You are finally pregnant with your much-longed for baby and have a rough plan of how your day will go when baby arrives. You have researched your feeding options, bought some bottles and a steriliser in case breastfeeding doesn't work out. You know newborns will sleep a lot of the day so hopefully you'll be able to nap too; you have bought the buggy / travel system, tick; car seat, tick; cot, tick; and you are feeling well prepared, a little anxious but an overall sense of sheer excitement! Let's do this baby thing!
The big day comes and your gorgeous little bundle arrives. You leave hospital after a couple of hours or days feeling utterly elated but exhausted, and a little sore and stiff. But life is good! This was me, and thousands of other women no doubt too, on their first baby.
When you take baby home, I guarantee you'll spend most of the time just staring at them! Making sure baby is still breathing when they are asleep, and in general just attending to their needs. You feel excited but pretty nervous at your new-found parenting role.
As the first few days and week or two passes, you realise that this baby doesn't come with a manual, and all those awesome plans you had while pregnant can be thrown straight out the window! Feeding is sooooo much harder than you anticipated, you might be unsure if your supply is adequate, if baby is getting enough, or if your nipps will ever be the same again. Or maybe, baby just keeps crying and seems upset.
Photo courtesy of Netmums
You wildly search the prophet Google, and every parenting book in sight for solutions. You soon realise that there are about 15 different potential answers to your question! The advice seems to be completely contradictory. How can that be?! So over the course of the next week or two, you try a bit of everything. You end up a total mess, emotional, flustered, weary, impatient and overwhelmed.
STOP RIGHT THERE MAMA. I can help you! Here are 5 really simple steps to avoiding the overwhelm you feel in these early days / weeks:
1. Lower your standards:
Seriously. Particularly if you are very 'type A' personality, where life was highly organised and planned out pre-baby. I'm not saying turn into a lazy slob, just don't be so hard on yourself and allow yourself some flexibility with schedules. Just understand that some days baby will not be able to wait for as long in between feeds, or sometimes they just will be more hungry so will want more, or sometimes they just won't stay asleep for as long as you had thought they would!
2. One reliable source:
I think this is such powerful advice, one which I was given myself. The amount of information out there is insane. Stick to one person, book or resource who you trust. If you feel you get comfort and solutions from one particular midwife, public health nurse or book/website, then stick to that advice and don't keep switching from a to b and back to z again. Trying 15 new things at once will firstly lead to your brain exploding, and secondly, you won't know which new 'thing' is actually working!
3. Organize what you can:
Pre-baby I would get prepping, or as Jo Wicks, The Body Coach, says 'Prep like a boss'! Prepping your meals in advance and freezing ahead in handy portion-sizes will save you hours and will also ensure you are nurturing your body with all the nutrients and good stuff you need to keep you strong in these first few knackering weeks. Buy healthy snacks too for your fridge and store cupboard, which you can eat on the run but which aren't full of sugar and will end up making you feel like crap.
I'd look into hiring a cleaner, even if it's just for a few months, or ask for some help from a relative or friend.
Post-baby, I'd buy a notebook and write things down - number of feeds / mls, or for how long you fed if BF, nap times etc. Some ladies aren't bothered about this, but for others who are feeling like they are losing control, this technique can really help you feel more confident and in control.
With yourself and your partner. This is one of my biggies, and something that never really was on my radar when I had my first son. One of my favourite phrases is 'you can't fill from an empty cup'. It's SO true. You are going to be exhausted being a new mother, that goes with the territory and is expected. But I think first-timers really underestimate the sheer amount of time babies take up! How little time there is for yourself, and for you and your partner together. So EVERY day, you need some 'me' time. Now, this doesn't have to be for a long time, but aim for at least 30mins to yourself. It might be taking a short walk, grabbing a coffee, doing some gentle exercise or yoga, taking a bath, meditate if you are into that, or really just sitting and closing your eyes for a few minutes focusing on some calm breaths, trying to forget about all those unimportant things like the washing piling up ;) If you can aim for weekly time with your partner, that would also be amazing. Call in a favour from a friend - even if just for an hour where you and your other half can go for a cuppa together.
Even better would be to plan a night away, or a lovely big treat like this when feeding is established and you are both confident enough to leave baba with a trusted person.
5. Get out:
Every. Single. Day. Shower, get changed and go for a walk. That should be a daily goal if possible! You will physically and mentally feel SO much better. I remember on my 1st baby, he was born in November...and most days, it would be dark by the time I got out for my walk! But hey ho, I still loved it! I felt normal, reconnected with the outside world. It felt so good walking in the fresh air. I still am in awe of my gorgeous mamas coming to class with 5 week old babies at 10am! Mesmerising ;)
So there you are my lovelies. If you follow those 5 steps, I can guarantee you will feel less overwhelmed, happier and more confident in this crazy journey into motherhood. 'Mothering the mother' is crucial for you to enjoy these precious, but knackering times!
If you want some time out with me, check out my 5-week New Mama Postnatal Recovery Program.
Helen Plass is a Pre & Postnatal Fitness Specialist, and Yoga Instructor, working with women and their birthing partners to achieve a comfortable, healthy & happy journey into Pregnancy, birth and Motherhood. She is known for her very practical & non-judgmental approach to pregnancy and the crazy times of motherhood. Check out all her communication at NurtureMamas.com, and if you are in Ireland, her local business MumandBaby.ie