As you anticipate the arrival of your newborn (or recently welcomed one!) you are likely feeling a plethora of different emotions, including being overwhelmed. This is completely natural and to be expected. Part 1 of this article focused on how you can be prepared to support your newborn in this critical time known as the fourth trimester. However, this second part aims to provide you with practical tips to ensure you are also happy and healthy during this time of transition. After all, it's just as important that your needs are taken care of as your baby's needs.
As you get to know your new little one and figure out how to care for them, your own routine and lifestyle are also impacted. Not to mention, as a mother you will experience dramatic physical changes to your body. Here are 6 tips to help you:
1. Rest when your baby rests.
It can be tempting to use your baby's nap time to catch up on household chores or other activities, but it's essential to prioritize rest. Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue, irritability, and even postpartum depression. Take advantage of when your baby sleeps to take a nap or rest.
We know this is often easier said than done - your baby may sleep in very short periods, be incredibly fussy, or more. Which brings us to the next tip.
2. Ask for help.
Don't be afraid to ask for help from friends and family. They can assist with household chores, running errands, or even just holding the baby while you take a nap or shower. Remember that it takes a village to raise a child, and there's no shame in asking for help. Many of your friends and family likely would be more than happy to help, but may not know what you need unless you voice it.
If you are able, you may also consider employing the help of a postpartum doula during this time. Your doula will be conscious of your family as a whole, and be able to offer assistance and help you grow in confidence during this transition period. They have the benefit of working with many families in countless situations, and having professional knowledge of what you and your baby could benefit from.
3. Take care of yourself
It's easy to get caught up in caring for your baby and neglecting your own needs. Make sure you're eating nutritious meals, drinking plenty of water, and taking time for yourself. Self-care can include taking a bubble bath, reading a book, or practicing yoga. We recommend preparing and freezing nutritious meals ahead of time in preparation for the fourth trimester. In many areas, you may be able to buy freezer meals, as well, and they'll often work around any specific dietary restrictions.
If you're breastfeeding, you'll need extra calories. Pick up some of your favorite snacks and put them in areas near where you regularly feed your baby - you can snack at the same time!
4. Create a routine
Most babies thrive on routine, so creating a basic schedule can be helpful for everyone involved. Try to establish a consistent sleep and feeding schedule, so you and your baby know what to expect. This will help your baby feel secure, and also make it easier for you to plan your day.
*Note that a sleep schedule may not fall completely into place until around 2.5-3 months, when your baby's circadian rhythm has fully developed.
5. Don’t compare yourself to others
After giving birth, there is often a pressure to compare oneself to others, including celebrities. Social media and the constant barrage of images of famous mothers who seemingly "bounce back" from pregnancy with ease can create unrealistic expectations and make new mothers feel inadequate. This pressure to compare oneself to others can be detrimental to a mother's mental health and self-esteem. It's important to remember that every pregnancy and postpartum experience is unique, just as every individual involved is unique, and comparison only leads to negative self-talk and unnecessary stress. Instead, new mothers should focus on their own journey and take the time they need to recover and adjust to their new role as a parent.
6. Take care of your relationship
Having a newborn can put a strain on your relationship with your partner, so it's important to prioritize your relationship as well. Make time for each other, even if it's just a few minutes each day. Try sitting together at the table for at least one meal each day, even if only one of you can eat at a time while the other cares for the baby. Consider asking a close family member or friend to babysit once in a while so you can have a date night (even if this is a date night at home so you can enjoy a quiet dinner together). Find ways to bond over your new shared experience.
Remember that adjusting to life with a newborn takes time, and it's okay to make mistakes. In fact, many people agree that parenthood is a continuously changing journey, with each individual child growing into new talents, habits, and personality each day changing how you parent as well as how they act. Trust your instincts and build a support system you can rely on.