Round-the-clock newborn care can turn your life upside down. Use these practical strategies to handle the new stress in your life.
A newborn can bring a whirlwind of activity and excitement to your life — and plenty of stress and fatigue as well. Whether you're a first-time parent or a seasoned veteran, consider 10 practical strategies to keep stress under control.
1. Take care of yourself
Resist the urge to count caffeine as a major food group or a substitute for sleep. Instead, eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water and get some fresh air. Sleep when the baby sleeps — and work out a nighttime schedule with your partner that allows both of you to rest and care for the baby. Do something you enjoy every day, either with your baby or on your own. Good habits will help you maintain the energy you need to care for your newborn.
2. Establish visiting rules
Friends and loved ones may come out of the woodwork to admire your newborn. Let them know which days work best and how much time you have for a visit. Insist that visitors wash their hands before holding the baby, and ask anyone who's ill to stay home. Don't be afraid to set aside your social graces, either. Let trusted visitors care for the baby while you get some much needed rest.
3. Go with the flow
It's never too early to establish a routine — but let your newborn set the pace. Allow plenty of time each day for nursing sessions, naps and crying spells. Keep scheduled activities to a minimum. When you need to head out, give yourself extra time to pack your supplies and change the inevitable out-the-door dirty diaper.
4. Expect a roller coaster of emotions
You may go from adoring your baby and marveling at tiny fingers and toes to grieving your loss of independence and worrying about your ability to care for a newborn, all in the space of a single diaper change. Chances are, you and your partner are both tired and anxious as well. Talking about what's bothering you — such as a strained budget or difficulty soothing the baby — can help you stay connected. A shared laugh may help lighten the mood.
5. Relax your standards
Hide the broom and leave dust bunnies where they lie. Store clean clothes in the laundry basket until you need them — or in stacks on the floor, for that matter. Clean the bathroom with a fresh diaper wipe. Serve cold cereal and peanut butter toast for dinner when you're too tired to prepare a more traditional meal.
6. Get out of the house
If you're going stir-crazy with a fussy newborn, take the baby out for a walk. If you can, let someone you trust take over for a while.
7. Accept a helping hand
When friends and loved ones offer to help, take them up on it. Suggest holding the baby, folding the laundry, running a few errands — whatever would help you the most.
8. Nurture other relationships
Your newborn needs your love and attention, but you won't let your baby down by spending time with others. If you have other children, set aside one-on-one time with each of them. Schedule dates with your partner. Meet a friend for lunch or a movie.
9. Keep your perspective
The newborn days won't last long. Step back and appreciate the moment, even amid the chaos.
10. Know when to seek additional help
Parenting is a challenge, even on a good day. If you're depressed or you're having trouble adjusting to life with a newborn, consult your health care provider or a mental health professional. Learning to handle the new stress in your life can help you enjoy the riches parenting has to offer.