Your life changes when you have a baby – that’s what everyone tells you, but you can’t begin to imagine how, until it happens. Life with a newborn can be overwhelming in so many ways, so here are a few important reminders to you as a new parent, about managing this wonderful yet terrifying new phase in your life.
Go on a date night once a week
Remember when you didn’t have a new baby? It probably seems like a distant memory, but you and your spouse really did go out together for a meal sometimes and talk about things other than parenthood! Having a date night once a week helps restore your sense of being a couple.
Celebrate your baby’s “firsts”
Looking after a newborn is so demanding that it’s easy to forget all those wonderful changes that occur as he grows – like his first smile, his first sound and the first time he reaches towards you. Don’t let those wonderful, precious moments pass without celebrating his achievements. As a new parent, it’s important to enjoy every “first” as it happens.
Focus on the positive
Some days are more difficult than others when bringing up a new baby – for instance, when he doesn’t sleep or feed well. No matter how challenging you found him today, once he’s fast asleep, think of at least one thing he did that made you proud or feel good inside.
Every kid is different, so comparing your baby to your friend’s little one is pointless. Although there are general milestones of development for each age group (for instance, the first smile), the variations from baby to baby can be huge. What’s important is that he progresses at a satisfactory rate – not how he compares with others.
Take turns with the night shifts
Take turns at caring for your newborn during the wee hours, especially if both of you are working. At least that way, each of you will get a good sleep every second night – and that’s much better than one of you being exhausted all the time.
Have realistic expectations of yourself
If you push yourself too hard and try to do too much, you’ll always end up disappointed with the outcome. Have a realistic daily schedule that’s manageable and achievable. Your baby doesn’t have to experience every possible activity every day and the house doesn’t need to be spotless all the time.
Pat yourself on the back each day
Tell yourself you’re doing a good job as a new parent. Reflect on at least one incident that day that you handled really well. Other people may not take the time to praise you or give you encouragement, so give yourself the thumbs up.
Give your baby lots of cuddle
Looking after an infant is very demanding physically and psychologically. No matter how busy you are, make sure you give him lots of hugs and cuddles. Loving, physical contact of that sort helps melt away the negatives and puts you both in a positive, caring frame of mind.
Accept help from others
Of course you want to be an independent parent who can manage your own baby. And you are. But that doesn’t mean you should refuse all offers of help. If your friend volunteers to, say, babysit for a few hours, or if your sister offers to do your grocery shopping, just say: “Thanks, that would be very helpful.”
Go on holiday as a family
The thought of a trip with your baby probably fills you with dread because of the practicalities that such a venture would entail. But do it anyway, just for a couple of days to start with. You’ll quickly discover that it’s worth the effort and that you enjoy the break much more than you expect.