Being a new mom is hectic, stressful and chaotic.  Your whole life gets turned upside down and often parenting doesn’t turn out quite like you anticipated pre-baby.

Here’s a selection of advice on some common situations you might face as a new mom.  However, the number one rule is to trust your instincts:

  • Moms (and Dads) don’t get it right all the time. As long as you learn from your mistakes and improve, you’re doing okay.
  • Everyone is an expert and they will always want to offer you endless advice. It’s okay to parent differently to other people, that’s what makes us human.  Take a deep breath, thank them for their opinion/advice and carry on as you were!
  • Every parenting book/website/advice column will provide different advice. Read a few, not too many, or you’ll just get muddled – then decide which bit of advice fits your values best.
  • If you think something might be wrong with your baby or yourself, don’t resort to researching on Dr Google and diagnose yourself – make sure you get medical advice. If it turns out to be “nothing” – you won’t be the first (or last!) new mom to over-react.

Sleep

This is probably one of the most challenging things about being a new mom.  Generally you have to put up with tiredness. But if you’re feeling low, bad tempered and unable to cope or enjoy things, you need to find a way of getting more sleep, or at least more rest. Here are some tips that may help you feel more rested.

  • An early night – Go to bed really early for, say, one week. If you can’t sleep when you go to bed, do something relaxing for half an hour beforehand, such as soaking in the bath. Babies often sleep quite soundly for the first few hours at night, so take advantage of that and sleep at the same time.
  • Try relaxation techniques – As little as five to ten minutes of deep relaxation may help refresh you. You can learn relaxation techniques online, or go to the library for books or DVDs.
  • Sleep when your baby sleeps – Rest when your child has a daytime rest or when they’re at playgroup or nursery school. You could ask a relative or friend to take your child for a while and spend the time sleeping (not doing housework).
  • Share the load – Take turns with other parents to look after the children to give yourselves time to rest. Set an alarm if you’re worried about sleeping too long.
  • Take it in turns for “night duty” – If you can, share the responsibility of getting up in the night with your partner. Take alternate nights or weeks. If you’re on your own, a friend or relative may be prepared to have your children overnight occasionally.
  • Don’t let the stress get too much – Tiredness is often a sign of stress. If you can do something about the stress, you might find it easier to cope, even if you can’t get any more sleep.
  • If you can’t sleep at night even when your baby is sleeping, it could be a sign of postnatal depression and you should seek medical support.

Feeding

Feeding a newborn is a 24 hour a day commitment. You can also develop and strengthen the first strong bonds with your new baby while feeding them. Here are some tips for feeding a newborn.

  • Breast milk or formula – breast milk is the ideal food for babies and is usually the recommended option. However, if breast-feeding isn’t possible, use good quality infant formula. Healthy newborns don’t need water, juice or other fluids.
  • Getting started with breast-feeding, or maintaining it, can be tricky. If you’re having trouble breast-feeding, ask a lactation consultant or your baby’s doctor for help — especially if feeding is often painful or your baby isn’t gaining weight. Your baby’s doctor can help with a referral to a lactation consultant, or check with the obstetrics department at a local hospital.
  • Feeding on demand – most newborns need eight to twelve feeds a day — about one feeding every two to three hours. Learn to look for early signs of hunger (stirring, stretching, sucking motions, lip movements).   Fussing and crying are later signs. The sooner you begin feeding, the less likely you’ll need to soothe an upset baby.
  • If your baby stops sucking, closes their mouth, or turns away from the nipple or bottle, they might be full — or they are taking a break. Try burping your baby or waiting a minute before offering your breast or the bottle again.
  • As your baby gets older, they will take in more milk in less time at each feeding.
  • Expect variations in your newborn’s eating patterns. They won’t eat the same amount every day.  Growth spurts every few weeks will increase their hunger.
  • Once again, trust your instincts on whether your baby is eating enough. If they are making steady weight gains, are happy between meals, and shows interest in feeding, then you should be on-track.

Getting out of the house

Packing everything you need for an outing with a newborn and getting out of the house is not easy, but it is important to have a change of scene.  And not just going to the store to buy the groceries either!  It’s very easy to stay at home because you’re tired or lacking energy, but sometimes getting out and doing something different helps your energy levels, gets some sunshine and fresh air and helps you cope with the demands of your new baby.  If your baby is having trouble settling to sleep, taking them out for a walk or a drive may help send them to sleep.

If the weather is good, taking your baby to the park or for a walk somewhere is good.  But if the weather isn’t in your favour, the library, the mall or any large store where you can push the baby around under cover until they fall asleep is good.  If you have one nearby that includes baby change facilities and a coffee shop for mom, even better!

You will get better and quicker at organising everything you need for baby outings.  One idea is to have the diaper bag packed and ready, so replace items when you get home then it will be ready to use next time you go out.  Know how to fold and unfold the stroller, how to install the carseat and get plenty of practice before the baby arrives, so you don’t get frustrated and deterred from your outing.

You may need to take either a sunshade or a rain cover, so be aware of what the weather might do.  Slowly you will get more confident on your trips out from the house and work out best timing to take your baby out.

Socialising with other moms

Spending time with other moms and babies can be a great support.  Check in your area for baby and toddler classes, check on-line and see if there are social groups for moms nearby.  There might be a playgroup that you could take your baby to.  If you’re not having much luck finding good leads, just head to the local park and you’ll find some other moms at the play equipment.  If you’re shy, it can be hard to start a conversation with other moms, but luckily you have a good topic to start with – anything baby related and soon a conversation will grow from that.

It’s good to start building your networks of other moms who can become good friends as your kids grow.  It is also good for your baby to have other babies to interact with, even at a very young age.

Remember that you don’t have to be friends with every mom you meet.  If someone, or a group of moms, doesn’t seem like a good fit to your lifestyle, then it may be time to seek out a new group of moms.

Taking time out

Caring for a newborn is intense, they rely on you for everything and they demand your attention.  Added to that, you have all sorts of weird hormonal reactions going on.  Sometimes it gets too much, you need a break, and that’s perfectly normal.

If you have a partner, come to an agreement when you can hand over the baby and have some “me” time.  Preferably leave the house so you don’t end up back on duty early!

If you don’t have a partner, see if you can arrange with family or a friend to look after the baby occasionally so you can have some quiet time, get some exercise or just relax in the tub – whatever seems like a good idea at the time.   You’ll enjoy yourself and be refreshed when you are back with your baby.

Work/life balance

It doesn’t matter how old the baby is when you go back to work, it is a big adjustment for everyone to make the adjustment and figure out how it is going to work.  If you plan to return to work while your baby is still little, you have to find a trusted childcare option, find out how to manage commuting if that is an issue for you, manage household tasks and cooking as well as getting the baby to adjust to your new routine.

If at all possible, it might be an option to do a graduated return-to-work, so you start part time and gradually increase your hours.   This can make the adjustment more manageable.

You and the baby are going to be tired by the change in routine, and as a new mom you might still be suffering from “baby brain” and find it hard to refocus back on your work.  It may take time but you will eventually work out the best routine for everyone.

For some good, practical advice on returning to work, see http://www.workingmother.com/new-mom-work/back-work