnet CEO, Justine Roberts, says: “If you - like many of us - have a nagging feeling that you’re doing everything wrong, try to remember that parents have been getting things wrong since the dawn of time and most kids turn out okay despite it all.”
Dr. Webberley agrees: “The good news is that you are not alone. Most of the mothers I talk to feel exactly the same way but the answer is simple enough: love your baby, listen to your instincts and remember no mum is perfect.”
Ignore the advice you don’t want.
It is a well-known cliche of the over-bearing mother-in-law who wants to constantly show you where you’re going wrong, but Dr Webberley says that you know when it is best to ignore these comments: “If the advice you are given is welcome then use it wisely, if it makes you feel bad then close the door on it.”
You know your family best.
Prioritise time for yourself.
You cannot be the best parent, unless you are being the best version of yourself, and this doesn’t mean running yourself into the ground through stress.
Anna Taylor, from Fundamentally Children, says: “Avoid putting you child’s wants above your own health and well-being all of the time. It is not about neglecting a child’s needs, more that by meeting your own mental, emotional, and physical needs too.
“The occasional bubble bath with a glass of wine can do wonders. Eat well, sleep well, and do the things you love - be the person you want your child to become”
Let it go.
Cathy Ranson, Editor in Chief at Channel Mum says: “Cleaning can wait for another day, so what if you wore that same top yesterday and it has a milky stain on it. Forgot to brush your teeth or hair? Who cares. Those early weeks and months can be tough, focus on the big things and let the little things go.”
“When your baby does sleep, use that time for you - and that doesn’t mean hoovering and cleaning, it means taking a long soak in a warm bath with a good book or your favourite catch-up TV,” agrees Dr Webberley.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Ranson says: “In those early months you’ll find offers of help from friends and family. Don’t feel that you need to do this alone, take people up on their offers of help. They’ll be delighted you asked.”
Find your tribe.
Lots of mums can feel isolated, but need support from fellow mums, who are going through the same thing: “Find your tribe - get out and meet other mums, force yourself to go to baby groups and classes, you’ll eventually find your soulmate we promise. Getting through the dark days is so much easier when you find someone you can laugh about it with,” says Ranson.
Celebrate the small things.
“Celebrate the small things - getting both of you dressed, drinking a cup of tea before it gets cold, getting out of the house. They are all little milestones and worth a pat on the back. You grew a human - that’s huge! Your body (and mind) take time to recover, rest often and take care of yourself first,” says Ranson.
Don’t kid yourself that anyone is a ‘perfect’ parent.
You got this mama - stop comparing yourself with everyone else. They’re doubting their abilities too, Anna Taylor says: “Don’t put every effort into being the perfect parent - your child will be able to develop at their own pace in a nurturing but not overbearing environment. Ignore those perfect parent posts on Facebook and Twitter, they’re not real!”
Don’t get hung up on rules.
Taylor says: “There’s no need to follow rigid rules from a parenting book (or those ‘tips’ that everyone keeps suggesting so helpfully) - find out what works for your own, unique family situation.”
If these thoughts continue, talk to your GP.
If you’re experiencing persistent negative thoughts, do speak to your GP or health visitor - you might need more help from a professional. One in three mums develop post-natal depression, speak out and get the help and support you need.