Baby’s Here! Now What? Getting Into The New Parent Groove

Getting Into The New Parent Groove

Anticipating and getting excited about your baby’s arrival is one thing. Once your sweet little babe arrives, though, that’s a completely different arena. Sure, you’ve got friends, family and a partner to help. Not to mention the cooing bundle of joy that propels you forward each and every day. Still, things are understandably more stressful and chaotic once you’ve returned home from the hospital than they’d ever been before.

“Part of what makes the experience of parenting an infant so overwhelming is the reality that every aspect of life changes when the baby comes into their world,” says postpartum specialist Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT. “Taken individually, issues of sleep deprivation, feeding, co-parenting, social isolation, ‘baby blues,’ physiological changes to the mother, etc., each bring their own challenges. Together though, they can feel at times insurmountable.”

Kurtz explains that the biggest stress new parents face, though, is learning how to transition to the whole of these changes in a manner that will allow for both parents and baby to thrive. It can be done.

We spoke Kurtz and two other experts on this very topic. Below they’ve provided helpful tips that’ll help you get into the new parent groove and stay cool, calm and collected.

9 Ways To Get Into The New Parent Groove

Ask for Help

In our culture, mothers in particular are expected to take on enormous responsibilities and often not encouraged to solicit help when they need it most, explains Kurtz. As a new parent, though, one of the best ways to minimize stress is to identify which area of parenting is most challenging for you, as an individual, and to then find the help needed to make the task easier.

“For example, if a mom is having a particularly difficult time breastfeeding — which is very common, by the way — she should contact a certified Lactation Consultant who can offer some practical advice,” says Kurtz. “Other mothers may feel that they need a few hours a day to be away from the baby and tend to their own needs. In these cases, asking for help from a trusted family member, friend or mother’s helper will afford Mom the necessary time to care for herself, so she can better care for her baby.”

Get Organized

On that same note, you can always employ friends and family to help you out. The key, however, is to get organized and to delegate so there’s no confusion.

“Many friends and family want to help once your little one arrives,” says Dr. Juli Fraga, a licensed psychologist. “I advise clients to put together an Excel or Google spreadsheet of anticipated needs (i.e. dropping off food,  light errands) and sending this to anyone who asks, ‘How can I help once your baby arrives?'”

Caring for a newborn is a 24/7 job that leaves little time for necessities like cooking and cleaning. Having friends and family who can drop off food, pick up groceries or call out for food delivery makes a world of difference.

Nourish Your Body

Food is a key ingredient — pun intended — when it comes to your overall health. That includes body, mind and heart. For that reason, be very thoughtful about what you put into your body. It helps to always ask yourself, “What nutrients will this food or drink provide me?”

“To avoid eating foods that stress you out in any way, keep a food journal for about a month,” says Denise DeMaras, a women’s health coach who runs the holistic program, Heal from your Heart. “Noting your energy level from one meal to the next by the foods you ate, where you ate them, when you ate them and who you ate them with, you will soon know what, when, where, with whom and why to eat to feel balanced and calm in the face of anything.”

A nourished body is more energized and alert, allowing you to handle new parenthood with much more ease.

Nurture Your Relationship

“Transitioning from being partners to becoming parents is a change that is not always easy,” notes Dr. Fraga. She says to have conversations with your partner about how your relationship may change now that your little one has arrived.

“Try to set some ‘ground rules’ about how you will communicate and spend time together as a couple once your baby arrives,” she advises. “Checking in with each other at least once a day and setting aside small times to communicate and nurture each other can make a world of difference once time is no longer your own.”

This applies to relationships with friends and family, too.

Get Creative

Creative expression is an excellent way to center yourself, reduce stress and to be present. DeMaras says to begin wherever you are most comfortable, be it journaling, writing a letter to your baby, making a collage, painting, making music, etc. This “me time” is incredibly important to your wellbeing and things like making music or creating art can also be soothing to your child.

Keep a Level Head

When you’re deep in the throes of sleep deprivation, keeping a level head can be a real challenge. In these moments, having an “arsenal” of tools can be a big help, says Kurtz.

“One of the best ways to de-stress, safely, quickly and cheaply, is to get moving–literally! A brisk walk can be enormously therapeutic.  Even a ten minute stroll may be enough to raise endorphin levels–the ‘feel good’ chemicals– in the brain.  If a walk around the block is possible, even better!”

The natural light can also be a mood enhancer.

“Another favorite destresser is taking time to breathe,” notes Kurtz. “Put baby in a safe place–the crib or a swing, perhaps.  Then go to another room. With eyes gently closed, breathe in deeply through the nose, making sure that the abdomen is expanding on the inhalation.  Hold the breath for a moment, then gently exhale on a 10-count.  This can be repeated three or four times. Placing conscious attention on the breath not only redirects us away from the stress of the moment, but also triggers physiological changes that enable the body and mind to calm down.”

Remember: It’s Temporary

Remind yourself that this current situation is temporary. Whether it’s a screaming baby or a phase with little-to-no sleep, it’s not going to last forever.

“Many new parents become overwhelmed with generalized thoughts like ‘I am never going to get a full night’s rest ever again!’ or ‘I am never going to have a date night with my partner!,'” says Dr. Fraga. “Thoughts like these contribute to feeling helpless and hopeless.”

During stressful moments, just take a second to remind yourself that these are temporary and will pass.

Socialize

Finding a group or another person to share your journey with — someone who understands and is positive — can help you stay calm, explains DeMaras. This can be real-life group meet ups or an evening or afternoon out with a girlfriend. Online communities are also beneficial.

Parent Yourself, Too

“Being a good parent means knowing how to parent oneself,” notes Kurtz. “Often, parents are so pre-occupied with caring for their little ones that they forget how to care for themselves. The paradox is that parents actually parent better when they take care of themselves, as well.”

What does this mean? It all boils down to treating yourself really well. Try to have both the time and the opportunity to engage in activities that nourish the body, mind and soul.

“Securing time and opportunity is no small feat given the demands of a newborn, but with good planning, cooperation and maybe some additional help, it is both manageable and essential,” says Kurtz.

Choosing two activities is a great starting place. For example, a spin class every Monday and a lunch date with a good friend every Wednesday. Or, a Saturday morning run with a buddy and a Tuesday evening book group.

Whichever activities are chosen, they should be enjoyable and consistent. The enjoyment will afford parents a way to nurture themselves and the consistency will allow for something to look forward to on a regular basis — something independent of parenting.

This page was last updated on 06/2017
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