As a new mom, the first few days and weeks can be overwhelming. You've just gone through one of the biggest life changes you'll ever experience. There's no magic formula that will make the transition to new motherhood run smoothly, but these few simple strategies will help:
Before we have our first baby, we tend to have set ideas about what sort of mom we're going to be. Maybe we plan to have a natural birth, breastfeed, use cloth diapers, make our own baby food from scratch or get our baby into a regular sleep routine within the first six weeks.
It may be a matter of days or even hours before you realize that some of these choices aren't going to work for you. Be flexible. Adapt to your needs and your baby's needs. By all means have a plan, but don't stick to it at all costs. Be ready to refine the plan and meet new challenges in a way that suits you and your baby.
2. Forgive yourself
Sometimes the plan goes wrong early on, and we blame ourselves. I planned a natural birth and ended up having an emergency C-section. These things happen. It's not your fault. I coped by expressing gratitude that my baby was born safe and healthy- something that might not have happened had I stuck rigidly to my plan of a natural birth.
Many women put together a birth plan, hoping it will help them feel in control, but childbirth is unpredictable. According to Amy Tuteur, MD, writing on The Skeptical OB, birth plans don't really have an impact on birth outcomes and can often make women less happy with their experience. So if you do have a plan, be prepared to change and adapt it, according to you and your baby's needs.
3. Accept all offers of help
As a new mom you may have friends, family and neighbors offering you all kinds of help. Take it. Whether that is your mom offering to have the baby for a couple of hours so you can rest, or a neighbor stopping by with a home cooked meal. Maybe friends will offer help with the housework or offer you discarded baby clothes and equipment. This generosity won't last forever, so make the most of it while you can.
Never turn down an offer of help from your husband. These early days will set the tone for what kind of father he will be.
4. Sleep when your baby sleeps
This is a really common piece of advice that most new moms find hard to follow. Our baby takes up a lot of time, and we want to use nap time to catch up with chores or do other things we can't do while she's awake.
Newborns sleep a lot, but it doesn't feel like it, because they never sleep long at a time. You will be up several times a night, so if you can sleep, or even just rest, during the day when your baby sleeps- do it. Only do essential chores (such as doing a load of laundry so baby has something to wear), and use offers of help to get other important tasks done.
5. Use any support offered by your community/health professionals
Being a new mom is really daunting. You're learning a whole set of new skills, from breastfeeding to diapering to assessing when your baby is suffering from colic or diaper rash. Do some research and find out what type of help, advice and support groups are available in your area.
Breastfeeding in particular can be difficult for some new moms. It may be natural, but it doesn't come naturally to many of us. Ask your healthcare professionals for tips, and consider contacting La Leche League International for support and advice.
6. Network with other moms
Before we have a child, many of us think we'll never turn into one of those moms who hangs out with other moms all the time and talks about babies constantly.
It comes as a huge surprise to many women when they realize they desperately need the support and the company of other new moms. It helps to discuss your problems and concerns with other moms and most will have a huge amount of empathy, which can be a lifeline.
According to Harvard Health, social isolation and a lack of support are risk factors in postpartum depression. Consider joining any groups or clubs available in your area. As well as traditional "mommy and me" groups, many communities offer everything from baby massage and baby swimming classes to baby yoga. These activities can help you bond with your baby and meet other moms.
There's a lot of information out there for new moms. Magazines, books, websites and other moms can all provide useful tips, advice and information. By all means, do your research and inform yourself of all the options. Then make choices based on the information you've gathered and your own intuition.
Being a new mom is a special time. Enjoy it, but don't expect it to be easy all the time. Things worth doing rarely are easy.