As part of their ongoing commitment to grow a community of confident parents, leading parenting brand Ergobaby UK have commissioned a nationwide study that revealed that more than a third (34%) of British fathers claim they’ve experienced “post-natal depression”, with almost two thirds feeling anxious after the birth of their child and a third admitting they had found it hard to bond with their baby.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week (13-20th May), Ergobaby’s study also revealed that half (49%) of new dads felt a sense of shame for struggling to cope. When asked where this pressure came from 40% felt judged by family members, 32% by friends and more than a third of new dads felt pressure from society as a whole, with one in ten told to simply “get a grip”.
When asked how they felt embarking on this new journey, a quarter (24%) of new dads said they felt under “massive pressure” to provide for their family, a fifth (21%) said they felt overwhelmed by their new responsibilities and 15% feeling like they were failing their family. Little wonder then that more than half (55 per cent) of UK fathers don’t talk about their baby struggles, and instead suffer in silence.
Recent high-profile criticism of celebrity dads in the public eye may have contributed to this behaviour, with one celebrity dad controversially being told that carrying his baby “emasculated” him, by a high-profile journalist, just last year.
A staggering 72% claimed there isn’t enough support for new fathers. While it is well recognised that mothers can experience mental health problems post-partum, little attention is paid to their partners.
Amanda Loveday, Marketing Manager at Ergobaby UK said of the findings: ‘‘This research shows that we aren’t giving dads the tools or time to adjust to parenthood. By championing simple actions such as babywearing – which can reduce stress and increases bonding – or talking openly and without shame about fears and concerns, we can better equip new dads to enjoy the positives of parenthood.”
Babywearing was in fact named as one of the top three ways for British dads to bond with their baby according to the study, with 62% of dads believing carrying their baby helped them form their bond, it seems these choices should be encouraged and cheered on rather than shamed.
60% added that putting the baby to sleep helped them bond with their child, 57% said giving the child a bath and 52% thought dads should give the baby its bottle as often as possible.
And with a whopping 9 in every 10 dads saying they would have found it useful if there was more information available to new dads about bonding with their child it’s clear there is an appetite to learn more.
Despite their struggles, however, the survey of more than 1,000 British dads saw an overwhelming 92% saying they wouldn’t change being a dad for anything and 96% thought being a dad was the best experience ever.
Al Ferguson, founder of leading parenting network TheDadsNet commented: “The early months of parenthood are especially hard, with anxiety, isolation and depression being increasingly common amongst new fathers. However, this often goes undiagnosed due to the perceived shame or guilt felt by men.
“Perinatal health matters for both mums and dads and establishing a good bond early on – through implementing simple steps such as babywearing or speaking to friends and family – can really help mental wellbeing for parents and children.”
“I’ve wanted to be a dad as long as I can remember. I work in a school and the children are my life so when we finally conceived I was over the moon. I love them both so much, and it’s hard being a first-time dad, but it’s even harder when you don’t address mental health. Between a series of experiences, I found myself distancing from family as my daughter would cry out for Mummy, not for me.
Sleep deprivation is brutal, but I ignored the problem and wrote it off as “I have a baby”, life goes on. More external things piled up and it began affecting my relationships, and work-life. I’m on the road to recovery and have done all the right things – my daughter and I have a growing bond and although she’s a Mummy’s girl, we’ve got the rest of our lives to grow.”
Christopher Osbaldeston, Greater Manchester, via TheDadsNet
“When my second daughter was born I was suffering with anxiety and depression, I actually started my CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) whilst off on paternity. I was excited to have a newborn but scared. Scared I wouldn't bond with my daughter which sadly did come true, I dreaded being left with her, and I'd do anything to avoid being with her which annoyed my wife.
It wasn't until she mentioned post-natal depression that I considered it. I researched online and reached out to other dad's on the dadsnet who have helped me along with ways to cope – for us this meant making time to be just us, which was bath time where we would spend some time playing).
To this day I don’t like being left alone with her for fear of not being able to cope, in her almost 12 months of life I've only ever been out with just her once. Things will get better though with determination and love for my family!”
Peter Salt, via TheDadsNet