New Parents' Biggest Fears: Why You Shouldn't Stress So Much

newborn baby with mother

There is nothing as surreal as the moment you leave the hospital with your first child. You probably think: They are just going to let me go? With this tiny, helpless baby? I vividly remember those new baby days as a time of wild love and total fear. So, how normal and justified are some of the most common new-parent fears?


According to Dr. Christiane Manzella, clinical director for the non-profit Seleni Institute -- an organization that focuses on women’s health issues -- it is “absolutely normal to feel terrified or scared when it comes to being a new parent.”

There's definitely a learning curve to parenthood, and it can be easy to feel high levels of stress and anxiety about taking care of a brand-new person. We talked to some moms about their new-parent anxiety and found out the reassuring truth about some of these super common fears.


Jonna R., from Boston, Massachusetts, was scared, like many new moms, about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). She recalls, “[I was] not totally irrational, but I had read that overheating was bad, so I dressed her in a short-sleeved onesie, no blanket, and turned on the air conditioner so it was a cool 67. Air-conditioned. In Vermont in the winter. She didn't sleep.”

Although SIDS is scary to think about, the good news is that SIDS is far less common than it used to be, largely thanks to higher rates of parents placing babies on their backs to sleep. Research suggests that less than 0.5 percent of infants will die of SIDS, making it tragic but rare. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, SIDS rates have been steadily declining, and experts still don't know exactly why it happens, but we do know that parents can reduce the risk by making sure not to smoke around the baby (or during pregnancy) and by using safe sleep practices, such as keeping loose blankets and other objects out of the crib.

More from CafeMom: 11 Must-Do Tips for Reducing the Risk of SIDS

Failure to Bond

Mindy G. from Des Moines, Iowa, had a fear that might be more common than many moms realize: “I felt I was supposed to instantly fall in love with him and [worried about] what would happen if I didn't instantly love him.”

Anxiety about falling in love with your baby is, according to Dr. Manzella, “so normal.” She reports that “many moms in the beginning say ‘oh my gosh, I don’t love my baby, what’s wrong with me?’” Often, shifting hormones and the intensive work of caring for a newborn can slow down the process, and that's completely normal. After all, you’ve just met! Remember: Most relationships don’t start with love at first sight, says Dr. Manzella.

Spend more time together, and Manzella assures us that you'll get there. “Wanting to love your baby is the beginning of a bond," she says. "The hope of wanting to love is the start.”


Once we are in love with our little ones, it can be hard not to imagine all of the terrible things that can happen to them, including someone snatching them. For Mary F. from San Jose, California, this was her biggest fear: “I was convinced that someone was going to kidnap the baby. I was totally terrified for months of people coming too close to the stroller in public or that someone would snatch him from the day care center.”

The good news is that infant abduction by a stranger is incredibly, amazingly low. Although it might make for big news when it happens, the truth is that, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are generally less than 10 cases of this happening a year. In 2014, for example, there were just six reported abductions of infants by strangers, and all six babies were reunited, unharmed, with their families.

So as long as you're keeping watch of your child, you should breathe easy. That old lady approaching your stroller probably just wants a peak at the cuteness!

More from CafeMom: Co-Sleeping With Baby: What's Your Safety IQ? (TRIVIA)

Strain on Marriage

For Bevin H., from Tucson, Arizona, the biggest fear she had as a new mom wasn’t about her baby -- it was about her marriage. “I felt like we loved each other so much that we wanted to have a family, but then you hear all of these things about how babies can wreck your marriage and sex life, and I was like ‘Wait! I don’t want to ruin this really good thing!’ That felt stressful for sure.”

In many ways, Bevin’s fears were justified. There is plenty of research that suggests that having a child can be hard on a marriage, and according to Dr. Manzella, therapists “expect a dip in marital satisfaction, especially in the first year when the most challenges come into the relationship.” She points out that new parents not only have to contend with sleeplessness and figuring out how to parent together, but they also are having less sex and alone time than ever before.

But even though marriage stress is common for new parents, that doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed. With a commitment to learning to reconnect as adults and trying to make a point of making time for affection and sexuality (which are two separate and important things, reminds Dr. Manzella), most couples can make it through the early days and come to find satisfaction in becoming a family while also staying a couple.

Being an Incompetent Parent

One of the most common fears was the one shared by Amy K. of Dorr, Michigan: “At the hospital I remember thinking, They are actually going to let me take my baby home? Don’t they realize I don’t know what I’m doing?

Even after reading every parenting book and taking birth and breastfeeding classes, it can be totally normal to feel like becoming a good -- or even competent -- mom is a huge task. It can also be hard to admit feeling scared, something that Dr. Manzella argues we need to “acknowledge and normalize,” as “it usually gets better. But there is an unrealistic expectation that a woman will automatically know what to do ... this can be a terrible bind on a new mother!”

The truth on this one is that it does take time to figure out how to become the parent you want to be, but you don’t have to have it figured out right away! There will be a lot of things you'll just have to learn by doing. It's okay not to do everything perfectly the first time.

So, take comfort if you feel like an anxious new parent. Your fears are likely both totally normal and unlikely to come true. You've got this.


Image via

Read More >