Preparing for a new baby
Having a baby is the most amazing, beautiful and often daunting experience of your lives. The anticipation of what it will be like can be intense as your expected date of delivery draws near.
Preparing for your new baby is very exciting, particularly if this is your first. It's so much fun shopping for tiny clothes, a state-of-the-art pram, bassinette and cot and all that you need for bringing your baby home, while you watch your belly grow and follow his or her weekly stages of growth and development leading up to birth.
There's no doubt that this is the greatest, life changing achievement for you and your partner. Celebrate and enjoy! What most couples don't prepare for, and can be shocked by, are the physical and emotional changes in Mum, and the impact having a baby has on your relationship. Just as much time should be devoted to preparing for these inevitable changes and often challenging times as is spent setting up the nursery and getting your home 'baby ready' for your arrival. So, from personal experience, here are a few things to consider which may help to make your journey a little easier!Bringing baby home - sharing the load
One of the most important considerations when bringing a new baby home is what you'll be arriving home to. When you're recovering from the marathon of birth, are severely sleep deprived and trying to master the art of breastfeeding, the last thing you'll feel like doing is cleaning your house to bring it back up to standard! If your partner simply hasn't had time to get everything ready, have someone do it for you. Arrange for your home to be cleaned and prepared for your arrival so you can relax and concentrate on bonding with your baby, and your recovery. It makes a huge difference to have a great start.
You jointly created this baby so the preparation of your home pre-birth, and the care of your baby after the birth should be a joint effort also. Partners often feel like there's not much they can do to help in the early stages, particularly if you're breastfeeding. Not true! Share the housework and the set up of the nursery prior to the birth and be well used to working together before your baby arrives. Be encouraging, not critical!
Relax! Babies sense feelings of stress and tension and may become unsettled as a result. Early in your pregnancy, find relaxation techniques that work for you, whether it be through music, watching TV, long walks, yoga or meditation - whatever. Practice these regularly and use them once you bring baby home.
Prepare for your relationship to change
Talk to your partner, well before the birth, about the impact that having your baby might have on your relationship. Open, constructive communication is one of the most critical factors in maintaining a healthy, positive and harmonious relationship when you become parents.
No one can predict how you'll both react. The stress of breastfeeding, sleep deprivation and possibly an unsettled baby can be extremely detrimental if not handled well. It can take an enormous amount of energy, patience, restraint and understanding from both partners to support each other, particularly through the early weeks.
Accept help from others
Accept all offers of help with housework, meal preparation, picking up and dropping off siblings to kinder, school etc. Conserve your energy for looking after you so you can look after your baby and not feel that everything's falling apart!
Remember, mothering is largely a learned ability, and a little instinctual. Give yourself a break and expect it to take time to get the hang of it! There is no right way, just do the best you can and you'll get there.
Ask friends and relatives to always call before visiting, and if you don't feel up for it, ask to make another time. You don't have to please anybody, just do what suits you.
Breastfeeding for beginners
Breastfeeding undoubtedly provides a great start for your baby, but it doesn't always come naturally. Your midwives will help you whilst you are in hospital, but if you are still having problems when you get home, do ask for advise from a professional lactation consultant - it really is worth it. However, if you are still unable to breastfeed for whatever reason, this does not make you a failure. Speak to your healthcare professional about the next steps to take and to get information on correct bottlefeeding and sterilisation techniques.
A well balanced, pregnancy specific diet is a vital part of your preparation for a new baby. Not only are you giving your growing baby every opportunity to thrive, you are ensuring your energy levels are at an optimum, your mind is clear, you're quality of sleep is high and you're much less likely to have problems with constipation, indigestion etc. 5-7 serves daily of fresh fruit and vegetables, a healthy amount of protein, recommended amounts of healthy fats, low GI carbohydrates and lots of water will help combat fatigue and make it much easier to get back to your desired weight, after your birth.
Make time for exercise
Exercise! During your pregnancy find some form of exercise that you really enjoy and get into the habit of doing it regularly. Keep it up after your birth with the OK of your healthcare provider. You may feel exhausted and struggle initially but you will boost your energy levels, speed up your recovery and will definitely have a clearer mind.
Prepare for the new arrival
Cook and freeze as many meals as you can possibly store in your freezer before your birth. You'll be so glad you made the effort!
Take the opportunity to spend time with babies before yours arrives! Many new parents have never held a baby or changed a nappy and have little or no experience with their care. It boosts your confidence to have some idea of how to handle an infant.
Reach out to friends
Ask a friend (with a young baby), who you relate to, to be a resource/support buddy once your baby has arrived. Feelings of isolation, loneliness and fear are very common; it really helps to have someone you can call any time who will listen and be there for you.
Websites are an invaluable resource when preparing for a new baby, and for objective advice after your birth. Bub Hub is a fabulous site which hosts loads of forums where you can post questions anonymously about pregnancy, birth, babies and parenting issues and receive feedback from others. I recommend this as a vital support, particularly if you're feeling isolated and housebound after the birth.