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After Giving Birth: Changing Expectations for Parents

Congratulations on your new baby! Diapers won’t be the only thing you’ll change in the months ahead. Your sense of yourself and how you relate to your partner will also be different. If you have other children, expect some emotional swings, as you and your family try out your new roles.

Not always rosy

Most new mothers experience some form of the baby blues. These mood swings are caused by hormonal shifts in your body. Stress due to the recent changes in your life and lack of sleep also have an effect. The baby blues may last a few days or up to 2 weeks. You may feel a sense of loss, frustration, or anger. Or you may be sad that having a baby isn’t what you’d imagined. Sometimes a birth triggers childhood memories or reminds you about the death of a loved one.

Balancing the blues

Recognize your need to talk, to feel protected, to have private time. Allow yourself to cry, to sit, to think. Ask for help when you need it, and accept help when it’s offered. Knowing your needs isn't a weakness. Share your thoughts with your partner. Or pick up the phone and call a friend or family member. Rest, eat right, and get some light exercise. The mind feels best when the body feels good.

Shaping your family

Over the next year, your household will go through many changes. If this is your first child, you and your partner will have to adjust to the idea of being a family. If you have older children, help them adjust to the new baby. Sharing chores, time, and attention is something you’ll all need to work on. If you’re a single mother, you may find that your baby has a family of friends, as well as relatives.

Share activities

As a newborn, your baby has many needs. These must be blended into the family’s style. Take the baby on outings, so they're part of the family from the beginning. Involve everyone in activities you all can enjoy doing together.

Man and woman walking baby in stroller.
Outings with your baby will help form new family bonds.

As parents and lovers

The demands on your relationship have just increased. So do your best to strengthen your partnership ties. Set aside time to talk every day. Put away the dinner dishes together or take a break before bedtime. Also, try to spend time alone. It will help you remember why you’re together. Return to sex when it feels right and it’s OK with your healthcare provider. But don’t think of breastfeeding as a form of birth control. Instead, talk with your provider about birth control methods that might be right for this time in your life.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your provider if you have any of the following concerns:

  • You don’t want to be with the baby.

  • You have no interest in eating or can't sleep.

  • Your symptoms aren't getting better, and you’re getting more upset.

  • You think you may harm yourself or the baby.

The Depression After Delivery hotline (800-944-4773) may also be helpful.

Online Medical Reviewer: Daniel N Sacks MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2021
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