1. Accept a helping hand
Enjoy the TLC of friends and family, because the favors won’t last forever. There is no glory in doing it all yourself, so share the load when someone volunteers to sit with your baby while you nap or brings you a homemade meal to give you a night free from dinner-duty. Allowing others to take part in the new-baby transition can strengthen your bonds with friends and family; just remember to return the favor when someone else needs a hand.
Get your partner involved by allowing and, if necessary, encouraging him to change diapers, take a turn rocking the baby to sleep or participate in bottle-feeding. He will form his own bond with your newborn and thus be more willing to help out in the future. Be honest with him about your limits: household responsibilities may need to be redistributed, or you may seek outside help in the form of lawn service or housekeeping.
2. Don’t forget to sleep
One of the hardest adjustments with a new baby is the exhausting late-night (and midnight and early morning) routine. Consider keeping your baby in your bedroom at night—at least in the beginning—to make feedings easier on you. (Stairs can be a real hazard when you’re half asleep at 2 a.m.!)
Also, if possible, share nocturnal wake-up calls with your partner. The National Sleep Foundation recommends, “Sharing baby care to the fullest extent possible, especially during the night, is important for the mother’s health, safety, performance and vitality.” If you don’t get in a healthy 8 hours, try to squeeze in a few power naps during the day while your baby is dozing.
3. Keep your favorite moms on speed dial
Early motherhood is a great time to strengthen relationships with your own mom and other mom-friends. You can finally relate to the joys, laughs and struggles of early motherhood! Because your mom has firsthand experience with a baby of a similar genetic code (you!), she may be able to give priceless advice on what worked for her. Friends who have had babies more recently will be able to discuss current baby-raising techniques.
Don’t know any moms? No problem! It’s not hard to find support groups for new moms or breastfeeding moms. Ask your doctor or lactation consultant for a referral, or just strike up a conversation with another new mom at the supermarket. There are also online mom networks for those middle-of-the-night questions; try cafemom.com or momssource.com. It’s important to have someone to talk to who can truly relate to the daily task of mothering (but thanks for trying, hubby!). Keeping up with a group of moms allows you to maintain a social life while comparing parenting notes with contemporaries.
4. Read to succeed
Guess what—you’re not the first person to have a baby! No matter what question or problem you’re facing, chances are someone has written about it. Now that your baby has arrived, clear those baby name books out of your bookcase and make room for baby-raising favorites. Any mom can give you recommendations, and new titles are coming out almost constantly. Invest in a few humorous mom-written books on motherhood, too—they might not tell you how to cure diaper rash, but they’ll definitely cure a gloomy spirit.
5. Don’t stress over milestones
For your baby’s health and your own peace of mind, schedule regular checkups to verify that your baby is in the healthy range for weight, social skills and motor development. Other than these health basics, don’t lose sleep over missed or delayed milestones.
It’s easy to panic if your baby isn’t rolling, crawling or babbling by the average age, but most doctors will tell you that “normal” fills a much wider range than you think. Your baby’s unique timeline doesn’t necessarily indicate future performance or personality. There are so many variables that affect a child’s rate of progress, but the differences don’t add up to much in the end. An early walker isn’t any more likely to be a track star than a late walker, and vice versa.
6. Have fun!
Enjoy getting to know your baby. While it may seem that the busy feeding schedule and late nights will last forever, they really won’t! And when your little one paints the wall with urine, laugh it off; the endorphins are good for you. Bask in the glow of motherhood—you have brought a new life into the world, and every day you share with him contributes to his future well-being and shapes his sense of self. So relax and congratulate yourself on your great achievement!
While baby will occupy much of your time, don’t lose your own identity in the process. Keep your love life alive by hiring a babysitter now and then to get out for some quality one-on-one time with your honey. Make time for the things that are important to you: work, exercise, social time or whatever makes you feel like you.