9 ways to handle new-baby stress

Newborns are cute and cuddly, but they’re also a lot of work! Follow this checklist to stay sane…

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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.