New Mom? How to Stay Calm and Cope Well
Ah, those new-mom emotions. Joy, love, happiness, excitement, wonder—and stress, exhaustion, frustration, fear, even resentment. Even this most positive experience can come with a boatload it of overwhelm. Staying calm and coping is not as easy as you might imagine.
As a society, we don’t prepare parents for how difficult it is to live with and care for a tiny baby. It’s an enormous change and adjusting to change causes stress. Our stress reaction goes back to cave days. We respond with rising blood pressure, pounding hearts, and faster breathing when the baby wails. Stress takes its toll, both psychologically and physically.
Some ways to deal with new-mom stress:
- Take breaks. And don’t feel guilty. Trade a night off with your partner or ask a relative for help. Accept help when it’s offered.
- 20 minutes per day of exercise is enough to reduce stress. Walk, with your baby in the stroller. Take a mom-and-baby exercise class. Snatch a few minutes for yoga.
- Get Out. Regular activity among people will help. If you’re breastfeeding, pump a bottle and leave Baby with your husband or a sitter while you swim laps, join a book club, or attend a mom’s group at your church.
- Eat Nutritious Food. Don’t diet, especially if you’re breastfeeding. You can lose that baby weight later. Make it easy to eat well by packaging quick, healthy snacks to grab during the day.
- Pamper Yourself. Celebrations of a new birth, at least in the U.S., center on baby, not mom. But you need care, too. Get a friend to watch the baby and schedule a massage or a manicure—something that makes you feel pampered. If you can’t get away, take a long, steamy shower or bath.
- Get Help. If you are truly overwhelmed or if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, seek support. You’re not a bad mother if you have these feelings. Seeking professional counseling will make you a more effective parent.
Here are some of the new-mom worries you may find yourself dealing with.
Baby’s Crying Freaks You Out
The crying goes on and on. You’ve changed, fed, cuddled, burped, but the wails continue. It’s panic time.
It’s natural for us to assume that the cries mean distress or sadness. After all, that’s why we cry. But infants use crying to communicate everything—that they’re tired or cold, wet, hungry, or maybe that they’re bored or too stimulated. Crying is Baby’s way of talking to you.
Crying is stressful to listen to, but babies don’t die from crying. With Baby safe in crib or swing, you can take a minute to calm yourself before you respond. You’ll develop an ear for cries and figure out just what Baby needs.
You’re Sleep Deprived
Experts advise sleeping when Baby sleeps, but that doesn’t work for everybody. Maybe you can’t fall asleep during the day, or naps don’t do it for you. Try these hacks:
- Push your bedtime forward a few hours.
- Let Dad take the morning shift so you can sleep in. Baby/Dad bonding will be good for them both.
- If you can nap, try not to sleep longer than 30 to 45 minutes at a time to keep from falling into deep sleep.
- Take turns doing the middle-of-the-night feeding. It’s best that one parent takes the whole night shift, so the other gets a full night’s sleep.
This, too, will pass. Trust me. All parents of newborns are sleep-deprived.
You’ve Got Advice Overload
As if your self-doubt wasn’t enough, friends, family, neighbors, and sweet old ladies in the street will fill your ears with advice, much of it conflicting. If you’re paying attention to your and your baby’s needs, trust your instincts. We’re all different. What was right for Grandma may not be right for you.
Don’t play the comparison game. Kids are different, too. Comparing your situation to that of the perfect mom with the perfect baby in the new-moms group will steal your joy. Embrace the moment. You’ll do just fine.
Your House Is a Mess
Housekeeping time and energy are going to be in short supply when you have a newborn. A spotless home is not a realistic goal. If you have the energy for one chore a day, you’re doing well.
Some possible fixes:
- Lower your standards.
- Hire somebody to help.
- Do a little at a time. Use that 15-minutes when the baby is napping to do one small thing.
- Cut back on elaborate cooking. Order out or cook ahead and freeze.
- Organize your house to function. Forget style for now.
Your Marriage Needs Saving
You’ll be exhausted, and your sex drive may suffer. Carve out time to be with your partner. Have regular dates when you don’t talk baby stuff. If you can’t manage that, have a date night at home. Make these trysts a regular thing.
We tend to assume that child-related jobs belong to women. We should stop socializing dads to stay on the sidelines. Asking your husband for help will keep you from feeling burned out. He’ll be delighted if he knows you’ll feel more amorous because he stepped up.
Talk about sharing the workload, and be cheerleaders for each other. Seeing stress as a challenge you are meeting as a team helps you foster mutual fondness and admiration.
You’re Having an Identity Crisis
You’ve probably been in the workforce before your baby’s birth. You’ve been the expert, the can-do person, the one who knows the ropes. Suddenly, you’re a newbie, and worse, your boss can’t tell you what you’re doing wrong.
People may treat you differently now. If you stay home or switch to part-time work, the balance of power in your relationship may shift. If you go back to work, there’s the guilt factor of family versus work.
You may feel alone, depressed, unsure of who you are.
Remember, your current situation will not last forever. This mom gig is what you’re doing now. Appreciate and enjoy it while you can.