The average first-time mum doesn’t fully enjoy motherhood until baby is six months old, according to research. Rather than making the most of their new-borns’ precious first few months, many mums feel stressed out as they struggle to cope with the life-changing effects of having a baby.
As well as having to come to terms with the inevitable sleepless nights, more than half of women were surprised to find they suffered a complete knock in confidence because they didn’t know what they were doing.
New mums also find they are baffled with many aspects of motherhood, including health, illness, feeding and safety.
Incredibly, one in six mums didn’t really start to enjoy their little one until they passed their first birthday.
A spokeswoman for Nurofen for Children, which commissioned the report, said:
”When thinking about motherhood we tend to assume it’s the pregnancy which is the main hurdle, and that when the baby is born we’ll feel that first rush of love and then everything will be okay.
”In reality, the really hard work starts when the baby enters the world.
”There is a huge amount of adjustment for both parents, but for mums in particular as they go from being independent, career focussed people to having to spend 24 hours a day caring for someone else.
”And this can take a while to get used to – particularly as during the course of just 12 months a baby’s needs change so rapidly.”
The study shows 52% of mums really felt like they had lost their identity after having a child, and 35% really missed leaving the house and going to work.
The loss of a social life is a big change for many women, and 55% said they found it difficult getting used to the fact they couldn’t simply go out whenever they wanted to anymore.
Similarly, many mums lost their common interests with existing friends – while 52% felt as though they had to carve out a totally new circle of friends so that they could socialise with people in the same boat.
And just over half of those polled found it hard to accept the changes childbirth had made to their body – which made them less confident in their own skin.
But the biggest challenge for women after giving birth was the lack of knowledge about their new role as a mother.
Why the baby was crying, why the baby wouldn’t sleep and how to get the baby settled into a routine left many mums baffled.
Knowing when the baby was ill, when controlled crying was appropriate and understanding when baby was simply having a grumpy day also left mums feeling confused and bewildered.
While 27% struggled to juggle housework and producing a hot meal with childcare and 24% found breastfeeding a real challenge.
But despite having a few wobbles during the early days, eight in 10 mums say having a child is the best thing they’ve ever done, and the positive aspects of motherhood now far outweigh the negative.
To top it all, just under half of those in the Nurofen for Children study felt their performance as a mother was being continuously judged by others.
And only 56% felt their partner provided enough support during those exhausting first few months.
Leading GP and mum of one Dr Pixie McKenna, commenting on behalf of Nurofen for Children, said:
”It is easy to under-estimate the impact having a baby has on a woman’s life.
”Before embarking on parenthood, many women are settled in a job, know what they are doing on a day to day basis, and are confident in the role they have carved out for themselves.
”They have independence, aren’t responsible for anyone but themselves, and their abilities and decisions aren’t questioned constantly.
”The minute a baby comes along a woman’s world is turned upside down – with that initial rush of love and joy comes the unknown, and it is this which can throw women completely off balance.”