Pregnant moms spend a lot of time learning about pregnancy, labor and birth by going to classes and Googling everything. But a lot of my students tell me they wished they had prepared more for life AFTER baby because they found that adjusting to life with a newborn was much harder than they had expected.
Coping with the challenges of life with a newborn can be made a little easier with these three tips:
1. Get a support system in place. Make a plan for who will help you care for yourself and your baby in the first few weeks home. It could be your mother, sister, friend, or professional help from a postpartum doula or nanny. You will need help — with household chores, pets, shopping, cooking, laundry and of course, the baby. If you are new to the area and don’t have relatives nearby or a solid group of friends yet, look for moms’ groups at churches, hospitals, libraries, birth centers, yoga studios, and on Facebook and Meetup. If you want family and friends to bring you meals, set up a profile on Meal Train or Take Them a Meal, or start making meals now that you can freeze for later.
2. Communicate with your partner. Trust me — your partner CANNOT read your mind! If you don’t ask, you might not get! Be clear: can you please make me a bowl of oatmeal before you leave for work this morning? Would you please change the baby while I am in the shower? Here are a few things we need from the store — can you stop on your way home? Women tend to be more observant about what is needed to take care of the household, so if your partner doesn’t see what needs to be done, it’s not because he doesn’t care — he just might not notice, so ask for what you need.
3. Exercise and make healthy food choices. Even just a short walk around the block can make all the difference in a person’s mood. It will give you a chance to stop and chat with a neighbor, show off your baby, share a few laughs. Postpartum depression can set in when we are cooped up in the house all day with no one to talk to but a newborn who doesn’t talk back! Walking is a gentle exercise that new moms can usually do safely even in the first few days after their baby is born (but always check with your caregiver to be sure it’s safe for you). Eating healthy foods doesn’t necessarily mean making elaborate meals: a baked potato is easy to prepare, so have that with a cooked chicken from the supermarket, and some frozen, steamed green beans. Yogurt, peanut butter on an apple, already-washed lettuce with some chick peas and carrot strips, all make for good snacks that will help keep you healthy. Processed and fast foods — certainly the easiest choices — are generally high in fat, calories and sodium and quickly take their toll on our energy and health.
Keeping things simple and resting as much as possible are the keys to getting through those first few months. It is an adjustment for everyone, even for baby, who is getting used to all the new sensations in this new world outside the womb. Be patient with yourself, with your spouse and with your baby, and know that every day, life with your newborn will become less stressful and more joyful.