Tackling Newborn Baby Stress
No one ever tells you what daily life will be like with a newborn. If they did, they wouldn’t be able to look you in the eye because the truth isn’t pretty. Imagine this: All those wonderful family members and friends who helped you out right after the birth have now returned to their own lives. You’re fatigued beyond belief. Breast milk drips all over your clothes, but you can barely remember to bathe. Basic tasks like eating or deciding what to wear seem to take too much effort. Armed with little or no previous experience, you’re now responsible for the care, nourishment, safety, and stimulation of a new baby. No wonder new moms feel so overwhelmed.
But know this: You will not be the first mom to feel this way, and you will figure things out. While that may be cold comfort during the early days, it’s a start. To help shorten the learning curve, here are some tips on how to cope in the first few weeks, from moms who’ve been there:
Get out of the house
“I didn’t know what to do with myself or the baby,” says Mollie Hart, mother of 7-year-old Nick. “The day just went on and on.” To make the long stretch of time seem more manageable, Hart took short walks with Nick at least once a day. The change of scenery and fresh air were good for her and the baby.
Set attainable goals
“I told myself that I had to take a shower every day, and I did,” says Holly Hanke, mother of 18-month-old Evan. She put her baby in a bouncy seat, strapped him in safely, and brought him into the bathroom, leaving the door ajar to let out the steam while she showered. “Every other part of my life was out of control. Taking a hot shower not only let me regain some control over my day, but it helped me fight sleep deprivation and eased some of the postpartum aches and pains,” she says.
Join a mother’s group
A mother’s group is something you can pencil into your calendar and count on. “It gave structure to my week,” says Hart, who joined one 10 days after giving birth. “I needed it sooner rather than later.” You can find a group through your pediatrician or hospital. If no group is formally meeting in your area, start your own. Or go online and create a group with other BabyCenter.org moms.
Downscale your priorities
Dawn Ham-Kucharski was a self-confessed neat freak before she gave birth to her son, Alex, now 15 months old. But even the energetic Ham-Kucharski, who says she always managed to clean her house every day even while working full-time as a lecturer, had to cry “uncle” in the first six weeks of her son’s life. Instead of trying to keep up with her previous high standards, she revised her definition of clean and ignored dusty surfaces and dirty laundry longer than she normally would have before the baby.
Seize the moment to rest
Mollie Hart found she couldn’t relax enough to fall asleep herself while her baby was napping. But instead of using the time to catch up on dirty laundry, she gave herself a break and spent it reading a magazine or a few pages of a book. Even if she couldn’t sleep, it was a way to get rest and pass the time doing something that had nothing to do with the baby or housework.
How did I survive the long days? I laughed at my mistakes, cried when I felt like it, and asked any willing friend to stop by, even if only for half an hour, to allay the loneliness. One day, my spirits low, I spent nearly the whole day on the sofa bed. My only goal was to relax and enjoy the time I had with Nina, without worrying about the messy bedroom, the grimy bathroom, or the dirty dishes. All I needed to think about was making sure Nina was fed and changed regularly and didn’t roll off the mattress. As she cooed quietly beside me, I read the New York Times cover to cover. I hardly left my 5- by 6-foot sanctuary that day, except for trips to the bathroom and the few minutes we spent outside on the stoop getting some sun and fresh air. All in all, it was a nice day.
Here’s the good news: Things do get better with time. The older your baby gets, the savvier you’ll become about caring for her. You’ll regain your self-confidence and become an expert at parenting. And life, although no longer exactly the same as it was before you became a parent, will start to feel normal again. We promise.
Courtesy of the BabyCentre Medical Advisory Board