Change is a cause of stress and having a baby changes your life in countless ways, some of which you didn't see coming. The physical and psychological trauma of childbirth, the pain and extreme tiredness that follows, chronic sleep deprivation for one or both partners, a host of new expectations for yourselves as parents responsible for another life, changes to financial state, ceasing work even temporarily to take on parenthood, and of course, failure to be 'super mum'. Each of these causes of stress are out of our control, but there are some simple things you can do to help lower your stress levels at home. So here are just a few tips on how to stress less and begin enjoying your new family.
Tip 1. Accept all offers of help.
Some of the countries with the lowest levels of postnatal depression are those in which the extended family members pull together to help after a baby is born. So let go of any ideas you have that you should be able to do it all alone. It makes sense for you and your baby to accept any offers of help, however small. Kindly accept the offer of a homemade meal from your neighbour or the chance to take a shower while your best friend holds the baby. All of these things accumulate to a calmer, happier household.
Tip 2. Involve older children.
If you have older children, this is the time to let them get involved. Recruit them to fetch the nappies or bring mummy a drink of water while she is feeding. They will enjoy being involved in the care of the newborn, so give them jobs that make them feel important. Have set times that you can spend being attentive to the older siblings to prevent them from feeling neglected. For example, while the baby has her morning nap, your older child knows this is the time he gets to choose a game to play with Mummy.
Tip 3. Share your worries.
If this is your first baby, expect to come across lots of worries about your baby along the way. Don't bottle these up. Instead, share them with your partner, health visitor or your own parents to get some reassurance and some advice. Many parents worry about being judged if they share problems with other new mums, because there is often the perception that everyone else is doing things perfectly. In actual fact, everyone has similar sorts of concerns, so talking about them can stop you feeling so alone.
Tip 4. Rest is golden.
Rest can feel like gold dust for a new parent so if an opportunity arises and you see the chance for a half hour nap – take it. Sleep deprivation makes us feel less able to cope with stress and so you are doing the best for you and your baby if you get as much rest as possible.
Tip 5. Nutrition.
When your normal routine is thrown out the window and you are struggling to find time to cook, the temptation is to eat unhealthy snacks at random intervals throughout the day. Poor diet will have a negative impact on your stress levels, so do what you can to keep your food intake as regular and nutritious as possible. Buy healthy snacks to keep in the house and when you do have time to cook, make a big batch that you can freeze for those days when you don't have the time or energy.
Tip 6. Get Outside.
In those early days with a new baby it can be difficult to get out of the house. If you can try to get out every day, even just for a short walk, this will have a positive impact on your stress levels and your mood. Any parent knows that getting out with a baby is big task, so if you can't face the organisation needed to go out, take your cup of tea and walk in the garden for a couple of minutes.