For All New Parents - Managing the challenges of parenting

For All New Parents

Essential skills for all new parents to help manage the challenges of parenting

What Were We Thinking! and Baby Steps are educational websites to help new parents develop essential skills as they adjust to the challenges of life with a baby.

Baby Steps
Baby Steps Logo
Developed by PDeC partner, Queensland Institute of Technology

Baby Steps

Learn more about caring for yourself, working as a team with your partner and helpful tips when caring for your baby

Baby Steps is a free online program that aims to enhance the wellbeing of new mums and dads. Baby Steps was written for people having their first baby, but can be used by anyone with a young baby who wants to learn more about caring for their baby or themselves.

The Baby Steps online programs:

Babycare provides information on childcare issues:

  • Getting prepared for the arrival of an infant
  • Feeding –breastfeeding, formula feeding, and combined feeding
  • Improving baby’s sleeping habits
  • Soothing a crying infant.

It also helps parents look after the wellbeing of themselves and their family, with topics on self-care, looking after each other as a couple, making the most of time with their baby, and adjusting to changing roles. There is a special section especially for fathers.

Parents are encouraged to make plans to try out ideas, and take photos to remind them of good times with their baby.

What Were We Thinking!

Learn ideas to promote confidence and reduce distress

What Were We Thinking! offers new parents two useful tools, the evidence-based What Were We Thinking! program from which a professionally moderated parenting blog. This Australian program helps new mums and dads learn practical skills for settling babies and adjusting to changes in their relationship with each other.

Learn more about:

  • Strategies for sleep and settling
  • Ways to manage crying
  • Establishing a Feed-Play-Sleep routine
  • Communicating your needs
  • Sharing the workload fairly
  • Avoiding arguments and criticism
What Were We Thinking!
Developed by PDeC partners the Jean Hailes Research Unit at Monash University
and Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
Practicing self care

Practicing self care

Caring for yourself means caring for your baby. New parents don’t necessarily feel ‘on top of the world’ in the months following childbirth. Some people love being a parent right from the beginning, while others take much longer to adjust. It is important to remember to practice self-care and not to expect too much of yourself. Try to take each day as it comes.

The tips below are designed to help you consider how you and your partner are managing wellbeing and reduce the impact of COVID-19 related stressors on your physical and mental health.

Be kind to yourself

You are juggling a lot at the moment. Becoming a parent is one of life’s biggest transitions and it takes time to adjust to this role and the associated challenges and joys of parenthood. Additional changes may have also occurred for you and your family at this time. Many of us have transitioned to working remotely, or have lost employment. These unforeseen circumstances can understandably lead to additional stress and fatigue. While this is not what you had envisioned as a new or expectant parent, you are responding the best you can. It is helpful to be realistic about the expectations placed on yourself at this time. Speak kindly to yourself, as you would a good friend. Together, we are all learning how to best navigate the way forward.

Stay connected with others

While we may be physically isolated from many friends and family during this time, using digital technology and other means to stay socially connected with friends and family is important for our wellbeing. Arrange a time to talk with friends via phone or video, or organise a group chat with other parents you know. Online parent groups are also available for both mums and dads and are a great way to connect with people who understand the challenges and joys of being a new parent.

You and your partner

If you are both feeling stressed, you may both struggle to communicate your needs. Consider how you and your partner can support each other. It can be helpful to set aside some time to do something relaxing or enjoyable together. This may include recreating a special night in together such as ordering your favourite food from your local restaurant, or watching a movie when baby is asleep.

Look after your physical health

Taking care of your physical health has many benefits for your mental wellbeing. Look for opportunities to stay physically active and try to incorporate regular exercise where possible. Consider what activities would fit best with your modified routine, which may also include your partner or baby. Healthy eating habits, drinking plenty of water and trying to keep a good sleep routine, where possible, will also help support your general health.

Find the balance

Trying to maintain a daily routine can be a helpful way to manage at home during COVID-19. Review your day-to-day activities and build in opportunities to do the things you enjoy with your partner and baby, alongside the daily “have tos”. Speak to your partner to plan an opportunity where you can both set aside some alone time to relax and unwind, even if it is for 20 minutes to garden, or go for a bike ride.

Talking to get help

When we feel overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, we may be tempted to ignore or avoid our feelings. This may feel helpful in the short-term but in the long term these feelings can build up. Having someone to confide in can lighten the load and support your mental health. Think about your trusted supports and people that you can reach out to. This may be a parent, partner, or friend.

If you are noticing a prolonged period of feeling anxious or down or concerned about your mental health, professional supports are available. Many psychologists and GP’s are currently offering appointments via telehealth during COVID-19. Chat to your GP to book an appointment and develop a helpful support plan.

Seek relevant information from trusted sources and limit media exposure

Currently, there is a lot of information about COVID-19 in the news and on social media platforms. Keep informed by accessing reliable information from reputable organisations and consider finding one or two trusted resources that you can refer to. Continual reference to COVID-19 in the news and in our daily conversations can also be overwhelming and increase our feelings of worry and anxiety. One way to minimise associated anxiety is to set a time limit on how much COVID-19 related news you tune into during the day.

Along with feelings of joy, excitement and pride, the experience of pregnancy and giving birth can be accompanied by feelings of apprehension, anxiety and exhaustion. If you are wondering if your partner, friend or daughter is depressed it may be hard to find a way to talk about it. Here are some tips:

Tips for partners or family members

  • Be there to listen and be as patient as you can. You don’t have to solve problems or fix everything that goes wrong. Maintain open communication, listening to feelings and thoughts, and ask, “What can I do to help?”.
  • Share your own concerns and discuss feelings in a constructive way: effective communication is the key.
  • Focus on giving hands-on help with caring for baby and things around the house. Ask for help from family and friends, don’t wait for them to offer – they can pick up some shopping, baby-sit, or cook a meal – simple things, they all help.
  • Plan quality time to get out of the house on a regular basis – with or without the kids. Even a quick walk around the block can help.
  • Care for your own health and wellbeing. Think about what you find rewarding and satisfying and look for opportunities to stay physically active and try to incorporate regular exercise where possible.
  • Accept help from anyone who offers. This might include help around the home, food in the freezer, babysitting and gardening.
  • Stay in regular contact with family and friends. It’s important you have someone to talk to about your experiences, both at home and at work.
  • Acknowledge the effort you are making for your family and be kind to yourself.
  • Seek professional help if either of you feel anxious or depressed.

For more information, tips and strategies about mental health for parents take a look at the following resource by Beyond Blue – A guide for new dads, partners and other carers (PDF)

DadSpace is a website dedicated to supporting fathers across Australia. DadSpace, provides information, strategies, tips, resources, and advice specifically for dads. DadSpace supports the mental and emotional well being of dads who are expecting or just welcomed a baby into their life.

Self Assessment tips for dealing with anxiety and social isolation during pregnancy and after having a baby

We are experiencing uncertain and unsettling times in the light of the COVID pandemic. Heightened levels of stress during this time can make it difficult for expectant and new parents to fully experience the joy of having a baby and to deal effectively with stressors and mental health concerns that can arise during this time. The need to physically distance can also increase feelings of isolation and limit much needed support from family and the community for new parents. Given these very real difficulties, it has never been more important for expecting and new parents to care for themselves and their families. MumSpace is here to support you.

Online resources specifically developed for perinatal women can be found on MumSpace and we encourage you to explore this website to see what might be helpful. Below you will also find some tips on how to cope with anxiety during pregnancy and following birth during this time, tips for self-care and an outline of the online mental health support options available to you.

New and expectant parents can also find additional helpful information for dealing with stress during this period at Head to Health.

On this website you can find tips for how to maintain Good Mental Health (maintain a healthy lifestyle, stay informed, stay positive, access support during this pandemic) as well as useful Psychological Tips (including balancing your thoughts, shutting down the noise and doing the things that you enjoy and that are good for you) for improving your mental health during this time.

Expecting mums and their families can find up-to-date information on pregnancy and birth during COVID here from Dr. Vijay Roach, President of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Tips for Coping with Anxiety of COVID during Pregnancy and Following Birth

Focus on what you can control

It’s natural that in times of crisis to experience some anxiety and for your mind to wander to what can’t be controlled (e.g., what will happen to the country’s economy, how will the Government deal with the crisis and how will our loved ones  be affected).

Unfortunately we can’t control the actions of others or the future but we can control our own behaviour. This includes what we DO right now to help us adjust to the situation, to improve our own mental health, our relationships with others and to be the person we want to be during this crisis. Below are more tips that might help you to achieve this.

Stay connected and engaged

Find ways to stay socially connected to people and activities during physical isolation. Never has it been more important to plan to connect with others as the opportunity for incidental social interaction is reduced. You will need to be creative in how you plan to do this. It is so important to maintain well being. The way you modify connecting with family and friends may vary. For example, you might post a letter to your grandmother, sharing photos from your ultrasound. Other examples may include meeting your friends from mothers’ group in an online group chat, or in a video call. Many mother-baby activities, such as story time and rhythm time are now currently being offered via online platforms. See what is available to you through your library network and on YouTube.

Keep active

Your physical wellbeing is connected to your emotional wellbeing. Find some time to build 30 minutes of movement into your daily routine. Consider going for a walk with your baby or your partner, or participate in a free movement class on YouTube, such as movement classes for Mum and baby, or pregnancy yoga. Keeping motivated to be physical active is easier if you include someone else, a partner or friend who can also log into the same You Tube class while on facetime with you.

Create some structure in your day

Keeping a healthy daily routine supports emotional and mental wellbeing. The COVID-19 physical? distancing measures can create changes to regular routines as we are no longer able to participate in some of our usual day-to-day activities. Consider what activities are meaningful to you and your family and how you can modify these during COVID-19. Take some time to create structure in your daily routine – this will help you with planning and organisation, and also create predictability for you and your baby.

If you are working at home or doing home schooling an extra challenge is how to find ways to structure the day for everyone.

Identify your resources and people to support your well-being

Consider who is a member of your support team and what resources are available to you at this time – even at a distance. You can find additional perinatal mental health supports here

Focus on what matters

Stay in touch with your values, the things that matter most to you. Your personal values may include family, love, caring, honesty and more. Tune into your core values and how they may guide your daily actions. For example, spending time bathing your baby aligns with values of love, caring and family or phoning a family member to check in with them aligns with your values of family connection and caring. While many of your regular activities may have changed or have been modified, look for opportunities to continue value-based action each day.

Take a moment

Take a moment to notice how you are feeling. Notice your breath and mindfully take a moment to slow your breathing. This will help calm your body and your mind.

There are various helpful techniques to support feeling calm – MindMum has Calm Tracks that assist with calm breathing and support mindful engagement in activities with your baby. You can also search for other resources to help you to work on mindfulness and feeling calm and relaxed.

Seek relevant information from trusted sources and limit media exposure

Currently, there is a lot of information about COVID-19 in the news and on social media platforms. Keep informed by accessing reliable information from reputable organisations and consider finding one or two trusted resources that you can refer to. Continual reference to COVID-19 in the news and in our daily conversations can also be overwhelming and increase our feelings of worry and anxiety. One way to minimise associated anxiety is to set a time limit on how much COVID-19 related news you tune into during the day.

Reflect on the positives

In amidst these challenging and stressful times, there are also many stories of strength and hope being shared around the world. Taking the time to focus on these stories can be heart-warming and uplifting, and allow us to remain positively connected to others in our community. One example of kindness in our community is the social movement of #thekindnesspandemic.

Maintain mental health through physical exercise

  • While exercise outdoors is allowed, continue to get out and go for a walk, while maintaining social distancing rules. Why not call a friend who is also walking with their baby in another location?
  • When your baby is sleeping, use YouTube to participate in a yoga class or home workout.

Maintain social contact

  • Use apps such as Zoom or House party to catch up with friends and family in the evening or play board games.
  • Exercise with friends over Zoom by doing workouts together.
  • Identify friends and family who provide emotional support and continue to reach out when you need help.

“Time-out” for you and “Time-in” with your Baby

Having time for yourself is important to maintain your own wellbeing but can feel more difficult when you are in isolation with your baby. It may be that your partner is also working from home and can be included in caring for your baby. Some small but powerful ways you can take some moments to yourself include:

  • When your baby is asleep, use this time to do things for yourself e.g., take a shower, put on some clean clothes and sit down with a cup of tea.
  • Walk with your baby and notice what is happening around you in your neighbourhood in your environment.

Some ways to have “time-out” while enjoying “time-in” with your baby:

  • When your baby wants a cuddle, tune into your senses and allow yourself to enjoy the moment.
  • Do some baby Pilates or baby yoga (see YouTube for Videos)
  • Put on some music you enjoy and dance with your baby
  • Notice the small things your baby does, maybe take a photo and share with partner, family and friends.
  • Watch your baby as she plays and wonder about what they are thinking or what the world looks like from their point of view.
  • When video-chatting to friends or family try to sometimes involve your baby in interactions.
  • Enhance your enjoyment of parenting by learning about and noticing your baby’s cues and how they might like to be soothed (see MumSpace programs What Were We Thinking and Baby Steps).
  • Disconnecting from the social media apps that you engage with for some time each day (e.g., Instagram and Facebook). Use this time to reflect on the things in your life that you are grateful for.
  • Try to plan some variation in your day, play in different rooms with different toys, make funny faces, dress up with crazy hats or scarves etc. Enjoy yourself and your baby will be enchanted by you too.

Use creativity to celebrate the milestones

  • Events you were looking forward to, such as your baby shower or child’s birthday party may have been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. This is not what you had planned or expected. Consider creative ways you can celebrate these moments and milestones. To celebrate with your loved ones, you may choose to host an online baby shower on Zoom, or have your friends and family join you via Facetime to sing happy birthday to your 1-year-old.

Spend quality time with your partner or your house mate

  • Make evenings on the weekend special by having a night in with a nice meal.

Mindful moments with your baby and your senses

  • Tune into your five senses
    • Savour the experience of eating, listening to music and being with your baby by really tuning into your senses when you engage in these activities.

Engage in activities that give you a sense of accomplishment

  • Write a list of activities that give you a sense of achievement or purpose. These can be every day activities such as sorting through your emails and messages.
  • Create a plan that builds in these activities into your daily routine

Preparing for the transition to parenthood

Becoming a mother requires women to adapt to life change at many levels. They often find that this is a time when they re-examine their identity, have to deal with many physical changes of pregnancy and childbirth, adjust to new home or work routines and make space within existing relationships for the new baby.

Becoming confident in being a mother can take some time – to develop skills, to feel comfortable and confident in managing a new baby and to feel more in control.

Although no one can be sure just what their particular experience will be like, it can often be an exciting time with many highs but there will no doubt be some lows as well.

Getting ready for changes

Some of the major changes that you will have to navigate as a new mother include:

  • physical changes to your body
  • changes to your emotions
  • changes to your relationships with your partner and family
  • changes to your working life
  • changes to your social life
  • taking the responsibility for a growing baby, every day

How easily women adjust to the varied demands of pregnancy and parenthood is different for different women. At times, these challenges can feel stressful and even scary. Common questions and concerns that pregnant women and new mothers have include:

  • Is this the right time for me to be having a child?
  • How will I cope with childbirth?
  • Will I be a “good” mother?
  • Will my baby be healthy?
  • How will having a new baby impact on my/our lives?

These are all normal concerns. Doing some planning for the changes, finding out about services in your local area, and being ready to access supports will help you with your transition to parenthood.

Expectations of parenthood

Sometimes what we expect can be very different from the reality we experience. The bigger the gap between expectation and reality, the more the adjustment that is required. Speaking to others can be a useful reality check. If things don’t go to plan, we need not have feelings that we have somehow failed.

In reality, pregnancy and being a mother during the first year of a new baby’s life is often filled by a constant stream of demanding tasks and physical changes. Sleepless nights, feeling tearful, and sometimes just not knowing what to do, are all a part of this. Managing big changes in daily routine, broken sleep, and learning to look after a baby all require enormous physical effort, emotional energy and patience. Not surprisingly many new parents feel fatigued and sometimes find it hard to manage.

What other women have found helpful in the transition to parenthood

  • Information about what to expect at the different stages of parenthood.
  • Being able to talk frankly and openly about the realities of pregnancy and motherhood.
  • Being able to share experiences and feel reassured that you are not alone.
  • Having people who will really listen and understand your complex emotions.
  • Being in contact with people who encourage you to seek help when needed.
  • Having offers of help and feeling able to accept help.
  • Realising that taking care of yourself is a vital part of caring for your family.

When expecting a baby, it is helpful to start thinking about and talking to those close to you about the day to day challenges and how to manage these. Once the baby arrives, talking to others, joining in with other new mothers, and sharing experiences can help you adjust. There are community supports for young families in most local communities so you will not be alone. Open communication with partners, friends and families is essential.

Three key messages to remember

1. Asking for and accepting help is a strength: It is a strength to be able to ask for help when you feel that you need it and to be able to accept help when it is offered.

2. Go with the flow: Simply accepting that with a new baby in the house you will have less control over the details of things than you used to can be a relief, take the pressure off, and feel liberating.

Constant change is the reality of early parenthood and doesn’t mean you’re not keeping up or you’re doing it badly! In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Be comfortable with the fact that things don’t have to be perfect – the floors don’t need to be mopped and the laundry doesn’t have to be folded and put away every single day – that’s how most people’s houses are in reality!

It helps to learn to stay flexible, be a bit open-minded, and expect that changes will happen.

Caring for a new baby requires new knowledge and skills. It is common to feel clumsy and a bit incompetent at the start. Learning these new things and getting to know your baby take time and experience. Over time you will feel more self-confident and competent.

3. Trust yourself: Once you feel able to be realistic about what you can achieve and not overly worried over little things, you will feel more confident in being assertive. When others offer what seems like well-meant but misguided advice – ignore what feels wrong and do what you know is right for you. For example, when you are caring for a new baby, there may be times that you just feel overwhelmed by too many visitors, too much contact from relatives and too much ‘free advice”.  When you need your own space to be respected, communicating your wishes clearly, calmly and in a positive polite manner will help you get what you need without creating conflict.

Coping Strategies

Here are some of the many ways of preparing for and managing pregnancy, birth and early parenthood that can help you make the most of it and minimise the stresses of adjustment.

  • Planning ahead – Organising support in the early months can reduce stress. Enlist any family or friends willing to help in specific tasks. Plan to avoid major life changes (moving house, changing jobs)
  • Feeling supported – Developing a support network of friends, family, health professionals and mother-baby groups can help you a lot, not least by giving you the opportunity to share your experiences. While it can be hard to accept help, it is worth making make the most of offers of help from friends and family (including the older generations) and involving your partner in the daily care of your baby right from the beginning.                                                                                                                        
  • Staying healthy and rested – Try to eat healthy meals, take time to do some exercise and avoid drugs and alcohol. Taking a power nap whenever your baby is sleeping can help you stay physically refreshed and mentally well. Take sleep opportunities when partners, family members and friends are able to help by looking after your baby. When there is so much to do, taking time to just sleep may seem like a challenge but getting enough rest for yourself is important for you and your baby. Learning how to settle your baby into a good sleeping pattern is vitally important. You can find out more about this in the What Were We Thinking website and app.
  • Managing stress Keeping a diary of feelings and taking time to look back can help you understand the things that make you feel stressed and plan to do things differently in the future. Learning some breathing and muscle relaxation techniques and letting the people around you know what you are feeling can be positive ways of helping yourself get through the tough times. You can find out more about relaxation in the MindMum App or the MumMoodBooster programs.
  • Taking time-out – Taking some time out for yourself will help you to recharge your batteries. Once in a while organise friends or family to help with childcare. Use this time to do the things that you enjoy – maybe just some quite time alone, reading a book, enjoying your favourite music, having a long relaxing soak in the bath, watching a good movie, spending time with your partner or friends, or simply getting some sleep.
  • Look after your own needs Your friends and family may want to visit you more often than usual and offer well-meaning advice. Don’t feel that you need to entertain endlessly or that you should always take their advice. Discuss your concerns with a health professional, such as at Maternal Child and Family Health Nurse or GP. There is no right or wrong way of parenting. It is all about working out what is right for you and your baby.
  • Be kind to yourself It can take time to feel comfortable with your changing body and then parenting a new baby. Don’t just focus what you feel you ‘should’ be doing better. Acknowledge the many things you are already doing well and give yourself time to adjust. You will start to learn how to read and follow your baby’s cues. Just by watching and listening in an unhurried way, you will learn from your baby what they need from you and how to respond, and feel more relaxed and confident.

Adjustment: When it all gets too hard and you need extra help

Parenthood is a major life transition and it takes time to adjust. It is entirely normal to feel overwhelmed by parenthood at times.  When this happens, confide in someone close that you trust (your partner, close family, a good friend).  With a little help most things can be sorted if you share the load.  Some problems however, may not be so simple, but helping yourself by sharing your concerns and finding support can help you manage the bigger challenges too. Everyone has some difficulties and at times you will need extra help, or a program of treatment from a trusted resource or health professional.

Up to 1 in 3 women experience mild, or more intense depressive symptoms, adjustment problems and anxiety during pregnancy or the postnatal period. Difficulties with baby’s settling, crying and breastfeeding are common and together with other stressors can also feed into a downward spiral if you are feeling sad, low or worried.

Read more on the “Learn about causes and symptoms of perinatal depression” section on this page.

Help Available on MumSpace

Explore the resources on MumSpace. You can find out more about building your confidence as a parent by exploring What Were We Thinking! and Baby Steps. Find out how to deal with the more common emotional problems experienced by lots of new mothers by downloading and using the new MindMum App.

The MumMoodBooster programs offer effective online treatment for pregnant women and new mums experiencing significant depression and anxiety.

All of these resources are free of charge.


  • the couple relationship,
  • family problems,
  • negative life events,
  • rethinking childhood experiences,
  • isolation, anxiety and depression,
  • skills to manage the complex demands of parenting,
  • strengthening the relationship between parents and infants.
  • developing skills in communication

Other helpful resources available on MumSpace

All new parents experience times when being a parent is challenging.  Some parents find that information or tips are enough to help them through those times; others feel they need more support to manage, and want to use a web program or app that helps them learn skills and develop plans.  Sometimes a supporter or therapist is needed in addition to online resources.

Our approach helps parents decide what support they want and need. Then, if they try one online resource and find they need more, they can select something that gives more help.  If they need less support, we may have an option that will suit them better.

Other helpful resources available on MumSpace

MumSpace has developed a series of downloadable resources to help you mums and their partners during this exciting time of life. These can be easily downloaded by mums, partners, families, and health professionals to be given to their clients. MumSpace resources include useful information, tips and advice to support mental and emotional health.

Please feel free to download and distribute these as needed.

If you feel you need urgent help some helplines are available.

MumSpace Perinatal Community

When you’re a new or expectant mum, life can be overwhelming. Need extra help?

MumSpace Community - When You Need Extra Help

You might have a network of people around you, or you might not – but sometimes, the community you need to feel connected is just a mouse click away. That’s why we’ve set up this MumSpace Perinatal Community. Ask your questions, share your wins (and fails) and connect with other mums in the same boat.

This is your #MumSpace

MumSpace Facebook Community


PIRI recognises and respects the diversity of families and celebrates all children, parents and parents-to-be. We strongly support the inclusion of LGBTIQ+ communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, people with disabilities, and people with diverse religious beliefs. Parents in diverse families may have to navigate additional challenges on their journey through pregnancy and after birth, like others not understanding their unique needs or not experiencing enough appropriate supports. This can contribute to the likelihood of develop anxiety and depression during this time.

If you are parenting in a diverse family and experiencing lowered mood or worry, then it’s good to discuss this with your GP or another health professional.

We acknowledge that the use of language such as ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ does not capture the full breadth of parental and care-giver roles in all families. With our established programs, we need to carefully consider any changes to the existing content, as these are the versions that have been proven effective in research trials. However, we are committed to seeing that the inclusivity of our materials evolves and improves with input from our consumers.

We are engaged in ongoing reflection and planning about our equality and inclusivity practices within PIRI, especially as new resources and new versions of existing programs are developed. We note that this is a process that will be continuous, and we always welcome feedback from those individuals, professionals, and community organisations, who engage in our research and use our supports. This will help us to better include and support all families and children into the future.

PIRI inclusivity

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We celebrate, value and include people of all backgrounds, genders, sexualities, cultures, bodies and abilities.

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