What to Expect as a New Parent

Until you become a parent, the only human needs that really matter are your own, and maybe sometimes your partner’s. Having a baby completely throws a “me first” mentality off the rails. There are a plethora of courses to prepare parents for pregnancy and childbirth, but there’s not a lot of emphasis placed on what happens after the baby comes home. Here are a few tips and tricks to put you in a parent mindset, and help prepare you for the way your whole world is about to change.

Many of the new parents I work with are genuinely shocked that the structure of their lives is different once they have a baby. And I get it, it’s overwhelming to have your entire life disrupted by someone so tiny. But, keeping self-care in mind (see this post), it’s crucial that baby’s basic needs are prioritized over your additional needs. Basic needs for baby are sleep, milk, and comfort. Additional needs for parents include going out for dinner, going shopping to buy new workout clothes, making it to the 6am workout class you used to go to every morning. For example, if you’re the type of person who likes to go out every night, that type of social life will no longer be as sustainable. Babies need to sleep 12-14 hours a night, and a baby’s internal clock sets to a bedtime between 6:30 and 7:30 around 3 months. I’m not saying you don’t get to have a social life anymore, just that your social life has to work around your baby going to sleep in their usual sleeping place and that knowledge that you’ll be up in a few hours to feed them.

Having a baby can be a complete disruption of your social life and relationships, but it’s manageable and even wonderful if you’re properly prepared for it! Here are a few tips to help you start thinking about transitioning to parenthood and how to adjust your life to accommodate a newborn.

  1. Start slowing down. Time with a newborn moves slowly and that’s okay. If you’re the type of person who is go go go constantly, embrace this newborn stage as an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the pause. Try to let go of the pressure to get a lot done, and lean into inertia.

  2. If you’re the type of person who feels lost without lots of social interaction, ask friends to come to you! Invite friends to bring over dinner, but request that they leave before 9. Make plans to go on a walk in your neighborhood instead of trekking across town to meet someone. And always follow your baby’s cues! A happy baby usually means happy parents, and newborns can be so sensitive to new environments and overstimulation.

  3. START GOING TO BED EARLY. I cannot stress this one enough. I see so many families, especially clients I work with post-partum, completely flustered by sleep deprivation because they are staying up until midnight. I know it can seem appealing to stay up late to get some grown-up time while your baby sleeps, but the tired hangover the next day isn’t worth it. Many folks start to slow down while they’re pregnant anyway, but if you are adopting or have a surrogate, that natural inclination toward more rest may not be there. Try to aim for a bedtime of 10pm, it’ll help you to get the most sleep once you have an older infant who sleeps from 7pm to 6am.

Ways To Engage Your Community for Support After Welcoming Your Baby

Newborn babies are super cute, and super snuggly, and super wonderful, and also super helpless. After a newborn arrives in your life, all focus is on keeping that tiny human alive, and it’s easy for the parents of that little blob to forget to take care of themselves. Having a post-partum doula in this crucial time of transition to guide you in the care of your baby, and help you to care for yourselves is amazing. With or without a post-partum doula though, engaging your community for support once your baby arrives is a major game changer. Here are some tips to get the most streamlined care from friends, family, and neighbors.

1. Give assignments/ ask for support ahead of your baby’s arrival.     

You can set up a meal train with one meal per day for free at https://www.mealtrain.com/

The website charges a flat fee of $10 for more complicated meal trains, ie help with childcare, household chores, two meals per day, etc.  An alternative to this website is to create a shareable spreadsheet with Google Docs and make time slots for your community to sign up for.

For example, you can create options for people to sign up to bring food, come over and do a load of laundry, clean the bathroom, bring you groceries.

2. Create boundaries!

Your entire social circle doesn’t need to meet your new baby in their first week. Inform friends that want to help that you appreciate very much what they’re doing for you, but you may not be up for a social visit. Know that you have no obligation to entertain folks, and be mindful of your need for social interaction in the first weeks.

If you’re someone who thrives on social interaction and needs more social visits, incorporate that into your help signup. But be wary of going overboard and be gentle with yourself.

SAY NO and tell people to leave when you’re done visiting.

3. Manage social activities to your comfort level.

 If your partner or co-parent has a limited parental leave, or if you’re a single parent, inquire with friends and family members to see if anyone has days off during the week. While too much social interaction can be exhausting and inhibit healing from childbirth and closeness with your baby, limited social interaction may leave you feeling isolated and lonely. Ask around to see if there are folks that may be able to keep you company, especially in the first weeks where leaving the house is hard.

The key to an easeful transition is finding balance. While many of these suggestions may seem contradictory, create a plan that take advantage of community support as much as you want to, but that doesn’t feel burdensome.

Self Care for New Parents

White adult's hands holding white infant's feet 

White adult's hands holding white infant's feet 

You’ve probably heard the saying “sleep when the baby sleeps.” LISTEN TO IT. Sleep deprivation can be one of the most intense experiences for new parents, but there are ways to limit it. At first, your baby will only sleep in few hour chunks. (In fact, letting a newborn sleep for more than three hours consecutively is dangerous.) So you’re thinking, okay well if my baby only sleeps for 2 hours and then is awake for an hour to feed and then sleeps for two more hours, that’s maaaybe four hours of sleep. CORRECT. BUT. If you were used to waking up at 7 before your baby was born, and you got 7.5 hours of sleep a night pre-baby, now you’re going to stay in bed snoozing until you’ve hit the 7 hours of sleep. That might mean that you don’t get out of bed until noon, but you’ll eventually get close to enough sleep.

Complication, you have another child and your partner only had two weeks of parental leave, so you can’t keep sleeping all morning because you’ve got a toddler to take care of, or get to preschool. Go to bed earlier. The second your older kid is asleep, you get in bed too. Eat dinner with your preschooler at 5pm and go to sleep at 7pm. Sure, you’ll be up with the baby in an hour, but you’ve already got an hour of sleep for the night. I know this schedule sounds nuts, but it’s unbelievably worth the wonky schedule to get those extra hours of sleep in.

Okay, so you’re sleeping, kind of. How do you eat?? And shower? And leave the house occasionally? What about groceries??

Before your new baby arrives, meal prep! Make as many easy to warm freezer meals that you can fit into your freezer. This will get you through a few of those hazy post-partum weeks. Try a meal delivery service! There are enough services with free trials that you can piece together a few weeks of free meals, just plan them ahead. Because you don’t know when a baby is going to arrive, maybe ask a friend to sign you up for the immediate week post-partum, or wait until week 3 when your freezer is depleted and sign up then. Bite the bullet and get groceries delivered! There sometimes is an additional cost, but having groceries delivered is still cheaper than desperately ordering take-out every night.

Now let’s talk personal hygiene! Taking a shower, or even a bath (!) is absolutely necessary a few times a week. Many new parents are nervous to leave their baby in the other room sleeping while they go shower, but it’s okay to give yourself a minute to wash your hair. What if you finally get in the shower and the baby starts crying though? You can get out and go tend to the baby if you don’t feel comfortable leaving them to cry for a few minutes, or you can get in the shower, turn on the water and rinse your body. Neither choice is wrong, it’s just a decision that is up to you.

My number one tip for maintaining some sort of sanity is babywearing!! This allows you to get stuff done, like cook breakfast, or walk the dog, or play with your older child, while staying close to your newborn and keeping them relatively content. More on babywearing in another post, but suffice it to say it’s a huuuuge help, and a wonderful way to bond with your infant.