A new baby brings joy and excitement—and also a lot of changes to even the most organized home. With a few sensible tricks and strategies, you can take some of the stress out of parenting—whether it’s your first child or your next one.
1. Routine is a baby’s best friend.
Baby books rival auto repair manuals for their use of schedules—feed junior every three hours, burp for at least five minutes. Part of it is to give frazzled new parents some guidelines to follow, but the primary reason for schedules is because babies thrive on them. Since they can’t use words to communicate, babies cry to signal for attention. When you operate on a schedule, a baby begins to understand that important things like food, sleep and physical comfort are coming at regular intervals, and they respond.
2. Exercise for more than just muscle.
Childbirth is obviously grueling for mom, and night after night of interrupted sleep isn’t good for anyone. It may seem like exercise is the last thing you have the energy to do, but don’t forget about all the secondary benefits even a short stint on the treadmill offers. Even if you aren’t pumping iron to get stronger, exercise is a terrific stress reliever. The chemicals released in the brain during even moderate exercise improve mental function and make it easier to sleep when you actually do get the chance.
3. Give yourself a break, both mentally and physically.
There’s no sugarcoating the amount of work that goes into being a new parent. Babies need virtually all of your time and attention in the early days. The responsibility can be daunting, and it’s critical to find creative and effective ways to handle the stress. First, remember that you don’t have to be a superwoman or a superman. Nobody’s perfect, and you don’t have to be for your baby to thrive. And you can be a much more effective mother—or father—when you get the chance to recharge your own batteries, even for a few minutes. Don’t hesitate to pass baby off for an hour or two to friends, relatives or babysitters and take some time for yourself. Even if it’s staying home and spending extra time in the shower. Allow yourself to get worn down and you’re more likely to get sick with a nagging cold or cough, and your shorter tired-person fuse could put stress on your relationship with your partner.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Look for Professional Help
Support is the name of the game for both babies and moms. Never be embarrassed or ashamed to admit you can’t handle “baby blues” on your own. Postpartum depression is a serious problem and it requires professional help. If you’re feeling depressed most of the day, you’re tired all the time, have trouble sleeping, are experiencing bouts of panic or are having trouble bonding with your baby, don’t be afraid to reach out to your family doctor, pediatrician or gynecologist. They’re a great resource, and can give you a referral to a specialist who can help. Online resources are only a click away, at the U.S. Department of Health’s resource page, or through an online consultation with a doctor.