Little do we know during pregnancy that almost every waking minute immediately postpartum will be filled with baby-related tasks. All of our best laid plans during our “time off”—organize closets, decorate the baby’s room, paint the guest room, go out to lunch with friends and coworkers, etc.—have gone awry. Where has all the time gone? Most “still-at-home” parents, especially if their partner has returned to work, will admit that the excitement of the first few weeks is inevitably replaced with sleep deprivation and “cabin fever.”
This unexpected feeling of loneliness is frequently discussed in my “Baby and Me” Drop-in groups. Here are some ideas offered by experienced moms:
- Find a “Baby and Me” group to join. In my age-matched groups at Parents Place, we discuss everything having to do with babies: feeding, sleeping, developmental milestones, postpartum and family adjustment, returning to work, grandparents, and more. It is a safe place to get up-to-date answers to the multitude of questions you will have and meet other new parents with many of the same questions. You will also get knowledgeable help in sorting through the abundance of information and misinformation online. In the many years that I have been facilitating these groups, I have seen parents form wonderful, close friendships, described as “lifesaving,” with other parents in these groups.
- Invite people to visit—only one set of visitors per day and for an hour or less. While it is wonderful to have an adult to talk to during the long day, if the visit is too long it may be depriving you of a much-needed nap.
- Ask a family member or close friend to come over for two hours to hold the baby (while you nap), help with household chores, or run errands for you.
- Get outside every day! Put the baby in the stroller or wrap-type carrier such as the Moby and take a walk. Just going out in the yard for some fresh air for a half hour helps.
- Outsource what you can: food (grocery delivery, Munchery, Google Express, Instacart, DoorDash) household help, laundry, etc.
- Consider getting help from a lactation consultant early if you are breastfeeding—if you are having pain while breastfeeding, something is wrong!
Being a new parent, while thrilling, means adapting to many changes. When we are told by well-meaning friends and acquaintances to “relish this time,” we can sometimes feel that there is something wrong with us because we feel so stressed. Perhaps our friends have forgotten about how challenging these sleep-deprived months can be. Take care of yourself by trying a Baby and Me! group at Parents Place!
You can read more about the Parents Place First Years Program here or address questions to CherieZT@JFCS.org.
Cherie Tannenbaum, NP, IBCLC, is a lactation consultant, parent educator, and First-Year Program Coordinator at Parents Place on the Peninsula. http://parentsplaceonline.org