Adjusting to Parenthood

3 moms, 3 tots wearing only diapers playing with toys on white rug: white, Black, Asian

What to know about adjusting to parenthood

  • Getting as much sleep and rest as you can, especially in the beginning, will help you recover from childbirth and feel rested enough to care for your baby.
  • Have nutritious foods and snacks available to stay satisfied and nourished while your body supports breastfeeding and heals from childbirth.
  • Seek out other new moms, whether in person or online, for camaraderie, support, and education.
  • Accept help from others so that you can focus on yourself and your baby.
  • Tell your healthcare professional if you’re experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression that is affecting your daily functioning and ability to care for your baby.

Whether you knew you wanted to be a mom your entire life, or getting pregnant was a big surprise for you, adjusting to parenthood is something all new moms face. Having a tiny, brand new person in your life who relies on you 24 hours a day can be both exhausting and exhilarating and comes with many new challenges, especially in the beginning. You’ll be instantly faced with changes to your everyday routine and sleep. 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. Welcome to parenthood!

If you haven’t heard it already, get ready for people to tell you the old adage, “Sleep when your baby sleeps!” Since newborns typically average between 15-18 hours of sleep per day, this may seem like an easy task. However, in the first weeks, newborns sleep in unpredictable spurts, oftentimes confusing night and day. But sleep is a necessary way for you to rest and recover after childbirth and have the energy to care for your baby. At least in the beginning months, 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, in case she wakes up earlier while you’re still getting some rest. Some women find it helpful to go to bed early each night, giving their partner the last evening feed with the baby so that they can get an uninterrupted 4-6 hours of sleep.

Your body has increased calorie needs postpartum so it’s especially important to fuel your body with nourishing, satisfying foods. Your meals might be as unpredictable as your baby in the early weeks, so having healthy food on hand will ensure you’re getting enough calories to support your breastfeeding goals. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, your body will need nourishment to recover from childbirth. Have healthy snacks handy – in the nursery, next to the couch, in the diaper bag – so that you can grab a handful of trail mix or a granola bar when hunger hits. Meals don’t need to be fancy – a peanut butter and banana sandwich or can of lentil soup can be put together in minutes.

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 her 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.

Seek out a social support group of new moms. Mommy and Me or New Mom classes are popping up everywhere, from hospitals to fitness centers. 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. 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 Facebook groups where moms can connect via social media. It’s comforting to know that someone else is awake doing a midnight feed or soothing their baby at 3am just like you!

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 did you just give birth, 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. It is important to remember that these issues are common – though not 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 on its own and is affecting your daily functioning, speak to your healthcare professional, as it may be a sign you’re experiencing anxiety or postpartum  depression.

Remember, it can take time to adjust to parenting but there is no wrong or right way of doing it.

What to Do

  • Find a friend or family member who can assist with the baby so that you can get some much-needed rest, especially in the early months.
  • Try going to bed at an early hour while your partner or a helpful caretaker can do a late-evening feeding. This way, you’ll get some uninterrupted hours of sleep before you need to be up to do frequent middle of the night feedings.
  • Have bags or baskets filled with shelf-stable and nutritious snacks that you can grab when hunger hits, such as trail mix, nuts, granola bars, fruit leather, dry cereal, and crackers.
  • Before your baby is born, cook and freeze a few big-batch meals in single-serve containers, such as chili, casseroles, and lasagna. You’ll be grateful for the meal in minutes!
  • Accept help – whether with meals, chores or errands – from loved ones. Many people aren’t sure how to help a new mom and like feeling useful. Use this time to bond with your baby.
  • Seek out a new mom class to join for social support. While your newborn baby may not understand what’s going on in class, you’ll benefit greatly from the education and support.
  • Find online new mom support, especially if classes are not available geographically or financially.
  • Speak to your healthcare professional if you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, or aren’t sure if what you’re feeling postpartum is normal.