When people talk about the baby blues, they’re typically referring to the mother. The thing is, men can get it too. Or at least experience very similar emotions.
That’s because these feelings aren’t just linked to the sudden chemical and hormonal changes a woman experiences after childbirth, although this probably has a lot to do with it. While the exact cause is unknown, it’s also thought to have something to do with the amount of adjustment that comes after having a baby.
Your life as you know it changes in an instance. All of a sudden, you have a baby to look after, day and night. Your entire routine is disrupted, you may be dealing with problems such as feeding difficulties, you’re likely facing emotional changes, and the sleep deprivation can really get to you.
Caring for a newborn is not easy, and for dads, it tends to come with added pressures and worries that can contribute to anxiety and depression. Common fears include mortality fears, fear over the partner’s or baby’s health, and concerns over the impact on the relationship with their partner, their ability to provide for the family, and ability to care for a new baby.
What makes all of this more difficult to deal with is that new fathers are not being encouraged to share their fears. Men often suffer in silence, thinking they should be taking it like a man and just dealing with it.
Not sharing these emotions, however, can end up increasing your stress. All of these things combined can lead to the baby blues.
Here are some of the symptoms to look out for:
- Disturbed sleep
- Withdrawing from family & friends
- Obsessed with finances
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Suicidal thoughts
The thing about the baby blues is that, while some of the symptoms might appear like depression, they typically last for less than two weeks. If these symptoms persist, then you may be dealing with postnatal depression.
Is It Postnatal Depression?
Just like with the baby blues, most people know that women can get postpartum depression. It’s something that is more openly discussed these days, with the month of May having been declared Maternal Mental Health Month.
Again, this isn’t just about hormones; there are biological, psychological, and social factors involved. That’s why it can affect men as well. In fact, an estimated that 1 in 12 new fathers suffer from postpartum depression, yet it’s still not something most people are aware of.
While men with a history of mental health conditions are more at risk of developing postnatal depression, sometimes just the lack of control, routine, and sleep can be enough to send you into a depression.
What You Can Do About It
If your baby blues are not going anywhere, then it’s time to seek professional help. The best thing to do is to visit a psychiatrist or therapist. Seeking help is important, as bottling up these emotions can make matters worse. While it may be tempting to lose yourself in work, or even drink, it’s not going to make the problem go away.
New dads need support, just like new moms do. They need a safe place to share their concerns, they need reassurance, and encouragement. A lack of support can make you more vulnerable to the baby blues and depression, so open up. Speak to your partner and find other dads that are going through the same things as you.
If you don’t have any friends who are also dads, then go online and get in touch with other dads via forums or on social media. Don’t clam up, don’t suffer in silence. Use the support at your availability, and don’t be afraid to seek out additional help should you need it.
That extra support isn’t just about getting emotional support, either. Often, we try to take on everything. After all, we’re expected to provide for our families, right? But it can easily get too much, so if things are more challenging for you and your partner than you thought, then you may want to ask the grandparents for a helping hand.
Getting that extra bit of help can make a big difference, especially if it gives you the opportunity to get some much-needed sleep. You would be surprised how much of a difference getting a bit of extra shut-eye can make.
The first few weeks (or months, even years!) following your baby’s birth are going to be physically and mentally trying. Newborn sleep is all over the place, and while you may want to be more involved, lack of sleep can end up triggering depression.
Remember, dads need support too, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.