Welcoming a newborn into your life, heart and home can be a wonderful experience. It can also be a lot of hard work, it can be daunting, difficult and at times downright scary. There are times when parents have trouble adjusting to the new demands of parenting and there is a difficult period of adjustment to the many physical, emotional, psychological, and social challenges of parenting.
A sudden and significant increase in stress and interrupted sleep can begin to make meeting the demands of parenting more difficult. These challenges, and many more, are manageable when parents begin to care for themselves alongside the care they are providing for their baby.
Important Aspects of Self-Care:
For many people the interrupted sleep can begin to impact on their physical, mental, and emotional health. Some general guidelines for sleep hygiene include:
- Try to go to bed at the same time each night
- Make the bedroom a restful place
- Avoid screen time and other stimulating activities in the bedroom
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants
- Take a warm bath or shower as this may be relaxing and regulates body temperature
- Avoid napping at night time
- If you can’t fall sleep within 30 minutes, get up and do something quiet and return the bedroom once tired.
The demands of parenting, hormonal and mood changes can impact on many new parents’ diet and appetite. This can have a cyclical effect as a poor diet can then impact on mood, energy levels, and the capacity to manage the day-to-day activities.
For some, regular exercise is beneficial for a range of mental health conditions, even more so when there is sudden increase in stress levels. The reason for this is that exercise can increase serotonin levels which is a hormone that contributes to general feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Also, fresh air and sunshine can lift mood and elevate vitamin D levels.
The transition from a busy working life to suddenly being a home with an infant can become isolating. The use of current and new social networks is a great way to reconnect with other adults whom may also be going through some of the same experiences as you.
Time out is different for everyone, but generally this means taking a break from parenting / caring and having some time to yourself. There are many barriers to this, often it is an issue of time management and sometimes it is also guilt. However, there are many benefits to regular time out activities for the primary carer, this also includes one-on-one time for the other carer to bond with the baby.
Self-Care & Self-compassion
Allowing self-compassion can be quite difficult for parents who are feeling exhausted and under a lot of pressure. Often parents are unaccepting of mistakes or provide a very limited learning curve for their new role. In addition to this, parents often have certain expectations about what being a parent is going to be like and when this doesn’t meet these expectations this may trigger greater feelings of frustration, fear, and grief. When we allow self-compassion we provide space for these feelings – to acknowledge them and accept them without judgement. Essentially we offer ourselves the same kindness that we would offer to others.
Self-compassion and self-care is primarily about reaching out to others when it is most needed. There is a lot of support available; you don’t have to go through this alone. If however, in time you and your partner are still finding parenthood a struggle, then it may be beneficial to speak with a medical or mental health practitioner for additional support or advice.
Sutton, C. (2016). Promoting child and parent wellbeing: How to use evidence- and strengths-based strategies in practice. GB: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
PANDA: Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia
Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/