Surviving the First Three Months
Everyone knows that being a mother is hard work, but becoming a mom really begins when you first find out you are pregnant. You worry about everything you do and hope that you are doing your best for your baby. The sleepless nights begin with waking up every two hours with a full bladder and continue as your belly grows and you struggle to find a comfortable way to sleep. Throughout this time other mothers remind you of how difficult but rewarding being a mom really is; however, it really isn’t until your baby is in your arms that you truly know what it is like. The first few months with a newborn are some of the hardest months; there is a steep learning curve and usually high expectations on mothers. The following are some tips for surviving the first three months of being a new mother, written by a new mother:
- Set up your home for convenience. Consider the layout of your home and having diaper stations on each level to save time and energy for those frequent changes. In addition, having automatic nightlights set up around the house will allow you to navigate your home safely, without having to worry about turning on bright lights in the middle of the night. Finally, having pet free zones set up will help you feel at ease without having to watch your pets around your little one.
- Create a mom basket. You may no longer come first but it doesn’t mean you have to come last. Put items in a small basket to which you can easily access. Having them in one place makes them easy to take from room to room. Some items you may want to include are your favourite treat, phone charger, lotion, hair ties, nipple cream, magazines, or your iPad, depending on your needs.
- Buy yourself a large water bottle. No matter how you feed your baby, getting enough water is very important but especially if you are breastfeeding. Buy a fancy large water bottle or cup with a straw that is only for you and take it with you everywhere. If finances permit, you can take it a step further and purchase a water bottle that actually lights up to remind you to drink water.
- Get hands free. Nothing is more incredible than seeing a mother who has two hands free. The amount of things that can be done in a short period of time with two free hands is astonishing. You can achieve this by either wearing baby (e.g., fabric wraps or carriers) or having a safe place in each room where you can put down your child (e.g., basinet, baby box, or swing). Also, plan for finger foods so you get enough nutrients; anything that requires being cut up or has to be eaten out of a bowl (e.g., soup) will be more difficult.
- Get out of the house. Once you are feeling recovered and ready to do so, try a “dry run” with your partner or family so that you know what to expect when you are on your own. Initial outings will like be easier earlier in the day as babies tend to be fussier in the evening and may even cluster feed. Plan to meet a friend for brunch or grab another mom friend and go see a movie. Several local theaters have “Stars and Strollers” events where they play select new release movies with lowered volume in an environment with change tables and stroller parking, all at a reduced price. Frequenting baby-friendly spaces takes some stress out of leaving the house.
- Join a mom group. After you’ve had a child it’s as if you’ve unlocked this secret club you just never really fit into before. Welcome! Other moms are the only ones who really know what mom life is all about. If you don’t have friends who are already mothers ask the home health nurse that will visit you in the first few days if they have any resources in your local community. Your doctor’s office may also have resources.
- Create a pocket phrase for unwanted advice. Just like with pregnancy, it may seem that everyone has an opinion about you and your baby. Instead of taking this to heart and internalizing it as criticism, have a pocket phrase ready to go such as, “I am glad that worked well for you.” Trust your instincts about what does or doesn’t work for you and your baby.
- Re-invent intimacy with your partner. Intimacy may be the last thing on your mind between diaper changes, minimal sleep, and your new body, but it is still important. To start, try cuddling during naptime, massaging one another, or buying a new nightie. Then, talk with your partner about when you may be ready to re-engage in deeper intimacy, both medically and mentally.
- Nothing is too small to involve your partner. Giving your partner specific tasks they can do will help them bond with baby and also give you a break. Things like burping the baby after being fed can help involve them. Other ideas may be reading the baby a book before bed or giving a bath.
- Reconnect with adult time. Once you get into a routine and start to feel settled, plan weekly activities with other adults and baby outside of your home. Eventually, work towards planning adult activities that you and your partner engage in together and separately without baby so that you balance out time with an infant. Some examples may be going for a group workout, going for dessert at a restaurant where babies are not allowed or going for drinks with your partner.
Remember, having a newborn is a life-changing event and every new mother goes through a period of adjustment. If you are finding yourself struggling on this journey, reaching out to a professional may be beneficial. As a mother herself, Ms. Krista Bruyer, Registered Psychologist at YEG Psychology, is passionate about working with new mothers and helping them through this period of transition.