Parenthood has never been easy, and even with all the books, magazines, and websites devoted to it, new moms and dads can find it difficult to navigate even at the best of times. It’s important to remember that the hard times are just a season, and that there are ways to cope with every issue your newborn throws at you without losing your patience…or your sanity.
One of the easiest ways to start is to begin preparations early. After the baby shower but before the baby is born, think hard about what the first month or so of life with your newborn will be like. Is breastfeeding an option? If so, seek help and resources from your hospital or doula. According to Parents.com, women who have assistance have enjoyed a higher success rate than others. It may seem like a natural process that doesn’t take much effort, but the opposite is sometimes true; many first-time moms need support when nursing if their infant won’t latch on or if there is a physical issue, such as blocked ducts.
Feeding, sleep issues, and bonding time are all major sources of concern for new parents. Here
are some of the best tips for handling it all.
Self-care is important
It’s not always easy to put yourself first when you have a crying baby who needs your attention, but sometimes, in order to give baby the best care, it’s important to take a minute and make sure your needs are met. Feeding time can be lengthy–especially if you’re nursing–so give yourself a bathroom break, set out some ice water to keep yourself hydrated, and put something on TV or grab a book before you pick up the baby.
To sleep, or not to sleep
Exhaustion is often the number one complaint of new parents, and it’s no wonder; newborns can have a hard time adjusting to the world outside of the womb, and even the most well-adjusted babies still wake up every 2-4 hours on average to eat. It’s not an easy thing to prepare your body and mind for, but there are things you can do to make it a little easier on everyone. First, work out a schedule with your spouse or partner so that one person isn’t doing all the work. If one of you takes the night shift, the other can take over in the morning. Second, set up a little station near the feeding area that holds everything you might need: a cell phone charger, tissues, a clean burp cloth, an aspirator, and diaper changing supplies.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There can be a sense of shame that comes with the idea of asking for help, especially where parenting is concerned. Remember that it does not mean you are failing; far from it. Every parent has reached a point where they are too tired or too frustrated to go on, and everyone deserves a break and some support. Infants can be temperamental and sometimes it seems as though they actively hate sleep, but keep in mind that there could be something else going on. Some have an intolerance to different formulas or even breastmilk, which causes painful gas that keeps them crying for hours. Others simply need to be wrapped soothingly in a firm blanket to mimic the feeling of the womb before they can go to sleep. Exhaustion and frustration can lead to harmful behavior–such as shaking the baby, which can cause brain damage–so if you feel yourself reaching the breaking point, ask for help from a family member or friend.