Being the mother of a new baby is a huge responsibility. Unfortunately, it is a job for which we get very little training. You learn mothering skills by taking care of your baby. None of us know instinctively how to change a diaper. That’s something we learn, just as we learn the best way to hold a fussy baby. While we are learning how to do something new, chances are we may feel unsure of ourselves.
Focus on the baby’s basic needs. Babies need love, affection, food, and warmth. Holding the baby, making eye contact, feeding, and changing diapers are the most important things in life for a newborn. Meeting your baby’s needs builds confidence in your parenting skills.
There are classes through your local hospitals and clinics that you can take to help you with basics about caring for your new baby. Any time you are concerned about your baby’s health or your ability to care for your baby, do not be afraid to ask for help from trusted relatives or friends. However, it’s OK not to take advice that does not work for you. Each baby is different, and you are a different mother than your friend or relative.
Here are some ideas that may help you as a new mother:
- Ask family members or friends to help with shopping, cleaning, or cooking. Ask your baby’s father to take over some chores. Although he may not do things the way you do, his way may work just as well.
- Get some rest. You need sleep to restore your energy. Nap when the baby does.
- Make it a priority to take care of you too. Try to eat right and exercise, even though your schedule may be thrown off. These things will help you stay healthy, both emotionally and physically. Taking care of yourself helps you to take care of your baby.
Remember that you are still a couple. Your sex life will change as a result of having a new baby. It’s normal to have a low sexual desire in first weeks or even months after the baby arrives. Spend time together with your partner away from the baby. Hire a sitter or leave your baby with a close friend or relative, and go out with your partner. Be open to talking about your feelings and the changes in your relationship. Many couples find their relationship gets stronger after they become parents.
After 3 months of taking care of a new baby, most new mothers feel lonely and isolated. Almost every mother feels a little trapped about this time and also wonders if the rest of her life is going to be a routine of bottles, dirty diapers, and lack of sleep. To help you can:
- Join a parenting support group. It helps to talk with other parents.
- Find friends who also have small children. Playgroups for babies are a good place to meet other moms and dads.
- Plan outings with other new mothers. Join a moms-and-tots group. Plan a reunion with other families from your childbirth education class.
The emotions of having a baby range from joy to panic and despair. In addition to these emotions, the birth process itself releases a flood of hormones in the mother’s body which often affect her emotions.
- Don’t try to be supermom. Some days, caring for your baby is all that you will get done.
- Try to make time to nurture yourself. Take a nice warm bubble bath, get a manicure or a pedicure, go out to a movie with some girlfriends. These things will help keep you energized so that you can take care of your baby.
If you have prolonged feelings of depression or anger, seek professional help. A few sessions with a counselor, or maybe taking medicine for a short time, may help. If you ever feel like shaking or hurting your baby, stop, put the baby in a safe place, and take a quiet break to calm yourself. Be sure to talk with someone about your feelings.
Friends take time and energy—both of which is in short supply after you become a parent. Most new parents find the demands of parenting affect their friendships, especially during the baby’s first couple of years. Good friends—including those who do not have children themselves—will support your decision to take good care of yourself and your baby. Friends can help you stay balanced and help you remember that you are more than just a mom. With friends:
- Be sensitive to how much talk about your baby your friends want to hear and don’t overdose them.
- It is OK to keep up hobbies and social outings, but you may need to back on time away from your family for a while.
- When you are preoccupied with current life stresses, it can be hard to “be there” for friends. You still need your friends, and they still need you. Spend time with them when you have the time and energy. Share what’s going on in each other’s lives. Friends can help you stay balanced and help you remember that you are more than “just” a mom.
- Never assume your baby is invited to a social occasion. Always check first.
Developed by RelayHealth. Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-01-27
Last reviewed: 2011-05-04 This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. References
Pediatric Advisor 2011.4 Index
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