How to Stay Sane Through the Insanity of New Parenthood 2019
New motherhood is like staring into an abyss. If the terror of the unknown isn’t enough, you must cope with it on four hours’ sleep with bouncing hormones and postnatal depression. It’s normal to aim for perfection. The true love that is parenthood doesn’t lend itself to the words “good enough.” You want to be the best mum who’s ever lived, but there are new terrors around every corner: What if you starve your newborn by sleeping two hours later than you intended? What if you never get breastfeeding right? What if your 2 am tears scar your baby for life? Ever wonder why it is that you never ask, “What if everything turns out just fine?” And it probably will. Here are a few tips to keep you sane.
Connect with Other New Mums
One of the most important talents of a healthy mum is the understanding that love and your best efforts are enough. You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t have to feel as though this journey has carried you to heaven, where your New Mum Experience™ is serenaded by a thousand angels. You need permission to fail, and it’s other new mums who can offer that to you. Exhausted though you are, find time to connect with other new parents. #Newmum Facebook groups and Mummy and Me yoga classes will introduce you to people to share your experience with. Shame is a natural response to your fears and mistakes, and that dies on exposure. If you don’t share your secret feelings and errors, your isolation will destroy you, so take a leap into the abyss by telling the truth of your experience. Mum wellbeing relies on emotional wellbeing, and to achieve that, you must share your secrets with other parents.
Stop trying to walk off your baby weight and getting an A+ in breastfeeding. Your healthy baby doesn’t ask you to be a perfect size 10. Your family wellbeing doesn’t rely on you to conquer 7 kilometres of daily hiking. To survive new motherhood, you must honour yourself and stop punishing your imperfections, so if you choose to go for a walk, do it to calm your frayed nerves, and not to look like a post-birth Meghan Markle.
Find Parenting Partners
You’ll probably develop a new fear about baby’s health every day, so find a fantastic pediatrician who’s patient enough to reassure you that no, tiny Lisa is not slow to crawl… or smile… or pass her GCSE. If you seem to be having more bad days than good, don’t be afraid to seek out clinical support. Low self-esteem and profound anxieties are best dealt with head on. A clinical psychologist is not a declaration of failure.
Get through the Night Like a Pro
It’s hard to be a healthy mum when your nights are spent carting bottles and poop around a dark house. Healthy babies wake up when they’re hungry, so there’s no delaying feeding times, but you can improve your nights.
- Embrace power naps. They’re your friends.
- A calming bedtime routine will get baby sleeping sooner, so try 8 pm baths and white noise apps.
- Every baby responds differently to calming stimuli, so experiment with drives, swaddling, and music.
- Dreamfeeding entails feeding baby just before you go to sleep. It will help you to develop sleep rhythms that are closer to your newborn’s.
- Shortening daytime naps to two hours will encourage a calmer night.
- Try to put baby in the crib before she falls asleep. This way, when she wakes up, she’ll recognise her surroundings and might self-soothe herself back to sleep.
Learn Baby’s Cries
Mum wellbeing will be easier to achieve if you learn baby’s cries. Those piercing wails are your newborn’s only mode of communication, but a healthy baby has a discernible language:
- Low-pitched, repetitive cries, lip smacking, and finger sucking mean, “I’m hungry.”
- Continuous, nasal cries that build in intensity mean baby is uncomfortable. Check for dirty nappies and try repositioning.
- Fussy cries and a turned head could mean baby is getting overstimulated. Look for noise and overstimulating light.
- Weak, soft, low pitched whimpers could indicate a sick or tired baby.
- Intense cries and fidgeting could mean colic.
It’s difficult to achieve family wellbeing with an inconsolable baby in the house, so don’t forget your own needs. Studies show that cries push up your blood pressure, increase your heart rate, and reduce circulation. Take breaks when you can, enlisting the support of family members, friends, and hired help when you need it. Stay in touch with your limits, and when you reach them, don’t hesitate to reach out for the support of a parenting hotline, grandparent visit, or support group.
Deal with Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression has physiological causes and severe consequences. It cannot be fixed with positive thinking any more than diabetes can. If you’re suffering from listlessness, suicidality, insomnia, or appetite problems, you deserve the best professional help available. Self help groups can certainly provide support, but your doctor may need to prescribe an antidepressant.
Coping with Emotional Woes
Happy mums are in touch with their own imperfections. There's no such thing as a perfect mum, so aim for growth rather than perfection. Mistakes won't break baby for life, so it's just as well this journey isn't a contest. Find your peace in a willingness to grow and your joy in the simple, exquisite moments that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.
Bond with Baby
Not all mums bond with their babies instantaneously. It can take as many as six months to feel connected to your new family member, particularly if you’re depressed. You can encourage bonding through breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact, and journaling. Shared experiences are equally powerful, so take baby to yoga sessions and massage classes.
While it’s true that, as a new mum, you don’t know anything about parenthood, nor does the mum who’s taking her child to her first day of school. Motherhood is a constantly moving target, and everyone feels as though they’re floating in a great bubble of confusion. It requires new skills for every birthday, every milestone, every bout of fresh tears, but you aren’t the pioneer of parenting. There are millions of people who’ve been where you are today, and they’re willing to share their wisdom. Parenthood is the most important challenge of your life. You’re bringing a new person into the world, after all. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.