Advice on coping with the demands of a newborn baby, with information on the help and support available to you as new parents.
Having a baby is one of the most wonderful yet challenging experiences of your life. Nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming sense of love and responsibility that you feel when you first hold your newborn in your arms. Becoming a parent (especially if it's your first time) will literally turn your world inside out and you can feel as if you're on a never ending treadmill of nappies, feeds and too little sleep. It is important to remember that you don't have to go through this alone - there is a plenitude of support available to help you cope with this life changing experience and you should not be too afraid to ask.
Making the adjustment
The transition from pregnancy to parenthood is a huge one and caring for a new baby allows you little time to recover emotionally or physically from the stresses and exhaustion of labour. Once you get home from hospital you should rest as much as possible - which is easier said than done when you have a baby that doesn't like to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time!
Having a baby does not mean that you have to turn into a domestic goddess overnight and no one will expect you to. The ironing, hoovering and dusting will wait - your recovery and wellbeing are much more important that a pristine house.
Try to nap when your baby naps - even an hour will make all the difference and make up for the lack of sleep your getting at night. Make the most of visitors - take a shower while they play with baby, or even enjoy sitting quietly for half an hour - it is important for your sanity to find time for yourself. A long bath at the end of the day can help you to feel more relaxed and better able to cope with the demands that parenthood throws at you.
Most supermarkets now offer a delivery service and this is something you should definitely make the most of - simply order online and have your weekly shop delivered to your door, what could be simpler? As a new parent it is important that you eat healthily, especially if you are breastfeeding, as you will need all of the nutrients you can get to help combat fatigue and give you the energy to care for a young baby. Try to include plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet, homemade soups, stews and casseroles are nutritious and easy to prepare and left overs can always be frozen for dinner another day.
Although you may feel exhausted, you should try to do a little exercise every day. This will not only help you to regain your pre-pregnancy figure, but also leave you feeling refreshed and energised. Even a short walk will do you good - swimming and yoga are other fantastic stress-relieving options and open up avenues to meet other new parents.
Joining local parent and baby groups can provide you with an instant support network of people going through exactly the same experience as you. Groups of this nature not only allow you to enjoy a social life that includes your baby, but also provides a brilliant channel for you to share experiences, advice and concerns with other parents.
Taking your baby for regular check ups and weigh ins will help to reassure you that your baby is growing and developing healthily. However, if you even have any concerns about your baby's health, you should contact your health visitor, your doctor or nhs direct and they will be able to advise and support you.
Adjusting to parenthood can be difficult for both parents although men and women tend to take on very different roles after the birth of a child, regardless of the balance before. It can be a stressful time and a lack of sleep often compounds the problems; try to strike a balance and share the household and childcare responsibilities so that you both get time away to relax and de-stress, even if it is only for a little while. Try to spend time alone as a couple too - getting a grandparent or close friend to babysit can allow you the freedom to enjoy each other's company and remember that you're individuals too, not just parents!
In western society we tend to take a much more isolated approach to parenting and it can often feel like we have to do it all - be the perfect parent, keep a perfect house - but really this is not the case. When you take the huge step into parenthood it is important for both your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your baby that you ask for help when you need it - whether this be asking a friend to help with the ironing or getting a parent to watch your baby while you take a nap. Your friends, family and health care professionals will all be ready and willing to help you during this life changing time, you simply have to be unafraid to ask.
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