It can be overwhelming when you’ve just had a baby to say the very least. You’re excited, nervous, relieved and wondering what the next few days, months and years will entail — it’s easy to get stressed out by the demands of parenthood.
But don’t panic. Most new mothers feel the same way and the good news is that you’re not alone in feeling like you should meet an unrealistic set of expectations.
The best way to cope is to take things step by step, and remember everyone’s journey is different. Here are five things to bear in mind once you’ve had your baby.
YOUR BABY WILL LOVE SKIN-TO-SKIN CONTACT
It’s a myth that every woman falls in love with her baby instantly — it does happen, but for others the bonding process is slower, especially if the birth or labour was difficult, and this is perfectly normal.
One way of encouraging that mother-baby attachment is skin-to-skin contact. Newborn babies love being close to you, especially when you’re in a relaxed situation. You can also chat or sing to them, as they will recognise your voice, pull faces, and play games like peek-
Remember: Skin-to-skin contact is also an important part of the bonding process for fathers.
YOUR BODY WILL TAKE TIME TO ADJUST
It’s natural to feel tired and sore after you’ve had your baby (you’ve just given birth, after all!) and because your body has done something so strenuous, it will take time for you to recover.
You’ll experience discharge, called lochia, which is like having a heavy period, and you may also get afterpains, which feel a little bit like contractions and can be reduced by taking ibuprofen.
As for the baby weight, slow and steady is the best approach to losing it in a healthy, sustainable way. A varied diet, lots of walking and gentle exercises such as swimming and yoga will all be helpful.
YOUR MOOD MIGHT BE UP AND DOWN
It takes time to adjust to life-changing events and having a baby is no exception. Your hormones will be all over the place and you may feel content one minute and tearful the next.
Try to accept how you’re feeling, rather than fighting it — there’s no one right way to process bringing your baby home and those first few days of looking after them.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE ON THE MAJORITY OF CHILDCARE DUTIES
The way we view childcare is changing, but new research by Direct Line shows that two thirds of mums are still the primary carer for their child, even though more and more workplaces are introducing family-friendly measures.
It’s worth looking into these measures, which include flexible hours, the option to work from home, and shared maternity/paternity leave.
“The responsibility of looking after the children is different in every household across the country,” adds Jane Morgan (source).
Whatever you decide, it’s important to talk it through with your partner and come to the arrangement which suits you both best, whether it fits into traditional attitudes towards childcare or not.
IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELP
This is the most important thing to remember, especially if you’re a first-time mum. For example, a midwife’s role doesn’t stop as soon as you’ve given birth. They’ll be available as you navigate the early stages of parenthood, giving you advice and answering any questions you might have. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and give them a call.
It’s also worth seeing if your health or life insurance policy offers any extra benefits — video or phone appointments with GPs are useful for busy parents — and whether this cover now includes your child.
Finally, your family and friends can be reliable sources of help and will have you, your partner’s and your baby’s best interests at heart. Whether you’d like some company or need a babysitter while you take a shower and grab some food, your loved ones will be happy to
lighten the load.
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