Tips for Parents Surviving and Thriving During the Newborn Stage
Infants and babies are really hard work! Despite the fact that they do often sleep a lot, and newborns aren’t mobile, newborns can try even the calmest parent’s patience.
Sleep deprivation and the round-the-clock demands of a tiny person who hasn’t mastered the art of logic or speech can be pretty overwhelming. Luckily, there’s a lot that new parents can do to enjoy this sleep-deprived stage!
First, realize that your baby is a totally new human being. Just like you got to know your spouse and your friends, you need to get to know your baby. This doesn’t mean you aren’t bonded with them! It means that they are a separate person with wants, needs, personality quirks and opinions all their own.
Because of this:
Realize that every baby and every family is different. There is no one idea, trick, or practice that will work for every family and every baby. There just isn’t. Trust yourself. Some babies love to be rocked to sleep, some hate the stimulation. Some love music, others love quiet. Some days, it feels like you’re doing everything wrong, but you aren’t. You are just learning what you, your baby, and your family needs.
While unique, you are not alone. Get help if you need it. If you ever feel intensely sad or worry about hurting yourself, your family or your baby, talk to someone immediately. This is a time full of a lot of upheaval for parents and siblings, and mom’s hormones are very unstable. There is great strength in asking for help.
Don’t forget about yourself. The baby takes a lot of time and effort, but making sure you take care of yourself is vital to being able to take care of the baby. Focus on whatever makes you feel pampered: a long shower during a nap? Painting your toes? Having that glass of wine in the evening? Find a way to keep yourself calm and have a little taste of indulgence.
For the mom, it’s very normal to feel like your body will never be yours again, and a little resentful about it. Delivery takes its toll on your body; you just got a human being out of you (awesome job!). You’re going to feel sore, your belly is going to feel weird, and your hormones will be all over the place. Take the time to focus on the fact that you will heal, and it will get better. Take it one day at a time, lean on friends and family and treat your body with the respect it deserves. It created and delivered a person. Honor it with good food, plenty of water, and much gentleness. You will heal.
People are eager to help you, but often don’t know how. Feel no guilt about asking visitors to bring or do something useful, even if something small. My go-to baby gift is a canvas tote bag from Trader Joes full of snacks for the hospital. No fancy wrapping, but exactly what I wished during those days in the hospital. It’s hard to know how a new mom feels if you’ve never been there. Ask for flowers, food, the chance to shower or take a walk, or for someone to do the dishes. Visitors want to help!
Find friends who are parents. They will hold you and understand you and listen to you passionately discuss the intricacies of diapers, feedings, cradle cap, crossed eyes, and fussiness.
Find friends who aren’t parents. They will remind you that are a parent and an individual.
Know that everything changes, and no phase lasts forever. Those days and weeks seem endless, but they aren’t. And there is comfort in knowing that even the worst days pass, and even the longest nights eventually find the dawn.
Good job, moms and dads! Babies are hard work, but these little people are also beautiful, hilarious, inspiring and miracles. By giving yourself the support you need, you will be more able to focus on the gifts of their infancy.