New parent? 5 Key Steps To Get You Through First Months
New Parent? “Say goodbye to sleep;” … “Are you going back to work? You are?? You are not??”
Judgments and opinions abound as you welcome your little one into this world along with your new role as mother or father. People mean well, but in the early months of your baby’s life the advice and running commentary – often unsolicited – can do more harm than good.
That said, most parents could really use a helping hand yet feel an astounding pressure to do it all – balance the baby on the hip, groceries in one arm, answering phone calls with the other, and maybe using a foot to prepare dinner! The part that is not often said is that no one can or should do it alone.
Remember, you will find your rhythm.
What can you do to facilitate the process of becoming a great new parent without losing your sanity?
Here Are 5 Key Steps
1. Identify Your Village
who is it that you feel you can trust and feel comfortable asking to support you? You may have different people who fit different roles (emotional support, practical help with errands, child care, etc.)
2. Ask for Help
After you have identified the different ways different people can help, it is time to approach them individually. Be specific. Be concise. Be confident. It is OK to need a hand.
3. Practice Acceptance
In order to make use of the help around you, you need to have compassion for yourself. Take the pressure off yourself for perfection.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Your child needs you to be present for them. You can’t be if you are stuck resenting yourself for what you aren’t getting done OR stuck in constant planning for what needs to be finished. Mindfulness involves practicing being in the present moment non-judgmentally. Various tasks can be done “mindfully” using any one of your 5 senses. For example, try taking a walk and looking at the trees and leaves the way your newborn child would- as if seeing them for the first time (beginners mind meditation). Pay attention to the details, the colors you see, or touch a leaf, noticing the texture in your palm. The key here is to stay present in the moment. As thoughts (or judgments) start to enter your mind, notice them and then let go (I like to imagine thoughts passing like clouds).
5. Self Care
Try to focus on doing something kind for yourself. Self-care can takes many forms. Try to think of what you loved to do before your baby’s arrival and find a way to do that now. Without the guilt. This IS taking care of your baby.
Remember, you will find your rhythm. You may not want to work; you may love to work; you may not care about sleep; you may care tremendously and need to do whatever it takes. The key is to find what fits for YOU and your baby. Each parent-baby dyad, and each family unit is unique. Listen to yourself and you will be able to grow and thrive in the new WE your family has become.
Here’s a great article on Sleep Training Your Baby
Tanya works in private practice offering assessment, psychotherapy and consulting services. She also works at Boomerang Health, powered by Sick Kids where she is involved in psychotherapy for youth and families.