Parenting an Infant: for lone parents and young parents
The early days of becoming a parent can take a bit of adjusting to. You may have a baby that sleeps and feeds well and be generally relaxed and placid or they may have silent reflux or colic, have trouble feeding and cry a lot. It is so important to take your time and allow yourself and your baby time to bond and get to know one another. You may have had a particular image in your mind of what your life with your baby would look like and the reality may be quite different. This does not mean that you have failed in any way or that things are not working, it just takes time to work out what the baby wants and needs from you and their other parent. Do not criticize yourself for doing things like holding your baby longer than advised or for letting the housework pile up while you just stare at your new baby. It is vital to be kind to yourself in the first days, weeks, and months of parenthood. There are many things you can do to help.
1. Advice from others
Your family and friends as-well as healthcare professionals will have advice and tips for you, some may be useful however some may just not work for you and your baby. No baby is the same as another and remembering this while you are finding your feet in your new role as a parent is so important. Be confident in what you’re feeling and thinking, your gut can guide you a lot in these early days, try to trust it!
Give yourself and your baby a break; know that it is okay to ask for help from others around you. It is very normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed when your baby is crying, and you do not know why. It is a trial-and-error phase of your life; you will get to know and understand what your baby needs, when they are hungry or tired, just give yourself time to learn this. Take it one day at a time, do not overload yourself with tasks that are not important and can wait, or even better, ask someone else to help out with these. Society often creates the image of super mum, who can do everything all at once; it is far from true and only creates more pressure. Be honest about where your focus is – it is on the baby – milk and nappies and in that ensure you eat well and sleep when baby sleeps. Everything else will find its place over time.
Acknowledge how far you have come already, and if it is all feeling like it is closing in and you cannot win no matter what you do, reach out for support or do something nice for yourself. Remember that every day may not be good but there is good in every day. The early days with a new-born can feel like living in a whirlwind, it can be hard to adjust. If you take it step by step and push through it is the most rewarding experience. One day you will look back and be amazed at how well you managed. Taking time each day to shower, with your favourite songs or podcast allowing yourself to relax and unwind. See what role dad can play in your baby’s life. He will be scared too however with some support and experience you can both share this journey with your baby while allowing opportunities for good self-care. Regardless of the nature of your relationship with the dad, explore the role you both can play in your child’s life. Facilitating dad to get engaged from the first days is good for baby and for you.
4. Getting out
It is so important to get yourself and your baby up and out of the house for walks. The fresh air will do you both the world of good, it will help babies especially those who are not the best sleepers, to sleep. It also gives you the chance to take a breather, to slow your mind down by just taking in what you see on your walk and the exercise will have a positive impact, even when you are really tired, and sleep deprived. Meeting up with friends or family will also help to clear your own head. Getting into this routine of getting out and about and meeting people with your new baby allows you to escape from being stuck in the house, to feel normal and to avoid feeling as if you are missing out and the world is moving on without you. However, it is perfectly okay to stay home for a while, especially if your baby arrives in the winter months. Invite friends over and make no apology for the mess. They are coming to see you and baby not inspect your home. Let them see all your attention is on being a mum for now!
It can be easy to become isolated as a new parent, especially if your friends do not have children of their own. Your family and friends may not want a baby out every time you are out, they may not understand why you can’t join them without the baby. People can become so wrapped up with their own lives and can forget about others, this can be the case with friends when you have a baby, especially when you are a young parent. It is important to not take it to heart too much and to try set yourself time to just go out with your friends and arrange for someone to mind your baby. This will be a longer process for you to get out for a few hours, but it will allow for you to have time just for yourself. Developing trust in others to care for your baby is a really good thing to do, start with 20 minutes and work up to a couple of hours. The more you can see your baby is responding well to the person you are trusting the more you will trust them to care for your baby.
6. Reaching out
Remember that you are still the same person after you become a parent and it is extremely important to take care of your own mental health at this time, which in turn, will support you to take care of your new baby. It is important to text or ring a friend or family member to meet up. The people who are close to you will want to support you but may not know when you are ready to see them, they may not want to overload you in the first few weeks. Invite people to come to visit or let them know that you would love some company or to get out. There are also lots of groups you can join, meet other new parents; go to a local café for lunch with your baby or a play centre for some atmosphere; play parks. It will be important to look at where other parents are with babies so you can create your own opportunities to make new friends who are happy to talk baby all day!