A new baby is one of the most wonderful things in the world. But newbornhood can also be a time of stress, exhaustion, and disorientation for many parents. Here are a few things for new moms and dads to consider:
This stage will not last forever. For some people, the early days with a newborn seem insanely long -- in no small part because you're awake for more hours than usual. The emotions experienced feel huge in the moment, but they are temporary. Within a matter of weeks, both you and your baby will adjust to each other and you may surprise yourself with all you are capable of. In addition, each struggle (whether it is sleep, colic, feeding methods, or any of a hundred other concerns) will eventually no longer be so difficult. During my own experience with a new baby, my son had colic. I was overwhelmed with emotions and concerns for my child. Then a friend said to me "colic doesn't last 18 years, this really will pass." It helped me gain the perspective I needed to get through a difficult struggle. And eventually - it did pass.
Once your baby starts reaching milestones like having better sleeping hours, becoming easier to feed, or cooing and smiling, it will boost your happiness. When you're really in the thick of things, remember that it will not always be like this (in fact, it will likely be over very soon).
Put on your own oxygen mask first. It may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to take care of your baby is to take care of yourself. A few basic steps can make a huge difference. I encourage you to do a few things each day: take a shower, even if you put on clean pajamas afterward; spend time outside, and talk to another person about your thoughts and feelings. Almost everything feels worse when we keep it in our heads. Having someone to listen to your experience and hold space for you can be validating and calming. This goes for both parents. Often one parent is focused on caring for baby, while the other is focused on caring for their partner. Both individuals need a safe space to process.
One way to create this type of space is to schedule a regular counseling appointment. Doing this provides you one hour per appointment devoted to just your needs. During this time, you can talk about your fears and frustrations without feeling judged. You can also talk about the joy and meaning of your new life. It's a wonderful way to feel supported and heard.
Ask for & accept help from others. It can take some practice to say "yes" to an offer for help. So often, we brush these offers away politely and do things ourselves. But with another small human to care for, it's okay to let people care for you. If someone offers to help, you can give them a specific suggestion for what's helpful. It could be dropping off a healthy meal, coming over to hold a crying baby while you shower or nap, running an errand, or folding a few loads of laundry.
One resource I really like is a website called Meal Train, where friends and family can coordinate meal delivery online easily and for free.
Trust your instincts. With all the changes in hormones and sleep patterns, life can feel pretty topsy-turvy for a while. But I encourage you to try to set aside some mental space to reflect on this new life you've created and what a wonderful job you are doing. You will soon learn what works best for you and your baby, no matter what books or experts say. And when you get to a point at which you're really not sure what to do, that's a good time to talk to your pediatrician, doctor, or other trusted health professional. Remember that you are the best parent for your child and that they are lucky to have you. And together you'll figure things out.
Limit your relationship with google. The internet can be a wonderful tool. It can also be a crazy-making wormhole of opinions and scary stories. Limit the amount of time you spend researching why your baby is making that sound or what color poop is best. Seriously.
If you feel like talking with a licensed professional counselor could help you during this unique time in your life, please contact us to set up an appointment.