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Adjusting To Parenthood

When a woman who is accustomed to working outside of the home interacting with other adults becomes a mother, it is a significant lifestyle adjustment to stay at home to care for a baby full-time.

It may be pure joy, having your new baby in your arms. But learning to cope with the constant challenges and interrupted sleep that come with being a new parent can sometimes seem overwhelming. 

Preparing yourself for your new life before the birth of your baby will help you feel more confident. It helps to do some reading about child care and to talk with other new mothers.

Techniques To Help You Adapt To Your New Lifestyle

Sleep deprivation is common among new parents. This can be a problem psychologically and physically. Try to adapt to your baby’s rhythms, and nap when she (or he) naps. Concentrate on caring for your new baby and getting rest; everything else should become secondary.

Don’t fret if your home is not spotless. And this is not the time to start decorating! Graciously accept all the help your family and friends offer. And when you feel that you must have a full night’s sleep, express your breast milk and have your partner take over a middle-of-the-night feeding.

You don’t have to be completely deprived of spending time with other adults. With the Internet, cellphones, television and more, there are many ways to keep connected with the world outside your home. There is also a growing acceptance of breastfeeding in public places. When your baby gets past the newborn stage, you can take her with you to the library, shopping, and even to have a coffee with a friend.

When you’re ready, you can start to take charge of your body changes. Getting back into shape depends a lot on your personal food habits and exercise. Aerobic exercise is great, but avoid jogging; your breasts will be heavy while you are breastfeeding.

If you had a normal vaginal delivery, you can begin light physical exercise within a week. If you had a Caesarian section, you need time to recover from surgery. You probably need three to four weeks before starting a very light exercise program.

Women are sometimes misled about weight gain during pregnancy; they put on a great deal of weight and then have unrealistic expectations about their body returning to normal. The average weight loss after giving birth is 12 pounds. A woman may be sleep-deprived, yet feel that she should resume sexual activity with her partner. A man can feel pushed aside because of a new mother’s maternal preoccupation.

Your partner will feel less deprived if he is involved with caring for the baby. Taking part in the baby’s care will help him understand your fatigue, and the mutual involvement with your baby can lead to a new emotional and physical closeness. You can be a team, sharing parenting’s responsibilities and joys.

If you have a fulfilling career outside the home, you may be concerned you will be passed over for promotion. Companies acknowledge more and more that a parent must take the time needed to be with the new baby. Some women use their home computer and network with their employer to keep in touch, and even provide ongoing assistance to the person or people temporarily performing their duties.

Dr. Lynne Thurling is a psychiatrist in private practice in Fergus and Toronto, Ont.

Published in March 2007

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