No matter how many parenting books you read, how many classes you take, or how many articles you read online, nothing can completely prepare you for life after the arrival of your newborn. Whether it’s your first child or your fifth, the days, weeks, and first few months with your new baby can be joyful and challenging. While your number one priority is caring for your newborn, don’t forget to take care of yourself. A lot of information is geared to new mothers, and that’s important, but both new parents could use a little advice and encouragement.
To Sleep or Not to Sleep
You know the old saying, “You can sleep when you’re dead” ? When you’re a new parent you may as well say,“You can sleep when your child is grown and off to college.” Sound sleep is difficult to catch when you bring your baby home from the hospital. Between feedings and diaper changes, you spend more time awake than being asleep. You might feel delirious, emotional, and completely exhausted. You need sleep when you can get it as it’s important for your physical, mental, and emotional health and your baby will benefit.
Some of the best advice about sleeping, is to sleep when your baby sleeps. Babies sleep a lot, on average they sleep twice as much as an adult. While this seems like the perfect opportunity to “catch some z’s”, you may be baffled as to why you’re catching none. The best thing you can try to do is sleep when your baby sleeps. Skip the laundry or trying to catch up on other things. Your sleep is most important right now.
Don’t Worry About Perfection
Before your baby was born, you spent a great deal of time following a long list of “do’s and don’ts” on everything from nutrition to baby proofing to exercise. Now that your baby is here, relax. If you didn’t finish putting protective covers on your outlets or a lock on your toilet seat, you have a couple of months to do so. Don’t stress if you didn’t hang up the mobile near the crib (or even set up the crib yet), what matters most is living in the moment and not worrying about being a perfect parent. Some of the most well-adjusted and healthy adults were raised by parents who made a few harmless, non-life changing mistakes. Remember, even though you created life, you are still human. The only thing that needs to be perfect is your baby and he or she already is the definition of perfection.
Take Care of Yourself
You’re spending every moment thinking and doing things for your baby, even when he or she is fast asleep. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Along with sleeping, this is crucial to not only your health, but the well-being of your newborn. Taking care of yourself should not be considered “selfish”, but rather being a responsible and attentive parent.
- Eat Well: If you had friends and family drop food off during the first few days after returning home from the hospital, you’ve got some great people looking out for you and your family. Choose foods that will give you nutrition and energy, but will also satisfy your appetite. Take turns cooking or indulge in take-out every now and then. Good nutrition is particularly important for breastfeeding mothers.
- Light Exercise: A good way to bond with your baby and reconnect with your partner may be as simple as taking a short walk around the block. The fresh air can be welcoming and the light exercise can feel good and is good for your body. Remember, you’re body went through a major transition, give it some time to recover. Don’t forget to talk with your doctor about what you should or shouldn’t do.
- Keep Your Feelings in Check: Feeling a bit depressed or overwhelmed after the birth of your newborn is completely normal. Many mothers experience postpartum depression and find that it goes away after a couple of weeks. Talk to your partner or your doctor about how you feel. Don’t ignore any of your feelings and seek help when you feel too overwhelmed to function or care for your baby. Having postpartum depression or feeling overwhelmed does not make you a bad parent.
Having a baby may feel like the best that ever happened in your life and it may also feel like the scariest thing. Take each day at a time and remember, you’re never alone. Give yourself some time to adjust and enjoy the moments you have with your newborn.