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The fourth trimester: 7 tips for adjusting to life with a newborn

First, let me just say this: It is normal, expected and totally okay to feel overwhelmed after having a baby. This is true whether you’re first-time parents or you have several kids at home already. Regardless of the circumstances—and how prepared you might have felt before delivery—adjusting to life with a newborn can have some hurdles.

1. Give yourself some grace

If you’re finding this time more challenging than expected, give yourself some grace. Don’t feel pressured to do it all. This time is all about bonding with your new little one, recovering and taking care of yourself, and getting used to life as parents (or life as parents of one more). It’s not about proving to the world that you can have the house perfectly clean, the laundry done and homecooked meals on the table every day while figuring out breastfeeding and newborn sleep schedules.

I’ll say it again. You do not need to have the house perfectly clean, or all the laundry done. And ordering takeout is perfectly fine! Ask for and accept help from friends and family, even if it’s just for a couple of hours so you can shower or nap.

2. Communicate with your partner

If you’re raising a child with a spouse or partner, be patient with each other. Be sure and express any frustrations you’re having in a respectful way and come up with a solution together. Remember, you are both getting used to being new parents and taking care of a brand new human.

3. Set visitation rules

Everyone will want to come over and see the new baby (and who can blame them?) but keep in mind, you set the rules here.

  • Set up “visitation times” for people to come who just want to see the new baby. Do not feel like you have to let people over when it’s convenient for them. Tell them when a good time is for you.  
  • Try to sleep when the baby sleeps and again, don’t worry about keeping your home Martha Stewart TV-ready.
  • Remember, it’s okay to say “no” to visitors. They’ll understand.

4. Partners, this one’s for you

Realize that the mother is going through lots of hormone changes during the first several weeks, so she may need a little extra support. Try to handle the things that you can like meals and diaper changes, and encourage her to rest when she’s able.

Related: 6 common health issues that new mothers face

5. Sleep when you can

Unfortunately, sleep deprivation just comes with the territory for new parents. Your newborn does not care if you’ve had a good night’s sleep or not. Here are a few tips:

  • Try to nap when baby naps during the day.
  • Have someone help for a little while so you can take a nap.  
  • Try to get into a nighttime routine so that your baby knows this is bedtime, even though they will be awake every 3-4 hours.

6. Ask for and accept help

Plenty of people will want to pitch and help but sometimes, it’s hard to know what to ask for. Specific things that might be most helpful to request are:

  • Meals (already cooked or ready to pop in the oven)
  • Laundry help
  • Light housework
  • Grocery shopping (or grocery order pickup)
  • Babysitting for a couple of hours so you can shower, nap or eat
  • Help caring for or spending time with your other children

Talk to your doctor immediately if you are having sadness that lasts longer than a few hours or for several days at a time, if you have thoughts of harming yourself, your partner or your baby, and if you find yourself having racing thoughts and unable to coordinate simple tasks. You don’t need to sit in silence just because you think this is normal. Your doctor can help.

7. Help older children adjust

  • Talk to your child(ren) early and often so they know what’s coming.
  • Have them be as involved as possible with the planning and getting things ready for the new baby.
  • Let them help care for the baby (if they are old enough).
  • Make sure you set aside time to spend with just them, even if it’s just to cuddle or read a book for a few minutes.

At the end of the day, just take a deep breath. This is a time of major change in your life and adjusting to change is never easy. But you’ve got a cute baby to snuggle and raise, and that makes it all worth it.

Need help transitioning into motherhood? Find an OBGYN near you.

About the author

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Heather Bruce, DO, is an OBGYN on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Grapevine.

The fourth trimester: 7 tips for adjusting to life with a newborn