Anna Williamson's Top Tips for Coping With a New Baby
Nothing can change your life quite so drastically as a new baby. But don't panic! With a little preparation, you can quell the chaos and make sure this is a time to remember and enjoy, rather than stressfully survive. Television presenter, radio broadcaster, life coach, counsellor and author of the bestselling Breaking Mad and new book, Breaking Mum & Dad: The Insider’s Guide to Parenting Anxiety, Anna Williamson, shares some invaluable advice for coping with your new arrival...
It doesn’t matter who you are – whether you’re a ‘natural’ with kids, if you physically balk at someone else’s 'little darling’ having a tantrum in the middle of Tesco, secretly declaring ‘I wouldn’t stand for that!’, or if you’re just not that sure about children: period, you’re a) not alone in any of these perfectly normal thoughts, and b) it’s a whole new ball game once you have one of your own!
Parenting, as my husband and I have recently discovered, is as unique and bespoke as one's toilet habits – unpredictable, painful at times, and yet on occasion, surprisingly pleasant. If you’re anything like us, becoming ‘mama and papa’ overnight was one of the most terrifying experiences ever. Magical, euphoric and special? Yes. But overwhelming, scary, and rendering us completely clueless novices? Oh, absolutely.
I don’t think anything can really prepare you for life with a new baby, the books, TV shows, and umpteen magazines can be helpful, really helpful actually (and I hope my new book, Breaking Mum and Dad: The Insider’s Guide to Parenting Anxiety will be too), but the moment your little one joins the household, it’s like a super cute ‘baby-shaped’ hand grenade has been chucked into your flower-and-congrats-cards-laden home, and all you can do is wait for it ‘go off’ at any moment.
So, take a deep breath my friend: being a parent is one heck of a jolt to the system, but once you’ve got the first few weeks of getting to know your baby under your belt, the more confident you’ll become.
1. Take the 'Advice Givers' with a pinch of salt
The minute your missus announces she’s in the family way, is the minute you will BOTH be inundated with (mostly unwanted) advice. People mean well but it can be more than a little overwhelming to deal with the, often conflicting, advice. Your baby is completely unique, and you will learn to be the parent you want to be as your little family evolves together. Sure, take on board the odd handy hint and tip – if you find it works for you – but essentially be confident in your own abilities. As long as you give your new baby love, cuddles, and lots of milk, you can’t go far wrong.
2. Take your time
Nobody becomes the perfect parent overnight. Your new baby is effectively a stranger: a lovely, cute and snuggly little stranger, but still, a brand-new, unpredictable little person who you don’t yet know. Allow yourself to get to know your baba, and his or her little quirks, likes and dislikes. Time is so important, and this is one thing that can’t, and shouldn’t, be rushed.
3. Take turns
If you’re in a couple, it’s important to give each other time ‘off’ – particularly Mum if she is exclusively breast feeding. You’ll both almost certainly be knackered in the early weeks, so perhaps think about when you can give each other some ‘me time’ – even half an hour or so can be hugely effective – to do something of choice. A bath or shower, watching some TV uninterrupted, a snooze… whatever it might be, work out when and how you can do some ‘baby shift work’ to allow the other some chill time to regroup.
4. Be kind to yourself
It’s likely your emotions will be all over the place – after all, you’ve just welcomed the most amazing little being into the world, and the best bit is… they’re all yours. You might experience highs and lows, excitement and worry, happiness and anxiety… it’s completely normal and natural to go through a cocktail of emotions, and dads are just as likely as mums to feel they’ve been put through the wringer emotionally, mentally and physically. Make sure you talk to your partner, friends, family and health professionals to let them know how you’re feeing, and try to be kind to yourself as you let yourself adjust.
5. Bond with baby
It can be hard to get a look in with your new baby, what with the reams of well-wishers and Mum most probably taking over the feeding duties. But it’s vitally important for dads to get involved and bond with baby too. Try lying on the bed or sofa with your little one and experiment with making facial expressions, sticking your tongue out for baby to copy, and looking into his/her eyes – this will really help in creating a loving bond with each other. If baby is bottle fed, offer to do some of the feeds and enjoy the closeness it brings. Essentially, whatever Mum does, Dad should do too where possible… cuddles, changing, bath time and winding… get stuck in, my friend, and enjoy being part of the new parent club.
Breaking Mum and Dad: The Insider’s Guide to Parenting Anxiety by Anna Williamson will be published by Green Tree on the 8th of March. Available from Amazon, £12.99.