Parenting is a journey in which you create life and learn about life, every step along the way.
Your child does not need you to be perfect. Your presence and support are good enough. Do what you can and keep learning, so you can grow your compassion, strength and wisdom, in parenting and in life.
The #1 parenting guide is...
All the baby books and websites you come across, and all the advice you hear from people around you (both solicited and unsolicited, sometimes even coming from strangers in public) - they merely serve as additional information. Don't fret if you have no time to read up in advance, or you find the information confusing; it's OK to learn as you go along.
The best way to learn?
Spend time with your baby, stay calm and observe how baby responds to your care; adjust and observe again; and again... gradually both you and baby will learn to adapt to each other's cues.
And the #2 parenting guide is...
When you are healthy and available, in terms of physical and psychological resources, you will naturally learn to connect with baby as you spend time together and be able to meet your baby's developmental needs.
At Wellness Journey, we understand the psychological strain experienced by parents and the lack of support in this area. We are here to care for YOU, and help you learn to care for yourself, so you can enjoy the parenthood journey.
Read on for the ESSENTIAL tips to a great start in your baby's life:
The process of transitioning into parenthood is unique to everyone - some people struggle to accept an unexpected or difficult pregnancy, some welcome a long-awaited addition to the family, some feel overwhelmed by the sudden weight of responsibility for a small vulnerable life.
Whatever the circumstances for you, even as you celebrate the pride and joys of becoming a parent, there will likely be some form of losses too - losing familiar parts of your life from before baby came along, such as the freedom to decide how you want to spend your time, opportunities for social connections, and the sense of control / confidence you used to have in managing other situations. These changes can have impact on your emotions, so pay attention to your own well-being.
Many couples experience increased conflicts during the postnatal period, as new expectations arise towards each other for the care of baby and chores around the home. Frustrations easily escalate due to fatigue. "I'm already doing so much with baby, can't you do the cleaning?" "How am I supposed to know what you need help with?" "Help me? As if these are all MY duties and not yours?"
Practise the tips in the self-care section below, and take this chance to clarify / negotiate expectations and establish common goals.
Don't forget it's a huge change for baby too! During his time in the womb, everything was being provided for, there was probably no sense of hunger or perceivable differences in temperature, etc. Everyday, all day, he had the familiar steady rhythm of mother's heartbeat and the lulling swoosh of the amniotic fluids to provide a sense of security.
Once born into the external world, he would have to breathe on his own, regulate his body temperature, adapt to varying degrees of brightness and all kinds of sounds, experience this strange feeling in the tummy that we call hunger and/or wind, feel scared or lonely when his caregiver leaves his side, and what happens when he closes his eyes to sleep? It's confusing, "what's happening? everyone and everything around me is gone? will they come back?"
That is a lot to handle for a young baby, of course he would be crying and needing comfort from you or other caregivers.
So bring in all your understanding and patience, give everyone time to adjust.
Step by step, day by day, trust that after each round of stress comes growth - for you, baby and the whole family.
Parenting is a long journey. You want to do your best but you also need to pace yourself. There will be multiple opportunities for you to learn and improve, so what you manage to do in each moment is already good enough for now. The best way to ensure you are able to continue learning and growing, is by taking care of yourself.
It is certainly challenging to find time for yourself when you're a parent with young children. You'll probably want to catch up on sleep any chance you get! Well, that's a good place to start. Try to rest whenever baby is sleeping or quietly entertaining herself.
If your mind feels very busy or just cannot relax, try box breathing, a simple yet effective way to calm your mind and body, or a 3 minute mindful breathing exercise. Find it hard to focus on breathing? Do a body scan or progressive muscle relaxation. Each of these links show you exercises that take no longer than 3 minutes, yet can do so much good for your well-being. When practised regularly, they help to prevent stress build-up.
Include little boosts for yourself throughout the day or at least one highlight for the week. It can be simple things like putting lotion on your face/body, putting on a sheet facial mask, having a nice cup of tea, listening to your favourite music, grocery shopping without having to rush home, etc. More importantly, allow yourself to focus on the experience while indulging in these wellness boosts; 5 minutes of immersing yourself in a soothing tea break will be more effective than 30 minutes of distracted reading.
Spend some time outdoors to break the monotony of staying home all day. The open space, sunshine and physical activity will benefit your mind and body. You can do this alone, if you have someone else to help care for baby. Or you can bring baby out with you in a stroller / baby carrier, he will enjoy being on the move too. If you're not confident of bringing baby out for long, just a short walk around the neighbourhood is good enough.
Stay in contact with your friends, so you can maintain other parts of your identity. Becoming a parent doesn't mean you have to drop other parts of your life, although it can feel that way. Find small ways to resume your favourite activities even if you can't return to the same frequency/intensity as before.
Work as a team with your partner and/or other family members so everyone gets their chance to rest and relax while taking turns to care for baby. It is in everyone's best interest to do so, as relationships and the home atmosphere will be much more peaceful when self-care needs are met. Baby will also sense the harmony and adapt more easily!
Some new parents worry about not doing enough for baby, not spending enough time to bond with baby. Actually, you don't have to do any special activities for healthy bonding. It starts from the daily care routines you do with baby! Those repetitive feeds, diaper changes and cuddles to sleep, they actually form the foundation for your special bond with baby and his social-emotional development. When you understand it this way, the mundane tasks become more meaningful.
Each time baby cries and you respond to his needs, he learns that he is worthy of care, his needs are being recognised and he can trust you to keep him safe. When you comfort baby and soothe his emotions, he will gradually learn to do bits of it for himself.
Even if you cannot "solve the problem" for him immediately, he's glad to know that you're there for him. His cries may continue, because it takes time for emotions to settle or because his system is not yet ready to handle the complexities of this environment. Just stay with him, and stay calm yourself. Each assurance from you adds to his sense of security, little by little, he will grow to be confident being by himself for short periods of time or being in the care of others when you are not available.
Much as responsive parenting is important in developing your baby's trust and emotional security, there is some allowance for human limitations. You don't have to aim for 100%, not even 90%. Research shows that as long as you try your best 70% of the time, your child will turn out fine. In fact, the 30% when you make mistakes or are simply too exhausted to do more, serve as opportunities for learning and growth - you and your baby both learn to cope with some delays and less-than-ideal outcomes, learn that lapses don't mean the end of the world, and reconnecting is possible after a disconnection.
We will continue to grow this page, showing you how the parent-child relationship develops over time.
Meanwhile, whatever difficulties you face, remember
"This too, shall pass!"
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