How To Make A Smooth Transition To Family Life
Family life is literally upended with a baby in the house. Energy becomes the precious commodity, rather than time. Here are a few things that can help you transition to family life easier:
A new baby in your life can leave you with little time for yourself. In the last month of your pregnancy, take care of all of your last minute beauty work so that you’ll look great after your baby is born.
Choose a haircut that is cute and easy to care for.
Have a massage.
Have a manicure or a pedicure.
Buy comfortable pajamas that you can wear in company — this can be a life saver!
This is also a great time to do the activities that mean the most to you.
Pamper your relationship
One of the realities of life as a family is that the ability to be spontaneous as a couple becomes difficult. With a new baby, it is harder to get out and go to a restaurant or a movie, as there is now planning involved — finding a babysitter you can trust, the added cost, etc. Take this time to enjoy your favourite restaurants and coffee houses or go shopping, because once your baby is born, you will be pushing a stroller or carrying your baby with you everywhere you go.
Go out on dates, go for long walks, cuddle and smooch. Reserve time to regroup and reconnect as a couple in love before your baby arrives. If you can, get away for a romantic weekend. If money is tight, spend quality time at home with the telephone turned off and no outside commitments. Give each other massages, watch feel-good movies, eat great food and make the weekend special and meaningful for you both.
Ask for help from Family Members and Friends
You may want to plan for some alone time with your partner and your baby for your first few weeks together as a family. You’ll be tired, you may experience the baby blues a few days after birth, and this may not be the best time to have an audience when you are vulnerable and learning to breastfeed. (On the other hand, if you want lots of help from family and friends during your first few weeks as a new mom, by all means plan it that way!)
However, instead of cramming all of your visitors into the first week after your baby is born, ask your family members or friends to visit after your partner returns to work so that you can increase your time with an extra pair of helping hands.
One of my patients planned for 6 weeks of extra help with her new baby. Her partner was home for the first two weeks, then she had her mom visit for two weeks, then her mother-in-law (they lived out of town and needed time to arrange travel to visit their new grandson). You can absolutely do the same by asking your family members to visit at specific times. Remember, you are not to do the work of entertaining. Ask your visitors to help with the cooking and chores around the house.
Your friends and family members would love to help… if you’d only ask. If someone does ask if you need help with anything, give him or her something to do! Choose vacuuming, floor washing or doing the dishes and thank them sincerely when they’re done. Take advantage of an offer at a time when you most need it.
Hire a Housekeeper
Another way to cope with life with a newborn is to hire a housekeeper or a cleaning service to allow you more time to rest and to spend with your baby. If funds are tight, you can pay a teenager to help with vacuuming, folding laundry and any other chores that you just can’t find the time to do.
Hire a Postpartum doula
A postpartum doula is an excellent resource for new parents to help you both make an easier transition to family life. After your birth, a postpartum doula will provide care and assistance for you and your partner so that you can spend as much time as possible with your baby.
Help to take care of the new mother, especially if she’s had a difficult birth, or a Cesarean birth.
Demonstrate and teach all aspects of baby care.
Provide breastfeeding support.
Help all family members adapt to their changing roles within the family.
Are aware of the symptoms of postpartum depression.
Are aware of available community resources.
Help with kitchen tidying, simple meal preparation, and baby laundry.
To find a certified postpartum doula in your area, please refer to www.dona.org.
If you would really like to have extra help for your first weeks as a new family but funds are tight, ask your shower organizer to hint that contributions towards a house cleaning service or a postpartum doula would be a great idea for you and your partner as baby gifts.
Fill Your Freezer
Many women make meals ahead of time and freeze them so that they don’t have to cook supper for the first few weeks as a new family. One way to take advantage of the nesting instinct at the end of your pregnancy is to cook breastfeeding-friendly meals – soups or stews and freeze them. Some couples organize a baby shower where the gifts are food for the freezer and the ability to relax for the first month with a new baby instead of clothes and toys.
Breastfeeding Friendly Meals
Plan to make food that won’t cause your baby tummy troubles. Everything that a nursing woman eats and drinks gets into her breast milk and, during the first few months of a baby’s life, some foods can really cause a baby discomfort. If you avoid ten common foods in the first few months with your baby, you can dramatically decrease your baby’s fussiness and crying. The Calm Baby Cookbook provides information about the foods to avoid and offers many delicious breastfeeding-friendly recipes to get started.
If you decide to follow the recommendations in The Calm Baby Cookbook, you’ll need to let your family and friends know about the foods you should avoid, as most casseroles or soups contain dairy products and/or tomatoes. Once people understand the reason for eliminating these foods, they are usually happy to choose breastfeeding-friendly recipes for you and your baby to enjoy.
If you do receive casseroles that aren’t breastfeeding-friendly, don’t despair! Simply mark them and offer them to family members and friends who visit.
Voicemail is your friend
If your baby is overdue, you might find that you become completely frustrated and cranky with people after you receive your 20th phone call to see if you’re in labour. You can start to dread a ringing telephone when you feel exactly the same as you did yesterday and it seems that you are destined to be pregnant forever.
One of the easiest ways to cope with curious friends and family members is to change your outgoing message every morning. “Today is (date) and we are not yet in labour. Please leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” And then simply get on with your life: have a nap, visit a friend, go out for lunch and when you feel like it, return your calls.
Once your baby is born, you will certainly contact your family and friends. However, you might find that you cannot rest at all, as everyone you know is calling to see how you are and to hear your birth story.
Again, use your voicemail to your advantage. Change your outgoing message to provide all of the information that people want to know about your baby: name, measurements, date of birth and that you will return your calls in a few days when you are more settled. You will then be able to turn off your phone and take the time you need to rest and bond as a family.
A bit of preparation time before your big day, can pay dividends for your transition to becoming a family. You are more prepared and you have less to worry about. You can take the time to relax just enjoy being with your baby.
Dr. Melanie Beingessner is a pregnancy and pediatric-focussed chiropractor, a breastfeeding counselor, a certified infant massage instructor and a mom of three awesome kids.