There’s a lot of pressure around this time to reinvent yourself and rejuvenate your life, but if you’ve experienced big changes in your family through pregnancy, birth, or adoption, you may be barely hanging on. In the spirit of the new year, here are some resolutions for you and your new baby.
Release your breath every now and then
When your baby is crying for the 100th minute or awake for the seventh time in a night, you are probably holding in a lot of feelings and tension. Release your breath in a long exhale and then inhale again and release another long exhale. Do this a few more times. Let your jaw open and maybe massage the place where your jaw connects to your head. Let your shoulders fall away from your ears and roll them a few times forward and back. This routine is something you can do each time you feel the stress and overwhelm getting to you.
Let your baby be
If your baby is quiet and happy, they don’t have to be entertained. Feel free to lay them on a play mat or quilt on the floor (without anything dangerous in reach, of course) and leave them be. If you have older kids, you might make a safe space for baby with a play yard or gate. Everything is new to babies, from the patterns made by the light that filters in through the window to the feel of the carpet under their head. If you feel less pressured to entertain your baby all the time, you can make the most of the times that you are interacting together: diaper changes, feeding, and bathing.
And getting baby used to enjoying quality time exploring their world on their own terms has the added advantage of giving you time to get other things done. If baby is happily staring out the window or watching the cat, there’s nothing to stop you from reading a book or folding that mountain of laundry nearby while you listen to a podcast.
Give yourself breaks throughout the day. When baby is napping, do something fun for you for at least 10 minutes. Even if their nap is only 30 minutes long, you will have had a chance to recharge for a bit before tackling work or chores. You don’t have to be productive all the time or even any of the time; caring for a baby and yourself is productive enough. And if it’s possible for your family, take breaks where you get out of the house without baby. Even if that’s just walking around the block, it’s good to remember that you exist outside of the constant needs of an infant.
While it can feel like you’re the only one who can comfort your baby, especially if you’re nursing, do your best to step back and let your co-parent or other trusted family and friends develop their own relationship with your infant. At the beginning, that might mean that your partner changes every diaper and the baby is with you the rest of the time. As baby grows, though, you’ll have more opportunities for baby to spend time with others: figuring out bottles and ways to comfort a crying baby without feeding.
Just because it’s good for baby to form relationships with other adults doesn’t mean that you have to let anyone aside from you and your co-parent hold them in the early days. Many grandparents think that they’re entitled to as much baby time as they want, but that’s not true. Your baby needs to be with you or your co-parent—especially if you’re still establishing your breastfeeding relationship or if there’s a global pandemic on and germs are of concern. If grandparents or other family and friends want to help, they can do any number of house chores or caring for older children or pets. Don’t feel bad about claiming the space you need to bond with your baby. You are not responsible for the feelings of other adults in your life. For more on planning what type of help you think you might need postpartum, check out this blog post from The Pulse about making a postpartum plan.