Adjusting to Parenthood

JanelMS, RD, LDN, CBS

Read time: 5 minutes

What should I know about how to adjust to parenthood?

  • Getting as much sleep and rest as you can, especially in the beginning, can help you recover from childbirth and feel rested enough to care for your baby.

  • Having nutritious foods on hand helps fuel childbirth recovery and supports breastfeeding.

  • Tell your doctor if you’re experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression that is affecting your daily functioning or ability to care for your baby.

Welcome to parenthood!

Adjusting to parenthood is something all new parents face. Having a tiny, brand-new person in your life who relies on you 24 hours a day can be both exhausting and exhilarating. It also comes with many new challenges, especially in the beginning.

You’ll be instantly faced with changes to your everyday routine and sleep.1 This, coupled with postpartum hormone changes, can leave you feeling frazzled and discouraged one minute, and absolutely over the moon elated with your baby the next.2

Sleep may be hard to come by at first

If it hasn’t happened already, get ready to hear: “Sleep when your baby sleeps!”

Since newborns typically average between 16-17 hours of sleep per day, this may seem like an easy task.3 However, in the first weeks newborns sleep in unpredictable spurts. And in fact, they oftentimes confuse night and day.4

But sleep is a necessary way for you to rest and recover after childbirth, as well as have the energy to care for your baby. Additionally, poor sleep may be linked with postpartum depression for some women.5,6,7

Tips on how to get more postpartum sleep

At least in the beginning weeks, put the baby announcements and laundry aside and try to sneak in a nap each day. It may be easier to do this if you have a helpful friend or family member who can come over to spend time with the baby.

Some moms find it helpful to go to bed early each night. Try giving your partner the last evening feed with the baby so that you can get a few uninterrupted hours of sleep. Or if possible, try to have someone else get up with the baby some nights. Uninterrupted sleep is the one of the best ways to combat fatigue.8

The good news is that the greatest sleep disturbances happen during the first month, and after that longer and longer stretches of sleep await you!9

Read more: How Can I Cope with Fatigue During Pregnancy and Postpartum?

Your nutrition should be a priority

Your body has increased nutrient needs postpartum, so it’s especially important to fuel your body with nourishing, satisfying foods.

During pregnancy, your baby gets the nutrients they need at the expense of your own nutrient stores. This means that you come into the postpartum period depleted of many nutrients.10,11 Additionally, women who decide to breastfeed have higher nutrient and calorie needs to help support milk production.12

Since your meals might be as unpredictable as your baby in the early weeks, having healthy food on hand will help ensure you’re meeting your needs.

Tips on getting the right postpartum nutrition

Have healthy snacks handy – in the nursery, next to the couch, in the diaper bag, grab-and-go from the fridge – so that you can pick up something quick when hunger hits. Think about having some protein with complex carbs (fruits, veg, whole grains such as crackers or breads) for both lasting and quick energy.

Snack ideas to have on hand:

  • Trail mix

  • Granola bars (find some with protein, such as from nuts, if possible)

  • Fruit

  • Cheese, yogurt

  • Hard boiled eggs

  • Nut butter on crackers

  • Hummus and veggie sticks

Know that right now, meals certainly don’t need to be fancy. A peanut (or any nut) butter and banana sandwich or can of lentil soup with whole grain crackers can be put together in minutes.

Chat with your doctor about whether taking a post-natal multivitamin may be right for you.

Read more: Healthy Snack Ideas for Postpartum Women

Meal Plan: Getting the Right Nutrition while Breastfeeding

Accept help

When a friend offers to bring over a meal or a family member volunteers to empty the dishwasher – say yes!

Many new moms may not feel comfortable accepting help, but now is the time for you to bond with your baby and take care of your and baby’s needs – not pay extra attention to the growing pile of laundry. Many people want to help but don’t know how. Bringing over food or running quick errands for you is a great way for you to get items off your to-do list and for others to feel useful.

While we can’t do your laundry, we can answer infant feeding questions! Come chat with our team of registered dietitians, fellow moms, and lactation specialists, available from Monday – Friday 8 am – 6 pm (ET) and Saturday – Sunday 8 am – 2 pm (ET). Chat now!

Find a new moms’ groups

Seek out a social support group of new moms.

Mommy and Me or New Mom type classes are popping up everywhere, from hospitals to fitness centers, and even virtually. This is a great way to bond with other moms who are experiencing the same new highs and lows of having a newborn at home.13

It’s also a great way to practice getting out of the house with your baby (and all the diapers, wipes, and gear you need!). If there aren’t any classes near you, there are plenty of websites and virtual groups where moms can connect via social media.

It can be comforting to know that someone else is awake doing a midnight feed or soothing their baby at 3am, just like you.

Read more: How Can I Ditch the Mommy Guilt?

Do I have the baby blues or postpartum depression?

It is totally normal for it to take weeks or months before you feel like you’re in a parenting groove.

Many parents find the first six to eight weeks of a new baby the hardest. Not only are you recovering from childbirth, but you are dealing with hormonal changes, exhaustion, relationship dynamic changes, new expectations, feeding your baby, and finding a way to strike a balance between your old life and your new role as a mom.14

It is important to remember that these issues are common – though not always openly talked about – and typically resolve once you feel more comfortable in your new parenting role.

However, if you’re experiencing ongoing distress that doesn’t go away and is affecting your daily functioning, speak to your healthcare professional. These symptoms, especially if they include feelings of anger, hopelessness, and not having any interest in your baby, may be signs you’re experiencing anxiety or postpartum depression.15

Read more: Could This Be Postpartum Depression?

Remember, it can take time to adjust to parenting but there is no wrong or right way of doing it. Be sure to take care of yourself so you can best take care of your baby.

Let's Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET), and Saturday - Sunday 8am-2pm (ET). Chat Now!

Read more about the experts that help write our content!

For more on this topic check out the following articles:

How Do I Teach my Baby to Sleep in their Crib?

Sleep Patterns: What’s Typical for a Newborn?

Healthy Snack Ideas for Postpartum Women

How Can I Ditch the Mommy Guilt?

How Can I Practice Better Self Care as a Parent?

How to Optimize Your Sleep When You Can Get It

Top Breastfeeding Latching Tips