Being a new mum is pretty tough. You’re tired, your hormones are all over the place and your body’s like a crime scene with everything put back in the wrong place.
And that’s not to mention the tiny dictator now in your life whose only method of communicating is crying.
What you really need is someone to tell you it’s okay, in fact it’s normal and everyone feels the same. But sadly becoming a mum is no escape from the Mean Girls, who are driving new mums to postnatal depression with their judgmental ways.
But one doctor is calling the mum bullies out. Michael Gannon, Australian Medical Association (AMA) president and obstetrician, is asking women to cool it on the competitiveness.
“I would love to see women be kinder to themselves and their peer group,” he recently told The Daily Telegraph.
“They’re extremely competitive. I’ve talked to many women who come back from mother’s group quite distressed and traumatised.”
It’s not a competition
Dr Gannon says the intense mum bullying can even trigger postnatal depression.
“There are examples of women being cruel to each other, like it’s some form of failure if you can’t comprehensively breastfeed your child, or if you ‘gave up’ and had a certain form of pain relief (during birth). That’s one driver for postnatal depression,” he says.
Navigating your way through the competitive world of motherhood is hard work. Breastfed or bottle fed? Natural or C-section? Cot or co-sleeping? Welcome to the jungle ladies!
And according to a survey by the Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE), not only do half of new mums have symptoms of anxiety and depression, they also hide their true feelings from their family and friends.
Lower Your Expectations
The reason for hiding these things from other people? COPE Executive Director, Dr Nicole Highet says high expectations are partly to blame, alongside fear and denial.
“Being truly healthy during this unique period in life means a woman must look after her physical and
mental wellbeing, but too often the emotional and mental health challenges experienced during this time
are overlooked, misunderstood and not spoken about,” Dr Highet says.
“This can evoke intense feelings of isolation and shame, and worsen feelings of stress, depression and/or
Not enough support
Mum Central spoke to two mums about their experiences in the first weeks of motherhood.
Kylie is a new mum to six-week-old Hamish and says her mother’s group experience so far has been mostly positive. But she says she found a general lack of support when she had to start bottle-feeding:
“There’s no support when you have to start formula feeding. No one gives you any tips or tricks to help you and make it easier, because heaven forbid you are seen to be supporting the evil that is formula and bottle makers,” Kylie tells Mum Central.
And despite feeling good now, Sally says she struggled when her son, Max, who is now 20 months, was born.
“I was always scared to admit what was happening to me because I was always scared that people would judge me and think that I didn’t love, or have a connection with, Max. Then add to that the breastfeeding struggles and weight gain,” she says.
“I think lots of mums experience similar things because of all the judgement. It looks like everyone else is doing so well and naturally smashing at motherhood and you don’t want to be the only one that isn’t.”
Where to get help
COPE warn not to ignore any negative feelings or just put them down to the baby blues. Instead it’s important to get help:
“If you have a good relationship with your GP, midwife, maternal and child health nurse, take this opportunity to talk with them.”
If you’re a new mum and can’t remember which end the nappy goes on, then have a read of our guide to surviving the first three months with a newborn.