There are incredibly positive things about becoming parents, like the joy of seeing your baby smile. But there’s also more responsibility, less time for you and your partner – and maybe more tiredness than you ever imagined. Looking after yourself helps you be the parent you want to be.
Parents and parenting
Parenting doesn’t always come naturally. All parents are working it out as they go along. All parents make mistakes and learn through experience. Parenting requires observation, understanding, persistence, imagination, patience, honesty and energy!
It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s also OK to admit you don’t know and ask questions – often the ‘dumb’ questions are the best kind!
Looking after your relationship with your partner
Happy couples have a positive effect on their children. This means that looking after your relationship can help you both get the most out of being parents and partners.
Open communication can help you cope with the relationship changes that come with becoming a parent. You might be getting less sleep, less time to talk to each other and less time alone with each other. This can sometimes lead to disagreements.
You can counter these tensions by telling each other how you’re feeling and finding ways to support each other. You can keep your relationship positive by picking your battles and setting aside a time and place to discuss frustrations and work out solutions.
Setting realistic expectations, being understanding and forgiving each other during the early years can often make the difference between staying together and drifting apart.
You can read more about looking after your relationship.
It helps not to expect too much from yourself or your relationship in the first 6-8 weeks after your baby is born. This is a time of transition, and the most important things are getting to know your child and ‘surviving’ sleep deprivation!
Looking after yourself: activity, food and rest
Three things make a world of difference to your energy levels and ability to look after your new baby:
- staying active
- eating healthy food
- getting as much rest as you can.
Regular exercise improves circulation, increases your overall metabolism, boosts the immune system and makes you feel good. A daily walk gets you out of the house and into the fresh air. A change of scenery can do wonders for your mood, or you can just jump around the house listening to your favourite music.
Eating well can be very difficult for busy parents. Have some simple food on hand, like fresh vegetables cut up ready to eat with dips, fruit, yoghurt and wholegrain bread.
If you’re breastfeeding, you need a lot of protein and nutrients, plus plenty of fluids.
When it comes to rest, there are three golden rules: sleep when your baby is sleeping, go to bed early, and nap whenever you can!
You can read more about healthy lifestyle choices for parents, healthy eating and exercise for parents and better sleep for parents.
Postnatal depression (PND) is a mood disorder that can affect women and men after they have a baby.
Symptoms of PND include sleep and appetite disturbance, crying, inability to cope with daily tasks, exhaustion, irritability, anxiety, fear of social contact or fear of being alone, feelings of guilt, loss of confidence, and negative and even suicidal thoughts. Some women sum it up by saying, ‘There is no joy in anything any more’.
It’s very important for you to recognise the signs and ask for help as soon as possible. You don’t have to cope by yourself. With proper diagnosis and treatment, help and support, people usually make a full recovery from PND.
Dealing with stress
Most new parents feel stressed from time to time. Tiredness, a constantly crying baby, daily duties, increased responsibility and anxiety about the unknown can make you feel like it’s all too much. You can cope with stress by getting others to help out, and finding out as much as you can about caring for your baby.
You might like to read more about stress and stress management.
If you’re feeling frustrated, distressed or like you can’t cope, put your baby in a safe place – for example, a cot – and take some time out until you feel calmer. Or ask someone else to hold her for a while. Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage. It’s OK to ask for help. If you’re having trouble coping with your baby, call your local parenting professional.
Looking after yourself by getting support
A range of services can help you as you adjust to being a parent. You can get free parenting advice in by calling a hotline. There are also many services and support options that can help you.
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