Dealing with New-Mom Loneliness? Here’s Help
New motherhood can be a lonely, isolating time even in the best of circumstances. I have never felt so alone as I did when my partner went to work and I was left alone with my first new baby. I felt zero confidence in what I was doing with her, but also felt like I had no one to call and ask my “silly” questions. And I certainly didn’t feel secure enough to pop her in the car and go out to be around other people.
Now magnify that by COVID-19.
Your usual outlets for self-care and social connection—the Mommy and Me classes and playgroups—are likely prohibited right now, and you may be staying completely at home, by choice or by mandate. In any case, the current climate of social distancing, shutdown, and anxiety about COVID-19 only amplifies the emotions that new moms might already have. It’s common for new moms to feel alone and isolated after giving birth, which can lead to low confidence in your abilities, lack of support when you need it, and strained resources like time, patience, and attention. Not being able to share experiences with others can also lead you to think that all of your feelings and worries are unusual and unique, when really they are very normal and shared among new moms and parents.
If you’re feeling isolated and stressed at home while caring for a new baby, particularly during the pandemic, here are some creative ways to take care of yourself.
Take Time Out for Self-Care
Often overlooked, self-care is key for new moms who feel like they’re in “survival mode” most of the time. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents of newborns to take care of themselves physically by eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep. All of these things are likely especially difficult with a new little one around who doesn’t have an ounce of respect for bedtimes and regular schedules. But looking after your own health and well‑being will leave you better equipped to look after Baby’s.
The important part of self-care is allowing yourself to rest and replenish your energy levels, because there are so many responsibilities and drains on your reserves throughout the day. Remember that every mother is different. What replenishes you is unique—things to try include taking time to yourself; practicing deep breathing, yoga, or meditation; journaling or writing about things for which you are grateful; spending time in nature; listening to music; or, making a telehealth therapy appointment.
Connect with Others
Many studies emphasize the importance of social support for new moms—connection is vital to your postpartum health, life satisfaction, well‑being, and ability to deal with stress and preserve mental health. Social support is critical so that you know you are not alone in your struggles (with motherhood, COVID-19, all of it). Here are some ways to build up your social support network while staying safe at home:
- Ask a friend to check in with you weekly, just to ask how you’re doing and let you talk or vent a bit.
- Make a goal to reach out to one supportive person daily or weekly, as often as you need. It doesn’t have to be the same person each time. Phone, email, or text to say “Hello” or share pictures of Baby. The point is to make some contact with someone outside of your own environment.
- Go online and search for a supportive moms’ group around a topic that you are feeling particularly stressed about—babies with special needs, NICU, postpartum depression, etc. Supportive is the key word here, because some moms’ groups online can be judgmental and those are not the ones you want to go to for support.
- Make a therapy appointment. This is what therapy is for, to have someone to talk to about how you’re feeling. Many therapists have telehealth options now, where you can meet virtually, which makes it much easier to talk when you can’t get out of the house (or your pajamas).
- Reach out via FaceTime or Zoom, since visual contact can feel more fulfilling than just a phone call. Don’t worry about how you look or how many days it’s been since you showered—just seeing others’ faces, expressions, and nonverbal cues helps you feel more connected to them.
Give Yourself a Break
A lot of us experience “mom guilt” if we feel like we need time away from our babies. But if we put our own needs for self-care and quiet alone time in the backseat, we are likely to get overwhelmed and overstressed. It’s critically important to recognize when you’re too stressed to care for your baby,* and equally important to allot yourself some time off so that you don’t get to this point. If you don’t have a partner or other trusted caregiver who can help you take a break, allow yourself to leave the room with your baby in a safe place like a crib or bassinet for a few minutes so that you can take some deep breaths, collect yourself, or practice some quick self-care until you are able to safely care for your baby again.
Reframe Negative Thoughts
How you talk about things to yourself matters. By turning your thoughts to reflect a positive or more helpful meaning, you can change your whole attitude and outlook. Instead of thinking that you’re “stuck at home,” try reminding yourself that you are “safe at home.” Instead of “I can’t get a break,” try out “I deserve a break and I can figure out how to make it happen.” Most importantly, instead of thinking about all the ways you are not a “perfect” mom, try reminding yourself that you are “doing your best.” If there is one of these messages that you need to hear often, write it on a note and post it up in your house where you will see it every day or ask a loved one to remind you of it by saying it out loud.
*If you have any thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, please reach out for help immediately. Postpartum Support International (PSI) has a helpline that you can call (1-800-944-4773) or text (English: 503-894-9453, Spanish: 971-203-7773). They also have a website where you can look up local resources, in the U.S. and internationally: https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/locations/.
Jessie Everts, PhD LMFT is a therapist, mom, yoga/mindfulness teacher, and the Owner/Founder of Empower Mental Health. Her book on living mindfully postpartum, Brave New Mom, will be released in early 2021.
You May Also Like:
Want to Read More?
Access all of Twill Care’s content, community, and experts for free!
Already a member? Login