Top Tips for New Mums To Get Through the First 6 Months
There’s no getting around it, being a first-time mum can be tricky. A newborn baby doesn’t come with an instruction booklet, and even if it did, it would be unlikely to help. As any mother of more than one child can tell you, every baby is different, even before they learn to walk and talk.
More than any other stage in a child’s life, the first six months are notoriously difficult for new mums. Nobody really knows what they’re doing once they’ve had their first child. Suddenly, your life changes and you’re responsible for the wellbeing of a child that can’t care for themselves. They can’t communicate effectively, meaning that you’ll constantly be second-guessing whether them crying means they’re hungry, need the toilet, or need burping. There’s no sugar coating it, it can be tough. However, hundreds of thousands of babies are born every day. Every year millions of parents have children, and they get through the difficult first six months. You will too. Here are some tips on how to get through the first 6 months of your child’s life.
Remember: the hard times will pass
As discussed, the first few months can be difficult. However, it’s important to remember that it’s only temporary. Before you know it, your child will be walking around, speaking their first words and potty training. So, when you are having a low moment, remember that this stage of your child’s life won’t last forever. You may feel sleep-deprived and unable to take a moment to yourself right now, but it will pass. Having a bit of perspective can be helpful and give you that morale boost you need to soldier on.
Trust your instincts
You can’t rely on intuition alone, but your instincts will certainly help you along the way. Experts agree that mothers are more sensitive to matters relating to their child, a phenomenon more commonly known as Mother’s Intuition. At heart, you will know what your child needs. Go with your gut instincts, as they will most often be right. While nobody can give you the definitive guide for how to care for your baby, it is your baby. You - more than anyone - know what it needs and how best to care for it, and more importantly how not to care for it. Nobody else knows your baby as well as you, so follow your instincts and you’ll get things right more than you get them wrong.
Get help if you can
However, instinct can only get you so far. If you have family or friends who have offered to help in the often chaotic first six months, take them up on their offer. Caring for a newborn is more intense than most full-time jobs. You are always on the clock; if the baby needs you morning, noon, or night, you’ll be there. Months of this on end can really take its toll on you personally, and even your relationship with your partner. Having someone on hand to look after the baby for a few hours while you catch up on rest, take some time to yourself, or spend some quality time with your partner is invaluable. Don’t turn the opportunity down if you get it.
Equally, if you are living with a partner, you should share the load, and allocate times throughout the week that one of you can have a break. Make sure your partner is looking after the baby so you can have some time to yourself and vice versa. These opportunities to recharge your batteries will help you both stay rested and happy throughout a challenging time, as well as keep your relationship strong. If one parent perceives that they are doing more to care for a newborn than the other, this can be a common form of strain on a relationship. Sharing the load can help you avoid this issue.
Self-care is key
Most new parents focus exclusively on their new baby for the first few months and completely burn themselves out. It’s easy to see why. Babies can’t function without the care of a parent or guardian, so it can be tempting for new parents to forgo their own needs. However, you can’t look after someone else effectively if you’re not looking out for yourself. Even something as simple as taking 30 minutes out to catch up on your favourite TV show, have a cup of coffee or read a book can help you recharge, as well as help you remember that you have an identity, interests and needs beyond being a mum. Having a young child can be all-consuming if you let it be. That isn’t good for your mental wellbeing, which in turn will make you less effective at looking after your baby. So, make sure you’re looking after yourself, and everything else will fall into place.
Reach out if it’s all getting too much
Sometimes, getting childcare help from family and giving yourself a pamper every now and then isn’t enough. Postnatal depression is reasonably common, affecting 10% of new mothers. It can also affect the child’s father or your partner. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, make sure you seek help from a medical professional. Depression is treatable, and a doctor will be able to help you feel like yourself again. As we discussed earlier, you can’t look after your child if you’re not looking after yourself, so make sure you take the time to look out for your own health as well as your child’s.
Also, keep in mind that it’s quite common for new mothers to cry frequently and experience low mood in the days after giving birth. This is known as the ‘baby blues’ and is not necessarily a symptom of postnatal depression. It is quite common for new mothers to feel mildly depressed for a short amount of time post-birth due to sudden hormonal changes in their body. If this affects you, keep an eye on your symptoms. They may go away on their own after a week or two, but if they don’t then it’s time to go to the doctor.
Sleep when the baby sleeps
Most parents don’t pick up on this tactic until they’re sleep-deprived and have to do it out of necessity. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2am or 4pm; if your baby is asleep, go for a nap. Sleep deprivation is one of the most difficult aspects of being a new parent. The only way babies can communicate is by crying, so they end up crying quite a lot. It’s common to be woken up by a crying baby, and struggle to figure out exactly what it is the baby needs. This sort of thing can happen multiple times a night, leaving new parents exhausted and emotional, struggling to stay awake throughout the day.
However, by napping when the baby sleeps, you’ll catch up on vital hours of sleep. It may seem a bit odd to take a nap at 11am or 3pm, especially if you worked full time prior to taking your maternity leave. However, getting a few bits of sleep when you can will give you that little bit of extra energy you need to stay on top of everything.
It doesn’t matter how you feed them, just feed them
Some mothers will wax lyrical about how you’re not a proper mother if you don’t breastfeed, while others will declare that bottle feeding is the only true way. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter. As long as you’re making sure the baby is fed, you’re doing a great job. Choosing whether to breastfeed is a deeply personal decision. If it’s for you, that’s great. If it isn’t, that’s great too. You know best what’s right for you and your child, so whatever your decision is it’ll be the right one.
Learn some quick, healthy meals
As a new parent, it’s easy to fall into the trap of convenience, living off takeaways, ready meals, and snacks. Your time will be severely restricted compared to what you’re used to, and the opportunity to whip up a roast dinner or a lasagne are going to be few and far between. Unfortunately, though, a poor diet will affect your mood, cause you to gain weight, and make you more tired. Adding a few quick and healthy recipes to your repertoire will help you save time while also looking after your mental and physical health. Find a few recipes you enjoy eating and cook them week-in, week-out. That way you have one less thing to worry about.
Having an established exercise routine can be valuable to anyone, whether they are a new mother or not. If you’ve just had a baby, though, exercise can help you in a number of ways. Firstly, it is a great stress buster. Having a newborn is stressful, and many parents are driven to tears in the first few months. Having a physical outlet to pour that stress into is a healthy way of dealing with it. Exercise can also be beneficial for your mental and physical health. Having a regular exercise routine and sticking to it will make sure you’re in the best possible condition to look after your child.
Keep in mind though, this doesn’t mean you have to order a set of weights and start powerlifting. Even if all you do is go for regular walks, or a run every now and then, that should be enough to keep you feeling good.
Don’t compare yourself to others
If you know others who have recently had children, chances are they’ll be happy to tell you everything they learned in the first six months of their child’s life. While this kind of advice can be useful, it can also be confusing, especially if the advice goes against what you had planned to do with your baby. The truth is that there is no right or wrong way to be a parent. You know your child better than anyone else, and you know the right way to parent. Your Mother’s Intuition will help you better than any advice your friends give you. So, if you get some advice and choose not to follow it, don’t start thinking that you’re somehow an inferior parent. You’re doing the right thing for your child, and that’s the best thing you can do.
Equally, don’t look at other parents who you perceive to be superior at parenting and beat yourself up about being inadequate. Chances are things are far more difficult and chaotic behind the scenes than they appear at first glance.
Don’t forget to enjoy it
As this article has discussed in-depth, having a newborn baby is tough. But it’s also one of the most wonderful things you’ll ever do. Cuddling your baby for hours on end because they won’t settle unless they’re in your arms is a beautiful thing. Holding your baby is a feeling unrivalled by any other, so remember to stop occasionally, and enjoy it. Your child won’t be this small forever. Before you know it, they’ll be a toddler, so enjoy the first stage of their life for what it is while you can.
Remember: you’re doing really well
There will be times when you feel low, you’ll be sleep-deprived, emotional, and stressed out. In these times it can be tempting to wonder if you’re even doing a good job. When you experience that, just remember this; as long as you are feeding, washing and changing the baby, and making sure it gets as much sleep as possible, you are doing a great job. It can be easy to get stressed out by the small things and fixate on them, but by stepping back and seeing the bigger picture, you can remind yourself of something fundamental. You’re doing really well and doing everything you can to care for your child. There’s no such thing as perfection in parenting, what you’re doing is more than enough.