Anticipating the birth of your first baby can be incredibly exciting for dads-to-be like you. You and your partner must have started researching on how to prepare for this new chapter in your lives. In the process, you may have been warned about the possibility of mood swings and postpartum depression in new moms.
But did you know that new fathers are at risk of depression too? In fact, around 5–10% of first-time fathers in the United States experience postpartum depression. Unfortunately, self-care for men rarely gets mentioned in most parenting resources, which can leave many dads-to-be unprepared for their transition to fatherhood. No wonder many new dads are stressed out after their baby is born. Here are their most common stressors that you’ll need to be ready for.
#1 Financial strain
On top of their regular bills, first-time fathers have to budget for their baby’s delivery, healthcare, diapers, formula milk, and other supplies. They also need to purchase new baby clothes and other items every couple of months. Some also buy organic — more expensive — vegetables for their baby’s food. All of these costs can add up very quickly, which puts a lot of pressure on working new dads. In fact, the US Department of Agriculture estimates that American parents spend at least $12,000 on the baby’s first year alone.
The financial strain may be even worse if they move to a bigger home or take any of these options to care for their baby:
- They and/or their partner take unpaid leaves or pay cuts or resign from work
- Hire a nanny while they and/or their partner work
#2 Balancing all responsibilities
Many dads-to-be know that they’ll have to take on additional responsibilities and chores once their firstborn arrives. But many still get overwhelmed by the constant care that a newborn needs. A baby requires frequent feeding, burping, changing of dirty diapers, comforting, and many more. What’s more, their partner may also need some assistance as her body recovers from childbirth. Imagine juggling all of these new tasks while still managing work, household, and other activities.
#3 Lack of sleep
Newborns typically wake up crying every two to three hours, depriving their parents of quality sleep. In fact, research reveals that new parents miss out on six months’ worth of sleep in the first two years of their child’s life. Sleep deprivation can quickly take a toll on the physical, emotional, and mental health of first-time parents.
#4 Cycle of exhaustion and guilt
After putting in a hard day’s work, a new dad may want to recharge and de-stress, but he’s unable to do so out of guilt. He may feel that he doesn't deserve a break, since his partner was left taking care of the baby the entire day. He convinces himself that he’s not doing enough to support his family, so he forgoes taking some time for himself. This vicious cycle of physical exhaustion and guilt can throw many first-time fathers into depression.
#5 Less time with his partner
A new mother can become solely focused on their baby’s needs, which may cause a new dad to feel left out and thrust to the sidelines. He may start having thoughts such as:
- “Are we ever going to have a real conversation again?”
- “I shouldn’t bother her with my concerns. Why add to her stress?”
- “My feelings don’t matter. At least, not right now.”
Such thoughts may lead him to feel isolated and uncared for.
New dads need support too
It’s normal for men to feel intense emotions as they transition to fatherhood. The problem is, men, in general, tend to sweep their feelings aside instead of expressing them, and act as if everything’s okay. That’s why they end up suffering in silence, which may snowball into bigger behavioral problems or mental health issues.
As a dad-to-be, you have to make sure you have a good support system around you. Aside from reaching out to your friends, family, and partner, you may also want to proactively connect with a therapist or counselor. Doing so may better equip you and your partner in welcoming your firstborn. To get started, set up an appointment now with Meridian Psychiatric Partners. We serve clients in Chicago, Evanston, and Lake Forest.