You can’t predict how your life will change after having baby, but it will! You may smile serenely when people talk of the crying, the broken nights, or the 10th nappy change of the day. But until you've experienced it, you won't be able to fully understand how it really feels. You’re probably able to juggle multiple tasks at work and home but when it comes to a newborn baby, you may be reduced to a quivering wreck. So if you’re still in your night clothes till the afternoon or haven’t had time to eat a bite, rest assured you aren’t alone. It happens to most new mums.
What problems may I have when recovering from birth?
As a new mum, you have just been through the emotional and exhausting experience of giving birth. Your hormones are rapidly adjusting to new levels and you may be experiencing the baby blues. These feelings tend to peak four or five days after you have given birth. You may be recovering from surgery or stitches, bothered by after pains,backache, constipation or piles. At the same time, you may be trying to establish breastfeeding while suffering from a lack of sleep. Your husband is probably juggling sleep-deprivation and a sense of helplessness while also trying to balance the demands of work and the needs of his new family.You may want to consider sleeping in separate bedrooms for the first six weeks or so to lessen this. If you’re following traditional confinement practices you may have a lot of help from family members for the first couple of months. But, being asked to rest all the time or being away from your baby can be upsetting as well. You may feel you are losing control over your life and that may prove to be a source of additional stress. If your mother or mother-in-law takes over the kitchen and other household chores you may find they handle things differently. But it’s a good idea to let go for a while. You can use the time to bond with your baby as well as get some rest for yourself.
How will a new baby affect my daily life?
Daily life with a newborn can be chaos. Not only are you so tired that you can barely open your eyes, you can find it hard to get dressed in the morning. It probably seems that every time you pick up something to wear, or reach for your phone, your baby needs a feed. Or a nappy needs changing as soon as you sit down to eat. Maybe your baby starts crying just as you’re going in for a bath. At the same time you may suddenly realise that you're now responsible for the care, nourishment and protection of a tiny baby. And that's 24 hours a day, seven days a week, despite you having little or no previous experience. You're then expected to visit the doctor for your baby's check-ups, ensure your little one's brain is stimulated and sort out the washing and still run the house. No wonder you feel overwhelmed!
How can I cope better with the stress?
Getting to know this new person, and her habits and character, can be stressful. And that's even if you're still feeling delight and joy at your baby's arrival. Some days, the relentless nature of the responsibility and getting through household tasks don't allow you to relax and enjoy your baby as you want.
Things will begin to settle into more of a pattern and routine once your baby is between six weeks and eight weeks old. But if you're finding it difficult to cope during these first few weeks, here are some ideas:
Exercise or go for a walk Sometimes, the long stretch of time in a day can be more manageable if it is broken up. Initially, you can set aside some time each day for light exercises at home. Even if you are in confinement you can get some fresh air by sitting in the balcony or garden. After a while, when you settle into a comfortable routine, you can plan to go for a short walk every day. Walking will also help you to socialise. You'll probably start to recognise faces, and it's surprising how many people strike up conversations when you have a newborn with you! A change of scenery, as well as fresh air and gentle exercise, will lift your mood and your baby's, too. Read about how to make a buggy walk a workout.
Eat well Though it's tempting to grab the nearest mithai when you're feeling exhausted, eating healthily will help you to feel better. It will help you recover from the birth and keep your energy levels on an even keel. Limit your intake ghee-laden preparations offered by family members during confinement. Pick wisely and opt for fresh and nutritious foods that don’t add empty calories. Read more about your nutrition after birth, whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding. If you’re doing the cooking, choose healthy snacks and meals that are easy to prepare and won’t take up much of your time.
Don't try to do too much
Don't be too hard on yourself if dirty clothes are piling up or the old newspapers and magazines haven’t been sold off to the kabadiwala. Spending time with your baby is what really matters. If you have lots to do, write a list and cross each task off when it's done. Aim for the minimum achievement and reflect on what you've done, even if it's only one item from your list. Lower your standards a bit in the early weeks to keep the pressure off. Just remember, your newborn doesn’t mind that if there’s a bit of dust on the bookshelf or your clothes aren’t ironed. If you’re managing everything on your own, you may prefer to time your chores for when your baby usually takes a nap. This is of course much easier once your baby has an established routine of feeding and sleeping.
Find like-minded company Loneliness can be a real problem for new mothers who are away from family. Even for those surrounded by family, friendship with other new mothers may be a lifeline. Some women stay in touch with friends their own age who are mothers while others catch up with new mothers they may have met at their doctor’s clinic. You may think you're the only one with milk stains on your clothes or dark circles under your eyes. You might imagine that everyone else is calm and collected and managing much better than you are. But you'll come across parents who have the same questions as you do and feel the same way you feel right now. For mothers who stay in a joint family and may have difficulty forming an independent view, it helps to reach out to new mothers in a similar situation. It’s a relief to know that you are not the only one feeling overwhelmed. There’s bound to be another mum with a baby who sleeps even more badly than yours. Or someone who doesn’t get enough time alone with her baby. Sharing and swapping stories of new parenthood can really help. Speak to other new mums in our community and find out how they are coping.
Don’t be the helping hand of the "helping hands" If your parents or in-laws offer to spend a couple of weeks initially to help out, use those days to take some much needed "me" time for yourself instead of cooking special meals for the "guests" at home or for relatives who visit. If someone offers to do some grocery shopping or send across a meal, say yes. All these things can help in the early days. Once you fully recover or complete your confinement period speak to the elders of your family, and check if they plan to be involved on a daily basis. They may want to help with your baby and you may find their support a blessing! Depending on your needs you may want to hire a live-in maid or a part-time maid. You could also consider hiring a cook who’ll be able to take over the kitchen duties. This will allow you to spend more time with your baby.
Share babycare duties with your husband Sharing responsibilities makes a lot of difference and it helps if your husband is involved right from the beginning. Encourage him to hold your baby as much as possible so that he gets comfortable doing things with her. Changing nappies and bath time may take him some time to get used to but when he does, it will help a lot, especially if you want to go back to work. It also helps to sit down and share your concerns so that he is aware of the help you need around the house. The early months of parenthood are probably making you feel as though you and your husband never have enough time to do anything. Keep the lines of communication open, find time for each other and work together as a team. Your lives will become more manageable as the years go by.
Set some time aside for yourself Even if you can't sleep when your baby sleeps, it's important that you reward yourself with a proper break, no matter how short it is. Have a rest from the relentless routine and do something just for you. Whether it’s reading a book, listening to music, having a traditional massage, oiling your hair or calling a friend, if it makes you feel good , do it. If you're very tired but can't sleep, try shutting your eyes and relaxing for 10 minutes. Rest when you can and take each day as it comes. You may also find meditation or yoga helpful and some mums swear by the power of yoga nidra.
When will my baby settle into a routine?
The good news is that things will get easier as you get to know your baby and discover what she likes and dislikes, and how she needs to be cared for. After the first six weeks, your baby may begin to establish sleeping and feeding routines, probably without you even realising it's happening. But if your baby hasn't established a routine this early, don’t worry. Some babies need more time and help than others. Once a routine is established, you'll find it easier to plan for the day ahead, such as scheduling vaccination appointments or going along to your regular household chores. That's when you're likely to feel far more in control. Even though life changed forever the moment you became a parent, the stresses of the first weeks don't last throughout babyhood. So if your baby hasn't settled yet, rest assured she soon will.