How to Cope With Loneliness as a New Mom

How to Cope With Loneliness as a New Mom - Illustration by Madelyn Goodnight

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

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Becoming a new mother can be both exciting and overwhelming at the same time. There is incredible happiness, joy, and elation over having a baby for the first time, combined with the uncertainty, anxiety, and worry over screwing up in some way. Add in the fact that the physical and emotional recovery from giving birth—regardless of whether it is vaginal or cesaeran—is challenging, and it should come as no surprise that many new moms struggle to navigate the fourth trimester.

But, what catches most new moms by complete and utter surprise is the intense—and sometimes dark—pit of loneliness they feel, even though they have a newborn by their side all day, every day. And, this loneliness affects far more moms than you might expect.

According to a joint survey conducted by Mom Central Consulting and Gather Moms, 60% of mothers with children under five years old experience loneliness. What's more, a whopping 68% of new moms feel cut off from family and friends, according to a British research study conducted by Action for Children.

Meanwhile, research conducted by the British Red Cross indicates that 82% of moms under 30 feel lonely some of the time while 4 in 10, or 43%, feel lonely often or always.

Why New Moms Experience Loneliness

Not surprisingly, hormones play a big role in the onset of loneliness. Estrogen and progesterone levels fall abruptly after giving birth unleashing a slew of ups and downs. But these issues are not the only contributing factors.

New moms are getting used to their lives as mothers and what that means for them. Aside from spending hours taking care of the baby—including many sleepless nights and countless diaper changes—they also are trying to figure out who they are now.

In the meantime, there is very little time to think about anything else other than the baby. They have little to no time to reach out to friends, spend time with their partners, or even just have a casual cup of coffee with a co-worker. Instead, their time is dominated by baby care until anything resembling their old life is basically eliminated.

When the family members go home and things start to fall into a pattern with the baby, new moms suddenly realize that their new role is incredibly lonely. The days are long and spent without much human interaction besides time with the baby.

While they may be surrounded by people during the day, any free time they have is spent caring for the baby, checking on the baby, pumping for the baby (if they are breastfeeding), and thinking about the baby's needs.

Consequences of Chronic Loneliness

Feeling connected to and supported by others is critical for everyone in dealing with the challenges of life and even more important for new mothers.

In fact, research has shown that moms who have adequate social support report higher levels of self-esteem and confidence. They also report feeling happier and have a more positive outlook on motherhood. By contrast, chronic loneliness can impact a new mom's health in a number of ways.

Aside from feeling unmotivated to eat right, exercise, and practice good hygiene, chronic loneliness can lead to a number of health issues down the road including sleep issues, hypertension, and mental health issues.

Loneliness also can lead to illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even arthritis. In fact, a study conducted by Ohio State University found that loneliness can even weaken the immune system and lead to increased inflammation in the body.

How to Combat Loneliness in Your Life

When it comes to addressing loneliness in your life, it is important that you address the issues as soon as you become aware of them. You don't have to make huge changes in your life, just pick one or two things that you feel like you can manage and try implementing them. Once you have accomplished that, then you can consider adding more ideas to your repertoire.

But, until then, take it slow and be patient with yourself. As long as you are making an effort, you will find that your loneliness eventually subsides. Here are some suggestions on how to tackle loneliness in your life.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

The first step in dealing with loneliness is to acknowledge how you are feeling.

Trying to deny you are lonely or to put on a happy face when you are anything but, is counterproductive. Be honest about how you feel. There is no shame in feeling lonely. It is not a sign of weakness nor is it an indication of your parenting abilities.

There is a lot of pressure to be filled with joy over having a new baby, and while you may experience that joy some days, it's also normal to feel lonely too. A lot has changed in your life and some of your loneliness may be tied to missing your old life.

Take Care of Yourself

Loneliness goes hand-in-hand with letting yourself go. If you focus on taking care of yourself including showering, exercising, and eating right, you will be better equipped to fight off feeling blue. You also will be more likely to have the energy to do something about your loneliness. It's easy to focus all of your attention on your new baby, but you need to remember when you feel good about yourself, your baby will benefit. You are not being selfish if you take some time to care for yourself.

Get Out of the House

Even if you just go for a walk, you need to make sure you leave the four walls of your home. Fresh air and sunlight can do wonders for your mood and mental health. After you have mastered getting outside, try planning small trips with your baby.

A trip to the grocery store or to Target can help lift feelings of loneliness simply because it is a change of scenery and you are in contact with other humans. Smile at the person scanning your groceries and say hi to the other mom in the store. Simple human contact can do a lot to alleviate negative feelings like loneliness and feeling overwhelmed.

Build a Circle of Support

Let your family and friends into your life. You need their love and support right now, especially if they live nearby. You need people in your life that have your back. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Let them know what you are going through. Allow them to help. And by all means, if they call or text you, make sure you respond.

Dealing with loneliness can feel overwhelming but if you take small steps toward addressing it, you will find yourself feeling better each day.

Reach Out to Others

Surround yourself with other moms going through the same thing you are. There is nothing more empowering than when women share their experiences and support one another.

Join a local mom's group or a playgroup if you don't know other moms in your area. Then, be sure to carve out time together. Even if it is just a quick cup of coffee or an impromptu meetup at the local park, talking with other moms and sharing your heart and your experiences can do wonders for alleviating loneliness.

Use the Internet, Social Media and FaceTime

Unlike your grandmother and the generations before her, you have the world at your fingertips. Just make sure you use it. Use the internet to find mom's groups, playgroups, mom's day out programs, and local support groups. Scroll through social media looking for the same thing. And, if you have a few best friends or family members that live out of town, use Skype or FaceTime to connect.

Having a conversation, even if it is over technology, can do wonders for lifting feelings of loneliness. If you just can't get out of the house or you're not ready to join groups outside your home, using technology is the next best thing at providing human contact.

Talk to Your Doctor

If your loneliness just won't go away or if you feel depressed or anxious as well, talk to your doctor. There is a chance that you are experiencing postpartum depression. If you act quickly at the first sign of a problem, you can get the treatment and help you need right away.

Don't be afraid to be completely honest about your feelings. Doctors see this kind of thing all the time and are there to help you. There is no shame in what you are thinking, feeling, or experiencing.

A Word From Verywell

Feeling bombarded by loneliness can impact even the most confident and self-assured moms. So, do not despair if you're struggling with feeling alone and isolated. More moms experience loneliness than you might realize. The key is to not let it fester. Take small steps each day to connect with other adults and soon you will be feeling happier and more connected to the world around you.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.