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Tackling the issues facing new parents

Many first-time mums and dads think they're failing. Lisa Salmon asks the experts how to get it right by trusting your instincts

Uphill battle: many UK parents think they’re getting it wrong
Uphill battle: many UK parents think they’re getting it wrong

By Lisa Salmon

Being a new parent can sometimes be daunting and overwhelming, and it's hardly surprising that many new mums and dads feel like they're not getting it right, or are even failing at the most important job in the world.

Indeed, new research suggests that nearly two-thirds (62%) of UK parents believe they're failing, and 47% of mums don't talk openly about their parenting struggles because they're frightened they will be judged by others.

And this sad state of affairs is confirmed by midwives and health visitors, as the WaterWipes research found 84% of them think parents put too much emphasis on being 'perfect parents', and should instead trust their instincts more.

To help relieve some of this parenting pressure, GP and mum-of-one Dr Pixie McKenna, who's written several advice guides for new parents, and mum-of-two, midwife Vicki Scott, a breastfeeding adviser and sleep consultant, and share their advice on how to avoid parenting pressure points, and what mums and dads can do when they're feeling overwhelmed.

1. Remember, parenthood doesn't come with a manual

"Parenting can be daunting, with lots of ups and downs, but it's important to remember that parenthood is a learning curve, and every baby is different," says Scott. "What might be right for one baby might not necessarily be right for another; trust your instincts and do what feels best. As long as your baby is safe and healthy, you're doing fine."

2. Make new friends

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"Your usual group of friends may not have children, or may be at work during the week leaving you feeling lonely at times," says McKenna.

"Research local postnatal classes or mum and baby groups to build up a network of new parent friends. Although it can feel daunting to make new friends at this stage in life, remember that they're in the same position as you and probably feel just as keen to make friends as you do."

3. Talk about your feelings

"Being a new parent can be challenging and isolating at times, says McKenna. "Make sure you speak to your family and friends and be honest about how you're feeling. If you feel like you're really struggling, make sure you speak to your health visitor, midwife or GP, who will be able to provide you with some more tailored advice and support."

4. Don't compare yourself to other parents

"Each person will have a different parenting style, and every baby will have different needs," says Scott. "You're the only mum or dad your baby knows, and in their eyes no-one is better than you or could do a better job. Don't stress about what other parents in your mum and baby groups are doing. You've got this!"

5. Remember every baby is different

Scott advises: "Let your baby develop at their own pace and encourage their achievements. There's no one size fits all when it comes to milestones like weaning and crawling, so remember if they're happy and healthy, you're doing fine.

Of course, if you do have any serious concerns about your baby's development, speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor."

6. Turn off social media

"There's a lot of pressure for parents to look and act perfect, particularly on social media," says McKenna. "But it's important to remember that not everything you see on social media is a true reflection of parenthood. Remember that you won't always get it right, but neither will others."

7. Don't stress about the mess

McKenna says: "During the first year, a baby is trying new food, taking part in messy play and exploring. It's certain to cause at least a little bit of mess! It's important to let them go through this phase as they start to learn to feed themselves.

"Don't get stressed about your house looking less and less like a show home - there's a difference between dirt and mess. Studies found that toddlers learn the words for solids faster when they can get messy in a high chair. There's also evidence that messiness can encourage creativity."

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