A common myth promoted by television commercials is that caring for your new baby will be completely filled with blissful moments. This is certain to create anxiety for you if you are a first-time mother or father. Like most new parents, you are probably experiencing a mixture of feelings, and this is normal.
While it is important to recognize that adjusting to a new baby is a monumental change, it is also important to remember that your baby is picking up on your emotions.
There are many reasons why your feelings fluctuate.
- Moms and dads are sleep deprived. In the early weeks following the birth of your baby, you are just plain tired. Your baby is sleeping a lot but not at the right times.
- Mom just had a baby. The physical and emotional toll of giving birth is enormous. While you might feel great right after the delivery because you are overjoyed, your body still has about six weeks of recovery ahead. Some physicians suggest even longer for regular processes to be back to normal.
- You have lots of visitors. In the first few days or even weeks, friends and family gather to celebrate the arrival of your bundle of joy. This can mean that you are playing hostess and not getting needed rest.
- Your visitors have gone. After the rush, everyone goes home. At first, this is a welcome release from entertaining, but soon the isolation of caring for your baby sets in. You may not live near family or even know your neighbors, so finding support may be challenging.
There are many things you can do to acknowledge your feelings and nurture your relationship with your baby.
- Reach out. Establishing connections with other mothers before you feel overwhelmed is the key. Many churches, community centers, and hospitals have new mothers' groups.
- Watch that baby. Your baby may already be equipped with the ability to calm himself. Does he suck his wrist or fingers? Does he get quiet and relaxed sitting in front of a window? Your baby will use sucking, his vision, and body motion as a means of self-calming. Once you notice your baby's talents, you can encourage them.
- Learn your baby's cries. Crying is your baby's way of communicating with you. Each time she cries, she isn't asking just to be fed. She may want company, her position changed, or she may be tired. Learning what certain cries mean will help you to meet your baby's needs more completely.
- Remember that less is better. Your baby can get overstimulated more quickly than you realize. Beware of a common tendency to jostle, sway, rock, pat, or toss your baby. This stimulation rarely works to calm a tired, hungry baby.
- Get some sleep. You've likely heard it before, but it bears repeating: it is important to sleep when your baby sleeps. It may be tempting to get some household chores done, but nothing beats some well-deserved rest. You will have more reserve energy for your baby's cranky times if you have had a nap.
- Find some time for yourself. This suggestion usually gets the most attention. Many new parents ask me, "How in the world am I supposed to do that!?" I'm not suggesting a day alone, just a quiet hour to yourself. Take a bath, read the paper or this website . . .
but find a way to do something for you.
- Get some professional help. For some new mothers, the feelings they are experiencing are more than they can handle alone. If you think you are suffering from true postpartum depression, which is more than just the "baby blues," ask your obstetrician for a referral to someone who can help you.