It does not matter how many parenting books you read, how many classes you take, or how many articles written by experts that you read online, nothing can completely prepare you for life after the arrival of your first baby. This time in your life will be many things, but the day, week, and first few months with your new baby are going to be both joyful and challenging. Even though your number one priority is caring for your newborn, you cannot forget to take care of yourself as well. There is a lot to expect, and there is a lot of information out there that is important and helpful to new mothers, but make sure both new parents are taking care of themselves during this new time in your lives.
People say all the time, “I can sleep when I’m dead.” Well, when you are a new parent, you may as well change that to “I’ll sleep when my child has grown up and gone off to college.” When you bring your baby home from the hospital, it is difficult to catch some sound sleep. Between feedings and diaper changes, you will spend much more of your time awake than you do asleep. You may feel emotional, delirious, overwhelmed, and completely exhausted. You need to sleep whenever you can get it for the sake of your mental, physical, and emotional health. The best advice is to sleep when your baby sleeps. Babies tend to sleep a lot, about twice as much as an adult. Skip over the laundry or other chores, because sleep is more important right now. Once you get your baby on a sleep schedule, you can start getting into the groove of normal life. But, make sure you have a plan on how to survive sleep regression, because it will happen and you will need to adjust all over again.
YOU DON”T HAVE TO BE PERFECT
Before the baby was born, you likely spent a lot of time following a long list of what you should and should not do in terms of everything from nutrition to baby proofing the house and getting exercise. Now that the baby is here though, it is time for you to relax. If you did not get a chance to finish putting protective covers on your outlets or lock down the toilet seat lid, you still have a few months before you need to worry about it. Don’t stress yourself out if you did not get a chance to set up the mobile over the crib (or even the crib itself). What really matters the most is living in the moment and not spending time worrying about being a perfect parent. Every parent makes a few harmless mistakes, and most kids turn out to be well-adjusted and healthy adults anyway. Remember that you are still human, even when you do not necessarily feel that way. You do not have to be a perfect parent. The only thing that you need to be perfect is your baby; and they are already the definition of perfection.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
You are likely spending every moment thinking about and doing things for your baby, even when they are fast asleep. Do not forget to take care of yourself in the process. Along with sleeping, taking care of yourself is crucial not only to your health, but the well-being of your baby. Taking care of yourself should not be thought of as selfish, but rather being a responsible and attentive parent. There are a few things that you should focus on doing:
- Eat well. If your friends and family were kind enough to drop off food during the first few weeks after you returned home from the hospital, you have got some amazing people looking out for you and your family. Choose foods that give you nutrition and energy, but will also fill you up. You should take turns cooking and indulge in take out every now and again. Maintaining good nutrition is especially important for breastfeeding mothers.
- Exercise. A good way to bond with your baby and spend some time with your partner can be something as simple as taking a walk around the block. Fresh air and sunlight can be incredibly refreshing, and a little bit of light exercise in the early weeks postpartum can feel good and is good for your body. Give your body time to recover as you just went through some major transitions, but moving helps the healing process. If you are unsure of what is safe, consult with your doctor before doing anything too active.
- Be aware and take care of your feelings. It is completely normal for new mothers to feel a bit overwhelmed and depressed. Many mothers experience postpartum depression, and find that it typically goes away after a couple of weeks. Talk to the people in your life about how you feel, especially your doctor. Seek some help and don’t ignore your feelings when things start to head south. Having postpartum depression and other intense feelings do not make you a bad parent.
Having a baby has the ability to make you feel amazing. It can feel like the best thing that has ever happened in your life, but it can also feel like the scariest. Take things one day at a time and remember that you are not in this alone. There is support out there; friends and family are great allies as well as mommy groups to interact with people going through the same experiences. Give yourself some time to adjust to life with a newborn and enjoy the moments that you have with that sweet little baby.