It’s common for new mums to feel overwhelmed by stress. One of the key factors is a lack of control. You can’t plan anything any more ― you have to be guided by your baby and he can’t tell you what he needs and when other than by crying.
Then there’s tiredness. You can only sleep when your baby sleeps; and he’s on a weird-to-you schedule. It’s no wonder, then, that you’re permanently wound up. But it is possible to control your stress levels and enjoy those newborn days. Here’s how…
Your husband can help
Some men see babies as “women’s business”. They may leave you to do everything, even when you are sick and feel horrible. You need to tell him that you need his help, and be blunt and specific about what you want him to do. And remind him that with his help, you’ll be back to your old, cheerful self sooner! Be gentle with him — he’s as bewildered and unsure as you are; he might be ignoring that overflowing nappy because he’s afraid of doing it wrong. Guidance and praise will make him a much more hands-on dad.
Baby just won’t sleep
No-one knows the meaning of exhaustion like a new mum. A full night’s sleep may be a distant dream, but deep relaxation can be almost almost as good at reducing stress. Breathing deeply from the lower abdomen switches off stress hormones and calms you down, and you can do that while holding your baby.
Visualising yourself in a fantasy setting is another great way to relax without falling asleep. While you may feel the need to sleep whenever you get the chance during the day, try to get out and about, too. Fresh air and social contact will make you feel more positive.
Baby won’t stop screaming
Nothing sets nerves jangling like your screaming baby. If he’s crying, you’re stressed as he won’t stop; and if he isn’t, you’re stressed because you know he’s going to start any minute.
Constant screaming is physically and mentally exhausting ― your senses are over-stimulated and you feel helpless and out of control. But rather than trying to calm your baby, try to calm your own nerves first — your baby can sense your stress and that will cause him to scream more. Rather than pacing around with him, try lying down. Put some soothing music on or sing songs.
If the screaming is unbearable, put your baby in his cot and leave him for five minutes. It won’t harm him, and it might even do some good in the long run. Babies need to learn that you can’t always be available on demand.
It might also be worth getting some hands-on help, whether by taking him to the doctor to be checked over or signing up for a baby-massage course.
Of course I worry, what if…
Being responsible for your newborn can be overwhelming, especially when you think about all the terrifying things that might happen to him. To bring your stress levels down, get specific, medical information on the issues that are worrying you — see your paediatrician or speak to a professional and don’t just trawl the Internet or read forums.
As well as being informed, be prepared. Ask your paediatrician about baby first-aid courses and keep your little one safe by following the guidelines for preventing cot death, child-proofing your home and immunisations.
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My house is a mess
Used to be a high-flyer who throve on the pressure? Now, your major achievement is hanging the laundry out to dry?
If you’ve got a long to-do list, split the tasks into four Ds:
You may decide you have to do the laundry, but you can do the grocery shopping tomorrow; or have your husband vacuum, and not clean the oven at all.
Check out resources that make life easier, too. Even if you can’t afford a helper, try online grocery shopping instead of going to the supermarket, or get the occasional tar pau meal. And if the state of the house is still making your blood boil, imagine you’ve only got 48 hours to live — that will give you some idea of what is important, after all, do you want your last memory to be watching your baby laugh at people in the park or doing the ironing?
You feel like you can’t do ANYTHING
The Internet can be your saviour; logging onto on-line parenting forums or googling fixes - SmartParents has many of those! There’s always somebody there to chat with even if they are parenting in a different time zone and city. Or if you have a group of fellow mum friends, WhatsApp them.
You have no life
It’s not easy to make time for yourself at first, but once your baby has settled into a routine, try to get out on your own, make a date with your husband (in your home) when you resolutely focus on each other for even half an hour. Or assign hubby to do both bath- and bed-time, and go out. Pick up a hobby that you can pick up and put down (such as knitting) or read a magazine or surf the internet (books may be tougher as you can lose track of where you last were).
You feel like snapping
Call for help. Call your mum, his mum, your friends. Call aLife, a pregnancy assistance and counselling centre, at 6258-8816, or the Samaritans of Singapore hotline at 1800-221 4444 (24 hours), or the Institute of Mental Health at 6389-2222 (24 hours). Remember, it’s extremely dangerous to shake or hit your baby. If you’re about to lose your temper, put him in a safe place and leave the room while you calm down. And call someone.
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