While nothing can quite prepare you for those first weeks of parenthood, there are many practical ways to help ease the transition.
The nursery is decorated, the tiny clothes are washed and folded, the hospital bag is packed – and you're eager to begin your new life with your newest family member!
While nothing can quite prepare you for those first weeks of parenthood, there are many practical ways to help ease the transition. After all, taking care of your baby will be a round-the-clock job, and the only way to learn is through observation, education and experience.
Between the feedings and diaper changes, the sleepless nights and unexplained crying spells (Yours or your baby's!), fatigue and stress can quickly take a toll. So before you're officially a parent, take some time to "baby proof" your life.
- Organize your home before the baby arrives. Face the fact now: Your first role is to meet the physical needs of your baby. Prepare for the constant Feed me! Change me! Put me to bed! demands newborns make. Create a list—from clothes to toys to bottles and bibs—of what you'll need; then sort, wash and store ahead of time. Plus, use any opportunity to stock up on your favorite foods, healthy snacks and pre-made meals. After all, it's much easier to tote a fussy infant to the kitchen than to the supermarket.
- Take time for yourself and your spouse. The demands of parenthood make it all too easy to focus exclusively on the baby while putting your needs as a couple aside. So you'll feel like you're swimming rather than sinking, make a concerted effort to support each other like a team. One spouse, for example, could give the other spouse fifteen minutes a day of alone time to decompress, to get some fresh air and to spend a few quiet moments for resting mind and body. As a couple, talk about your day after the little one is sleeping soundly. And, as difficult as it is, make it a priority to find a babysitter you can trust. Go on a date as often as you can—even if it is for a cup of coffee. A little time away from the crying and spitting up can help put a harried life back into perspective.
- Modify your expectations. After bringing the new bundle of joy home from the hospital, many parents anticipate a peaceful, intimate transition. Yet caring for an infant can be exhausting, emotionally demanding and boring—not to mention incredibly stressful. Lighten up when it comes to household chores, phone calls, and errands.
- Ask for help, don’t isolate yourself. No one is going to fault you or call you a bad parent if you call out for help. Many times, parents are more concerned about how they look as parents. Get in touch with other mothers and fathers via forums, community or religious groups, friends and family. After sharing your frustrations, you’ll find that what you experience is not uncommon and may pick up some good advice from others.
- Form a rhythm and routine. Predictability, through repetition in the first few months of life with a new baby gives new parents and baby a sense of safety. Routine gives both parent and child a framework for important elements like feeding, sleeping and together time. Give yourself time to form a routine, rework and re-adjust it. But remember to also be flexible. The routine is there to work for you and not the other way around.
It may seem like the crying, feeding, carrying and walking the floor at 2am is going to last forever. Having a body that’s getting back to normal, managing fluctuating hormones, fatigue and rollercoaster emotions, can take a toll on any new parent. If there is one thing to remember and assure yourselves during this period, is that your situation is temporary. The love you have for your little one, however, is permanent!
Focus on the Family Singapore is a local charity dedicated to helping families thrive through differentiated programs, trusted resources and family counseling. For more information, visit www.family.org.sg or sign up to our monthly e-newsletter.
Adapted from an article by Carol Heffernan. Used by permission of Focus on the Family Singapore.
© 2014 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.