For many first-time parents, the day the baby comes home from the hospital is filled with joy and excitement — followed by a sudden flash of anxiety. There’s a beautiful, brand new human being in the house, and he or she depends on you for everything. Now what?
Relax. All new parents go through an adjustment period while they learn the ropes of caring for a new baby. Just as every baby has a unique personality, every family has different schedules and systems that work best for them.
As you create your routine, keep the following tips in mind to help make the experience more happy and healthy:
- Be patient. Give yourself and your baby time to get to know each other. It’s easy to become frustrated when your baby cries at all hours and you don’t know why. Eventually, though, you will be able to differentiate between hungry, tired, uncomfortable and so on.
- Take care of yourself. The better you feel, the easier it will be to care for and enjoy your baby. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps, and arrange to have your spouse or someone else trade off baby duties so that you both have time to rest and recharge. Eat healthy foods and get some fresh air and exercise every day, either with your baby or on your own.
- Give yourself a break. Caring for a baby takes a lot of time and energy. Plus, babies are messy. If you’re used to an immaculate home with everything in its place, let it go. If you can, hire someone to help with the cleaning or yard work, and accept that it’s OK to throw on a baseball cap and sweats to go to the store.
- Stay connected with friends. Often, friends assume you’re “too busy” with the baby and don’t call, when in fact you’d like nothing more than some companionship. Tap into your relationships for much-needed company as well as a little help when you need it. Instead of having people over to the house, meet them for coffee or at the park — that way, you get to socialize and get out of the house, too. When people do come to visit, ask those you’re comfortable with to watch your baby while you shower, nap or run errands.
- Stay connected with your partner and other kids. It’s also important to stay connected to your partner and other children if you have them. Make it a point to spend time with other family members, share concerns and try to do some fun things together, with and without the baby.
- Be present. Your baby will be grown before you know it. Try to enjoy this time and the memories you are creating.
- Don’t try to be perfect. It’s impossible to be the perfect parent 24 hours a day, and unreasonably high standards simply set you up for frustration and disappointment. It’s normal to feel more emotional or moody than usual when you’re a new parent, but if you’re experiencing depression or constantly feeling overwhelmed, call your doctor. Postpartum depression affects many women, and the sooner you get help, the more you can enjoy your baby and the rest of your life.