Sometimes being a new mother is like being hit by a tsunami. Here are 10 pieces of expert advice to help you cope, from the authors of ‘Overcoming Baby Blues’.
1. Don’t say, ‘I can manage, thanks’
Where’s the rule that says a new mother has to do it all herself? Please ask for and accept help. What have other new mothers found to be of benefit? Judge how and when others can lend a hand. Help those who want to assist by defining how they can best fit in, what they can do and when.
When a friend asks ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’ say, ‘Yes—could you help with XX chores, or hold the baby while I have a shower?’
Don’t prioritise being perfect above being good enough. Ditch the Superwoman cape. Beware the scourge of feeding your friends homemade cake in your spotless house. Anyone on your side won’t be running a finger over the windowsills to check for dust. Who does that anyway, and if they do, do you really want them for a friend or think you should listen to them?
3. Don’t say, ‘I’ll attend to my own health … later’
Before you can supply the needs of another, especially a baby, you need to make sure your own battery is full. Never miss the opportunity for a sleep, any amount. Sleep should come first, second and third. Then try to add in some exercise. And think how you can best nourish your body. You’re still recuperating from a Very Big Event (remember, the birth?). Birth, breastfeeding, the resetting of hormones and involuntary sleep deprivation all merit recovery time.
4. Don’t tell yourself that motherhood is instinctive or that there is a right way
It can’t be both and in fact it’s neither. Instinct is not commonplace but your intuition is in there. After being all thumbs for a while, you’ll gradually recognise your little one’s routines and what seems to work. Think about the fact that childcare nurses require years of training to become competent in the job of looking after babies! Getting into as much of a pattern as possible means that at least you know what you’re doing!
5. Don’t tell yourself it’s wrong to run off to doctors
With a bit of luck, your understanding and available GP (if they’re not, find another), will become your new best friend. Develop a trusting relationship—drop the mask and be honest. Visit as often as you need for the baby but also tell the doctor how you are. If you are developing a slew of physical symptoms—tiredness, headaches, a churning stomach—give some thought to whether you’re under too much pressure and whether such symptoms reflect your psychological rather than your physical state.
6. Don’t say, ‘Making time for myself is selfish’
Arrange some time for yourself without the baby and/or other children. Use it to chill out, recharge your battery and confirm that you (and your partner) are still there. And exercise (with and without baby, preferably every day) is an essential, not a luxury. You’ll be all the better as a mother as you come back through the front door.