No matter how much you prepare, the first few weeks and even months with a new baby are hard. There is likely no exception to this rule, so don’t be discouraged if you are struggling. Although it’s a challenging season, you can develop some good habits to help you cope. We’ve highlighted seven of them here:
1. Make sure you are eating. Between the near-constant feeding, diaper-changing, burping, rocking, and holding of a new baby, you might find yourself with little time to eat properly. Adult mealtimes often coincide with baby’s feeding times, naptimes, baths, bedtime, or the dreaded evening witching hour. A new mom’s body is also still healing from labor and delivery, so it’s especially challenging trying to tend to all the additional responsibilities. Eating proper meals can fall to the bottom of the list. In fact, many new moms discover that they don’t sit down at mealtime the way they use to anymore. However, new moms must make it a habit to eat something healthy. Your energy levels and milk production depend on getting the appropriate calories, so keep some easy-to-prepare foods around so that it’s possible to put together a quick meal for yourself.
2. Sleep whenever you can. Even though the advice for new moms is to sleep whenever the baby sleeps, it’s nearly impossible to do so. There is always something else that needs to be done while you have a few moments of peace. Also, your body and mind can’t relax on command just because the baby is sleeping. Develop the habit of sneaking your naps in whenever possible. Are grandparents over to visit? Let them entertain the baby for as long as possible while you lie down. Is your partner home from work? Send him and the baby for a stroller walk without you and catch a cat nap on the couch.
3. Ask for help. This is not the time to go it alone. In fact, having a baby is one of the most stressful events in life. Go ahead and put together that meal calendar so that friends and family can sign up to bring your family lunch or dinner. Seeking help goes beyond meals. Do you need a listening ear? Tell a friend you’re looking for some adult conversation. Do you need someone to hold the baby because you just need a break? Invite your friend over and admit that you need her strong arms for a bit. Is your fridge empty? Collect on all the “let us know if you need anything!” offers and ask someone to stock your fridge or bring healthy snacks.
4. Let yourself cry. It’s completely normal to feel exhausted and stressed when bringing a new baby home. You’re recovering from a pregnancy and maybe even a difficult delivery, but instead of being able to simply nurture your own body and spirit, your focus is now on the newest member of your family. It’s hard to adjust to a new normal and it’s common to have some sad feelings. If you feel like crying, then let yourself cry. Crying releases endorphins so sometimes a good cry can actually make you feel better.
5. Shower every day. Often the jokes about new motherhood involve some version of a mom unable to shower. This could be because she doesn’t have the time and/or she doesn’t have the ability to get away from the kids long enough to take a shower. But new moms need every bit of refreshment they can get! A shower revives you, gives you a few minutes of breathing room, and will make you feel better and ready to tackle the day. If you shower in the evenings, it will relax you and pamper you after a tiring day (and perhaps encourage you for a long night ahead). If you need to pull a pack and play into the bathroom while you shower so you can keep an eye on the baby, go ahead. Showering every day is a good habit that’s worth the trouble.
6. Take it one day at a time. Needless to say, a new baby can turn everything upside down. Discouragement can set in when you feel like you can’t get past the sleepless nights, or breastfeeding struggles, or colicky hours. Rest assured that these challenges eventually end. And if naptimes were disorganized today, try it again tomorrow. One setback does not mean catastrophe. Just take it one day at a time.
7. Talk about something besides the baby. Your pre-baby routines are gone and your pre-baby support systems like co-workers or friends might not be as accessible anymore either. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing solely on childcare and chores and forget completely about the outside world. Make it a habit to talk to your spouse about something other than the baby. You may not have a lot of free time, but text or call a friend whenever you can. Even a brief exchange with another adult every day will be good for your soul!
At the Motherhood Center, we have lots of resources to help new moms throughout those first weeks and months. We specialize in taking care of families during the postpartum period with our staffing services which offer you access to Baby Doulas, Night Nannies, or Lactation Consultants. Contact us to learn about all the options we have available, whether you need help for a few weeks or just a few hours!