Expert Answers: Our baby has driven a wedge between us

Our six-week-old daughter is our first child and much-wanted. But being a new father is not what I thought it would be.My wife is busy looking after a colicky baby who cries a lot so we are sleep-deprived and snappy. I am ashamed at feeling like this, but I just can't help it.

Making the change from being a couple to being parents isn't always easy. It can be difficult to find time for yourselves, your sex life can change, you have to juggle the commitments of work and family and find a way of agreeing on how to bring up the child.

Don't keep it all to yourself. Talk to your partner, and other parents-you'll find that many of them are experiencing the same mixture of conflicting feelings

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Work with your partner to support each other through it. Take turns with the baby. When it's not your turn, don't hover – get away from the noise. Go out, if need be.

Be kind to yourself and each other, knowing that lack of sleep causes lowered tolerance and frayed tempers.

Sleeping separately can help to keep at least one of you from falling apart, but don't do it for too long. Sharing a bed is an important part of being a couple.

A new person in the home, however small they are, has an impact on the relationships of everyone who already lives there

as well as on extended families.

Keeping an eye on how things change can help you to be sensitive to your partner's feelings and those of others around you.

Some things to look out for are:

Is someone feeling left out in your family group?

Is someone intruding in your family set-up? How can you tackle this?

Is anyone's past experiences causing them difficulty in coping with the new situation?

If a new baby has upset your relationship, make time to talk. Agree on a time. It needn't be long, but choose a moment that suits you both, when you're not hungry or especially tired.

Take turns to listen to each other, uninterrupted, for a certain amount of time. One of you might talk for five or 10 minutes about any particular problems and anxieties, while the other listens carefully without interrupting. Then the other partner has an equal amount of time to do the same.

It is very important not to use language that blames or criticises the other. The object is not to attack or undermine each other, but to try and understand what the problems are.

When you have heard each other, go away and think about what has been said. Your first reactions may be "hot" thoughts – anger, resentment. You might feel like crying.

Let these feelings pass, and focus on what your partner actually said, so that you end up with a clearer understanding of his or her feelings. Then, when you're ready, use your insights to talk through the problem again calmly. Try to move towards a solution that satisfies you both.

Don't give up. It takes practice to learn to communicate better. Don't expect everything to be solved immediately, but keep at it and, bit by bit, you will start to see changes.

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Paul Charlson, GP from Brough

We can all identify with your feelings, they are quite normal. Sleep deprivation is horrible and affects everybody.

I think it is worth enlisting help. Can relatives help out? I presume your wife is breast feeding. If so, expressed breast milk from a bottle might allow you both some freedom and time to get some sleep.

Have you taken some time off work? This

may be possible and allow you and your wife to work on a rota in looking after the baby. Remember this is a short period of struggling before things improve.

However, the reality is that small children

do restrict what you can do, so you need to adapt.

Try hard to minimise other stresses in your life. Plan some breaks and things to look forward to when life settles down.

A night out with friends might be help, either together or each separately, whatever seems possible.

Elaine Douglas, A chartered psychologist who specialises in family and child relationships

Please do not feel guilty for feeling tired and irritable.

New babies have a habit of totally disrupting a household, and it is normal that you would feel the way you do.

I think part of the problem is that we are sold on the idea that this tiny new arrival will enhance and enrich our lives; the reality is that the early days are totally exhausting.

You say that your wife is totally immersed in looking after the baby which, again, is normal and your life has been turned upside down by all of this.

I am sure that after a day's work you long for a bit of peace and quiet, with perhaps a conversation with your wife about her day and yours. This won't happen for a while.

Do you have any friends or family who have a little more experience as parents? It might be helpful to talk this through with someone who, as they say, has been there and got the T-shirt.

Your daughter will get through this stage and before too long you will sleep easier.

Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University

Your dilemma is so common, most new fathers reading this will nod vigorously in agreement.

I think you just have to go through it, accept that you will be sleep-deprived and snappy with each other, and try to get the occasional respite away, with relatives or friends looking after the baby from time to time so you can spend some quality time together.

It will all gradually get easier, but you two do need space away with each other from time to time, so get some help to enable you to have time out, to be emotionally together and not under strained circumstances.

I suspect most men also feel left out by the bonding between mother and baby, which is difficult to deal with as well.

Try to contextualise this by saying to yourself, it won't always be this way, so accept it and try to do things that mitigate the stresses and strains – time away is essential.

Dr Carol Burniston, Consultant Clinical Child Psychologist

You have gone from having your wife's full attention to having to share it with your new baby; it is hardly surprising that you feel left out.

Your baby will be demanding, time-consuming and exhausting for both of you, but she needs your care right now in a way that will diminish over time.

Sharing the demands of new parenthood is essential, such as calling in all the support you can muster from family and friends. Is there anyone who can come over and keep an eye on the baby while you both get some extra sleep? Or can you take it in turns to sleep while the other one looks after your daughter?

The way you feel is quite common and nothing to be ashamed of. This situation will improve with time. Try to find time for your marital relationship. You can help each other by reminding yourselves that you were partners first before you became parents.