Mum-of-three Anitha Nair, 40, loves nothing more than returning home to her littlies every evening after work. However, ask her what part of motherhood she dislikes the most and she’ll tell you, without missing a heartbeat, that it’s the newborn stage.
“All of my babies had reflux, so they cried all the time and slept badly for the first year,” recalls Anitha who is mum to Daven, 2, Karthik, 4, and Nisha, 7. “It was a pretty traumatising time and unlike what people say, it doesn’t get easier the second or third time round!”
Bringing home baby can be very exciting, but figuring out what makes junior tick and trying to pacify him when he’s wailing can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re new to the parenting game. By the way, there’s also a chance that your cutie might be a high-need baby who insists that you hold him 24/7. Ahhh…fun times indeed!
They coo, they cry and turn your life completely upside down. Although the joy of having a new baby in the house far outweighs the stress, looking after a helpless little scrap is still a shock. Seasoned parents share tried-and-tested survival strategies, so that you’ll stay sane.
TIP #1: Get your village ready
You’ll need all the help you can get, so rope in everyone you know will be a pillar of support during those initial early days. Don’t be adamant about handling everything on your own – nobody is expecting you to be a super mum or dad. Task your mum or mother-in-law to take charge of cooking nutritious food for you while you recover from childbirth. The husband can bring bub to you for feedings, diaper changes and burping duty. If you have a helper, put on her all cleaning tasks, including washing and sterilising baby bottles and also breast pump parts. Encourage the gramps, siblings, aunts, uncles and best friends to come hold and play with baby, so that you get some shut-eye. “Don’t be afraid to become a mumzilla and write everything down if you have to,” says Joyce Tan, mum to Devon, 6 months, and David, 4. “Everything will be one big blur after baby gets here and you won’t have the time or energy to tell people what they should be doing.”
Read up about newborn growth spurts and manage your expectations. It will be easier to go with the flow once you know what is happening and why.
TIP #2: Have a schedule in place
Get closely acquainted with schedules as this will be your new life! Of course, nothing should be set in stone, since babies are so unpredictable. However, you should have a plan for some structure. “I used to put in a reminder on my phone for every two to three hours, so I was prepared for feedings and I also used to count the number of wet diapers my babies produced in a day, so I knew they were eating enough,” says Anitha. If you’re breastfeeding, pump your milk and let the hubs take over the night feeds, so you can have some rest. “After coming home from work, my husband would take full control of our baby from 7pm to midnight, so I knew I was guaranteed uninterrupted rest during those hours, which helped me relax,” says mum-of-one Dorothy Chung. In the mornings, let that hardworking hubby of yours sleep in while you take baby out for a walk.
TIP #3: Be flexible
Now that you have a schedule in place, don’t forget to pencil in a bit of flexibility as well. As mentioned, babies can be super unpredictable. One minute they are snoozing like an angel, the next, they are screaming at the top of their lungs for any number of reasons. Just because you got bub to sleep easily at 7pm the night before doesn’t mean that it will be the same tonight ― or ever again in the near future. Newborns are constantly changing, so everything about them changes as well, including their sleeping and eating patterns. Sleep regression can also put a wrench in what you thought was an established sleep schedule. Periodic growth spurts will also make junior hungrier, requiring more feeds. Read up about newborn growth spurts and manage your expectations. It will be easier to go with the flow once you know what is happening and why.
TIP #4: Rethink your priorities
When you’re drawing up a to-do list, ask yourself a few questions first. Are you the only one who can do this task? If you don’t do it, will it put your baby or family at risk? Must you do it now or can this wait? If the answer is no to all three questions, outsource it someone else you trust or chuck it in the KIV bucket for the time being. If something is only going to rob you of downtime and peace of mind, don’t feel bad that you’re saying no to people. This isn’t the time to get involved in your friend’s dating drama or help with a scrapbooking project. This also goes for visitors who want to see the baby. If they aren’t willing to work around your schedule, don’t be afraid to tell them not to come. Put yourself and your baby first, everything and everyone else can wait.
TIP #5: Stay active
Putting on your yoga pants or running shoes may be the last thing on your mind after dealing with a fussy baby and a night of broken sleep. But make an effort to move, even a walk around the neighbourhood park because it can do wonders for your mood. As we all know by now, exercising releases endorphins, the feel good hormone which boosts your physical and mental well-being. “Being cooped up at home all day with my baby was driving me nuts, so I decided to go for a walk once a day with my little one strapped in a carrier,” says Tan. “I would coincide it with one of their naps so that they will fall asleep and I would be able to enjoy some fresh air and peace and quiet, usually with a coffee in my hand!”
TIP #6: Be kind to your spouse and stay connected
Carting for a newborn can be very trying. Not only are you both sleep deprived, daddy probably has to juggle office stress and baby. Don’t take it personally if you feel that your better half isn’t as attentive as before baby ― it was a different time as bubba is taking up all your time and energy. Keep telling yourself this when your spouse gets on your nerves. They, too, are having a tough time with this transition. As dead tired as you may be, don’t forget to schedule in some couple time once you’re back on your feet post-delivery. It doesn’t have to be a glamorous night out. Just a quick trip to your favourite hawker centre, sans baby, will make you both feel a bit normal again.
If you feel that your social media feeds are fuelling your insecurities about parenthood, don’t be afraid to take a digital detox.
TIP #7: Don’t compare yourself with others
Take this tip seriously, because it has the power to instantly put an end to a lot of unwarranted stress you might be feeling right now. So what if the friend who gave birth around the same time as you has already bounced back to her pre-pregnancy shape. Or if your neighbour’s baby started rolling over at 3 months and your 5-month-old baby still hasn’t. Every baby, every pregnancy and every post-pregnancy story is different. Even that mum you met briefly at your paediatrician’s office, who looked like she had figured out everything about motherhood, may be fighting her own battles. We all have different ways of dealing with it. By the way, if you feel that your social media feeds are fuelling your insecurities about parenthood, don’t be afraid to take a digital detox. It will do you more good than you think!
TIP #8: Let it go ― without guilt
Since we are on the topic of self-care, know when to pull the plug on something if you feel like you have given it your best and it’s just not working out. If baby refuses to sleep in his own cot, even if your mother insists he should, take him to bed with you, so you both can get some rest. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, don’t wait to get help from a lactation consultant. And don’t feel bad about giving bub formula while you iron out your nursing issues. Nor should you beat yourself up because you’ve left your house looking a sight, forgot a friend’s birthday and can’t do any over-time at the office. You have your hands and brain full with baby at the moment. No one’s going to blame you if you let things slide now and then.
TIP #9: Have a sense of humour
Parenthood is challenging, there’s no denying that. So, when the going gets tough, the tough get funny! Laughter’s the best medicine, and sometimes, all you can do is laugh about it and know that this, too, shall pass ― because it will at some point, we promise. Anitha recalls crying daily from the stress of handling her reflux babies, until one day, her husband came home with a brilliant idea. “Someone told him that bending over and swinging our baby between our legs will help alleviate the reflux, so of course, we tried it,” recalls Anitha. “Our baby stopped crying almost immediately but what was even better was how funny my hubby looked doing that. I took a video of it and we laughed every time we watched it. It really helped to lighten things up in an otherwise stressful day.”
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