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Grow Your Social Support Network to Reduce Isolation

Along with all the joys and precious moments with your little one, parenting a new baby can be lonely work. Especially as a new parent – you are adapting to a lot! There are long days of seemingly endless feedings and diaper changes, rocking and swaying, swaddling and then re-swaddling—and, ironically, you are never really alone. The days seem long, and lack of sleep makes them seem even longer. You feel depleted and alone.

If you have felt this way, you are not the only one. Many parents report feeling lonely, isolated, and unsupported during the first year of their baby’s life. A lack of support from family and friends, and even a lack of contact with other adults, can increase the chance of developing a Postpartum Mood Disorder—and the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped the situation. You may be afraid to connect with others in person, and virtual connections are difficult with a fussy baby in your arms. Even when family and friends are supportive, there are likely hours and hours every day that parenting is all up to you.

But there are ways you can support yourself during this joyful yet challenging time so you can best care for your family. You may even find some fun connections along the way!

Find and connect with other parents

It’s not uncommon to feel isolated as a new parent: your own parents live far away; you are new to the area; you don’t have friends with young children; you just switched jobs or left your job either temporarily or permanently.

In Lane County, there are lots of organizations that specialize in creating opportunities for parents to meet one another and make connections. It can be helpful to talk to other parents who have had similar experiences to yours. If you enjoy talking to other parents, find a local group of parents that matches your values and interests. Here are some options:

  • Parenting Now: Offers parenting groups that are age-specific, including Infants, ONEs, TWOs, and THREEs. Also offers a drop-in Baby Connection program for feeding support for those with infants under one year.
  • Daisy CHAIN: Offers weekly Baby Pop Music in the Park classes, as well as free birth and postpartum doula services and lactation support. These classes are drop-in and so fun for everyone! Music can lift your spirit, and who doesn’t love a group of babies dancing with their caregivers?
  • Facebook Parenting Groups: There are many private groups on Facebook for parents. Some are specific to attachment parenting or nursing, while others are more general such as Eugene Springfield Moms, MOM Eugene, The Coolest Mamas in Eugene, Florence Oregon Moms and Dads.
  • Healthy Families Lane County: Offers free individualized parent support for expecting parents and those with a newborn baby. Call Parenting Now for more information.
  • Nurturely: Babywearing & Bailando Program: Free in-person meetups in local area parks for parents and supporters. In Spanish and English!
  • WellMama: Peer-led groups for pregnancy and postpartum support. When you’re feeling down, reach out here to others who have felt that way too.

Talk with a professional

In addition to building your network of parent friends, you could also seek the support of professionals who specialize in postpartum support. Parenting Educators, Family Support Specialists, family therapists, and your OBGYN can all help navigate the ups and downs of parenting and lend a sympathetic ear when you are struggling. Postpartum Support International has many resources to share. You can find them at https://www.postpartum.net/

When it feels like it’s too much

Sometimes even a strong support system isn’t enough to keep you from feeling down.

If you start to feel depressed most of the day; feel scared or anxious; develop little interest in things that used to give you joy; feel tired all the time; have trouble sleeping or sleep too much; have trouble bonding with your baby; or have thoughts of harm to yourself or others it is possible that you have developed a Postpartum Mood Disorder.

It’s important to note that having a Postpartum Mood Disorder is not your fault. In fact, it is so common that 1 in 5 mothers report experiencing Postpartum Depression. Fathers can also experience PPD. But it is treatable. If you think you have signs or symptoms of Postpartum Mood Disorder, call your healthcare provider right away.

Parenting is a hard job. But you are not alone in this journey—there are people who want to help, and lots of parents who are right there with you, ready to support you and your family.

This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Grilley and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). 

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