Becoming a new mum is stressful. You have gone from being an independent woman, often with a career and busy social life, to a stay-at-home mum with a small person who is utterly dependent on you. Your new baby will need feeding every couple of hours, probably isn’t sleeping for more than three or four hours at a stretch, and on top of that, your body is recovering from the rigours of childbirth. As a result, it’s hardly surprising that many new mums struggle to cope and end up stressed and depressed.
The good news is that you don’t have to feel this way. With a few tweaks to your daily routine, you can avoid excess stress and learn to live your new role as a mother. It might take a few weeks to settle into life with a baby, but before long, you will discover the joys of parenthood.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation causes a huge amount of stress. Everyone knows new parents struggle to get enough sleep and it’s kind of a standing joke, but I can’t stress enough the importance of resting whenever and wherever you can. In the early days, your baby’s sleep patterns will be all over the place. Babies take a while to find their sleep rhythms and to begin with, your baby won’t recognise the difference between day and night. During this phase, you should try to nap when they nap. Housework can wait. Sleep is more important than a clean floor, even if you are a neat freak. The more tired you are, the more stressed you will feel when your baby is crying inconsolably. So, rest as much as possible and give yourself a break on the housework. Nobody will blame you!
Make Time to Relax
Relaxation is just as important as getting enough rest. Many new mums push themselves too hard. They try to maintain the same punishing schedule they endured before baby came along. They see photos of stick-thin celebrity mums and vow to achieve their pre-pregnancy body within six weeks of giving birth. The truth is, for most people this is an unattainable target.
Give yourself a break. It takes the majority of women around one year to return to their pre-pregnancy size. As long as you eat sensibly, the weight will slowly drop off. In the meantime, forget about going to the gym or returning to your spin classes. Instead, make time for relaxation at home with your baby.
There are many ways to relax. Watching a DVD while baby feeds is one, or you could play an online game such as Sun Bingo on your iPad while baby is playing for five minutes. Even sitting down and doing nothing is relaxing, as long as you can ignore the mess and forget about that load of ironing sitting in the utility room.
Share the Load
No woman is an island. Even if you are a single parent, you still have the right to ask for help. Becoming a parent is stressful because we are dancing in the dark. Most women have a strong maternal instinct, but parenthood is not in our genes. We have to learn the necessary skills required for taking care of a newborn baby and it’s a steep learning curve. Most mothers make all kinds of silly mistakes in the early months. Fastening a baby carrier the wrong way or dressing your baby back to front. Figuring out how to manage the little tasks is very stressful, so if you are feeling overloaded, ask for help. Your partner should be the first person you turn to, but if you don’t have one or he is unwilling to help, ask a relative or a friend to look after your baby for an hour while you sleep. Even the little things like doing a basket of ironing or cooking tea will reduce some of the burden from your shoulders. And the less weight you have to carry, the less stressed out you will feel.
Bond with Other Moms
Other mothers are often a lifeline in the early months and years of parenthood. You are all travelling the same difficult road and sharing the pitfalls along the way. The friends you make as a new mum will often be friends that stick with you through thick and thin. Sharing the pain of parenting a small baby, laughing at the silly mistakes you make, and crying together about the horrors of baby colic all help to relieve the stress. Don’t bottle up your problems. Instead, arrange a coffee morning with other mums. The act of bonding over mutual experience is a great way to relieve some of the stress you are feeling. Laughing about the stress of parenting is a great way to put things in perspective.
Don’t let stress ruin your experience as a new mother. If things are getting too much for you, talk to your doctor or health visitor – they are there to help.