Adjusting to less sleep
Having a baby is a beautiful – and huge – change in your life, and it can be tough for some people to adjust, especially if you’re someone who needs their sleep.
Babies aren’t born knowing the difference between day and night – this normally develops at around three months old – and until then it’s perfectly normal for them to cry a lot and to sleep in short bursts between feeds and cuddles. Putting babies on a feeding and sleeping schedule at this early stage tends not to be very effective – it’s best to feed them and let them sleep when they need to.
This means you’ll most likely not get the sleep and rest you need, and getting any extra sleep can be difficult. Many parents are surprised at just how much a lack of sleep affects them, and everything they do. It’s a good idea to sleep when your baby sleeps and rest whenever you can – other things can wait.
By around three months, your baby may settle into some kind of routine – you can help them with this.
Adjusting to not getting things done
Your time can seem very disorganised when you have a baby. Some days you can spend the entire day trying (and often failing) to get one thing done. Other days you start three or four things and get one completed. Between the unpredictable interruptions for feeding, soothing, playing, changing nappies, and rocking to sleep, at the end of the day you may look back and wonder just what you've achieved.
It may sometimes feel like life is out of control – and if you’re the kind of person who likes to be in control and worries about not getting things done, then losing control of your environment, the timing of your day, and everything else that comes with being a parent can be tough.
Sometimes it helps to know that you’re not alone – most, if not all, new parents go through this phase in their parenting journey. Take time to have a relaxing shower or a nap while your baby sleeps. It's okay not to get through your to-do list. To take the pressure off yourself, try to do just one thing a day, whether that’s putting on a load of washing, or simply sitting and reading a book. Making the goals smaller and more achievable may make you feel less frustrated. Take the small victories and run with them.
Adjusting to being a Mum
Being a new Mum is exceptionally hard work. After you’ve given birth, you’re sore and you’re tired. You have to learn the art of breastfeeding (it can take up to six weeks to master) or learn the bottle-feeding process (which is also difficult when you have a baby screaming for food), and you’re awake day and night. Even getting to the toilet can seem like a huge victory.
It’s a massive learning curve too. This helpless, tiny wee thing depends on you for everything – and you need to learn what ‘everything’ is. On top of learning to feed them, you need to learn to burp them, dress them, settle them, change their nappy, bath them, and get them to sleep (ha!). You need to figure out what you need to take for them when you leave the house. You need to learn what their different cries mean so you can respond to their needs. With time, you’ll feel more confident, and learn to trust your gut and what feels right to you.
It’s a good idea to take whatever help is offered – from your partner, whānau, and trusted friends. Sometimes it’s the smallest things – like having a window of time to take a hot shower, to drink a hot drink while it’s still hot, to sleep or rest, or to go for a walk without the stroller – that can make all the difference. It’s important to do some things just for you – no matter how small they are.
Adjusting to being a Dad
It might not feel like it at first, but new Dads are just as well-equipped as new Mums at recognising and responding to the needs of their newborns. You’ll just as quickly figure out that a cry can mean your baby is hungry, needs burping, or needs a nappy change, and you’ll know what to do to help them.
Do as much as you can for your baby and your partner. Try dressing your baby, changing their nappy, bottle-feeding them, bathing them, settling them, playing with them – these skills take practice, and no one is an expert straight away (not even your partner). And keep trying – resist the urge to hand the baby back if you can’t do something easily (unless they need to be fed and you can’t do it, then hand them over!)
Spend time with your baby, talk to them, sing to them, play with them, read to them, cuddle them. Not only are these things a great way to bond with your baby, but you’re giving your partner a break too. It’s a win-win.
Adjusting to your new relationship as parents
Life changes after your baby is born, and most couples experience relationship changes when they become parents too.
These changes can bring a new level of connection between partners, but they can also bring challenges to your relationship.
You may find that having less time to talk, less sleep, and less free time together takes its toll on you both, while you adjust to caring for a new baby. It's easy for tempers to fray when you're exhausted. You might argue more, have sex less often, and you may not have the energy to deal with issues when they arise.
Remember having a new baby is tough on both of you. When you’re used to it just being the two of you, it can be hard to adjust when there’s a new focus for the family.
Good communication can help you through these exhausting times.
Adjusting to taking care of yourself in a different way
It can be hard to find the time to take care of yourself when you have a young baby, but it’s important to look after yourself. Aside from eating well, trying to rest when you can, and getting out of the house for some fresh air, here are some things you can try.
- Try to get enough rest. Even if you can’t manage a daytime sleep, try putting on some quiet music, get comfy, close your eyes, and just breathe for ten minutes. When you’re breastfeeding, focus on your baby and use the time to relax with them.
- When you notice yourself rushing and getting tense, deliberately do things slowly and carefully.
- Think about things you can do that you’d enjoy:
- at home when the children are busy or asleep
- out of the home with the children, for example parents' coffee groups, playgroups
- if you could find someone to look after the children – whānau or friends, or maybe if you swapped babysitting with friends
- Try to do something for yourself every day. It could be something small you can do in short bursts, like:
- reading the paper
- having a warm bath or shower
- a craft activity like knitting or painting that doesn’t need to be finished in one burst
- going for a walk.