The first 2 weeks after my baby was born went by in a whirl of visitors – family, friends, colleagues, health visitors and midwives, with my partner running around in the background making tea for them all. It was exhausting and there were times I wished they’d all just leave me alone with my baby.
And then they did.
So, there we were. Me, my beautiful new son and the cat. As you can imagine, conversation was limited.
Coping with loneliness as a new parent was the hardest thing I had to deal with. I’d prepared myself for sleepless nights and all the poo, but the sudden isolation from every aspect of my old life left me feeling bewildered. I’d gone from a busy career and a lively social life to what seemed like house arrest.
And what really surprised me is that this is normal, and almost all first-time mums go through this patch of new parent isolation. The solution? Bursting out of that baby bubble and making friends with other parents.
meeting other parents
When it comes to coping with loneliness as a new parent, having a network of mums and dads who can relate makes a big difference. However lovely your friends and family are, nothing beats sharing the experience with those at a similar 'baby stage' to you. The good news is it’s actually really easy to make friends with other parents, with plenty of ready-made social groups just waiting for other sleep-deprived mums and dads to join.
Why not start with a local baby playgroup? Your health visitor should be able to give you the details of what’s on offer nearby. Such groups can be as important for you and your baby as weighing and physical health check-ups, especially if you’re trying to find ways of coping with loneliness as a new parent.
If you’re still pregnant, sign up for an antenatal yoga or NCT class. This way you’ll have some lovely like-minded peers to go through those overwhelming early days with. Friendships that start with helping each other out of downward dog pose are for life (and, in my case, our bumps grew up to be friends too).
set a date
Going to a new baby session sometimes feels like the first day at school. For my first baby massage class I reached deep, found my inner networker (phew, she was still there), and asked another mum if she fancied a pram walk afterwards. She did, and it became a weekly date. Even if you’re feeling zombified right now (it’s not easy being the life of the party on 3 hours’ sleep), reach out to other mums. Chances are, they’re feeling just as isolated while coping with loneliness as a new parent, and would absolutely love to hook up with a fellow zombie.
If you’re not a natural extrovert, don’t worry – this is what Facebook groups are for. Find some local groups that appeal to you and start chatting with other parents. Post a message: "Who’s going to baby weighing on Wednesday? Coffee afterwards?"
I was a rural mum, but I heard about all sorts of exciting activities from my urban sisters. Some cinemas offer baby-and-parent film screenings where the audience alternately screams, sleeps and feeds – and nobody bats an eyelid. There are park pram runs and craft workshops where you can breastfeed while making garlands. Swimming classes for slightly older babies are tremendous fun, especially with a friend to giggle with.
There were plenty of options in the country, too. We’d strap our babies into their papooses and stride out (always choosing a route that took in a café). In the summer, baby beach playdates became a thing, and our growing little ones loved playing in the sand. Meeting up doesn’t have to cost a fortune or require complicated logistics. Really, it’s often the simplest activities that help most when coping with loneliness as a new parent.
make some 'you' time
“But when?!” I hear you say. For the first 4 weeks, going for a wee without dragging the carrycot into the bathroom felt like Mission Impossible. My son hollered the house down if he suspected I was more than a few inches away from him. A spa day felt completely out of reach.
My best tip is to start small. When your partner gets home or your mum calls round, pass your baby over. Take a bath. And I mean a nice bath, not a quick flannel wash for the sake of basic hygiene. I went through so many scented candles in the first 2 months, because that evening bath became my sacred space.
As a new parent, it’s easy to feel you’ve become lost in a baby-focused blur. You haven’t. Take time to do something you’ve always enjoyed. Go for a swim (once you’ve had the GP’s all-clear). Read a book. Reach out to family or friends to babysit and do something on your own or with your partner. Eventually, brave a mums' night out with your new parent friends to celebrate how far you've come. In turn, you’re probably helping someone else who is coping with loneliness as a new parent, just as you were.
ask for help
A wise older cousin told me if I didn’t look after myself, I wouldn't be able to look after my baby. Then she took him from me and sent me out for a walk.
This is probably the best advice I was given while stressed and coping with loneliness as a new parent. You need to do what’s best for you to be able to give your best to baby. We all have that tendency to prove our competence by struggling on, even when it’s clear we should ask for help.
If you feel low, and that feeling doesn’t seem to be going away no matter what you do, don't try and muddle through. It’s believed that 1 in 10 new mums will experience postnatal depression (PND) in the first year. Talk to your GP or health visitor, but also chat to your friends and family about how you're feeling. Perhaps there's something they can do to help, like looking after your little one while you make time for yourself and the things you enjoy.
Meeting up with other new parents is so important for your emotional wellbeing as a new mum. You’ll share stories and tips, and sometimes you don’t even have to talk, just share a coffee in companionable and sleepy silence. You’re still you. You’re still a fabulous friend for other grown-ups. You’re not alone.