When baby makes three (or more), moms need time to adjust to the change.
For moms with new babies out there, Mother's Day marks a special milestone, one they might prefer to celebrate with a long nap -- or several short ones -- rather than with a bouquet of flowers.
The first few weeks in the lives of new parents are a time of transition unlike anything they have ever experienced, often filled with questions, some uncertainty and, yes, more than a little fatigue.
"When a baby is born, couples become families and one relationship really becomes four," said Suzanne Swanson, coordinator of Pregnancy & Postpartum Support Minnesota, a group of mental health and perinatal practitioners and organizations.
"There is the couple relationship, their relationship with the baby, the relationship between mom and baby, as well as the one between dad and baby."
In other words, welcome to "the new normal." Swanson said first-time parents are often shocked by how much their lives change in such a short period of time.
"It's 24-7. Especially for new moms, even if the baby is asleep and everything is calm, the baby is always on her mind," she said.
Taking care of mom
Lisa Brown, family advocate at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, advises all new moms to do their best to set a window of "quiet time" during the first few days at home.
"Maybe it's from noon to 2 in the afternoon. During that time, don't invite anyone over to see the baby, don't take calls or do things around the house," she said. "Take some time to rest and reflect on your new role as a mother. Think about who you are now and what you have just done."
Many hospitals, including North Memorial, offer new mothers a home visit (frequently covered by health insurance) two or three days after they have been discharged.
"I always encourage parents to take advantage of that opportunity. We tend to load them up with so much information when they are here, but it's not until they get home with the baby that they really start to have questions," said Brown, adding that the biggest concerns are usually about feeding and sleeping.
If the new baby is joining a family with siblings, finding quiet time might be a little trickier, so that is the perfect way to enlist family or friends who have offered assistance.
While help with child care, meals or light housework is often appreciated by new parents, it is also frequently accompanied by a variety of well-meaning suggestions, perhaps not all of them welcome.
"I tell new parents to trust their own intuition and do what they think is right," Brown said. "The new mom has carried that baby for nine months, so she is already the expert on what is best."
Finding community as a new mother is also very important. "As you are adjusting to your role, it's going to be helpful if you know you're not in this alone," Swanson said.
There are multiple parenting groups available that are not only a helpful resource when it comes to education and information sharing, but also encourage the new mom to make connections with others.
Even in a haze of sleepless nights and growing piles of laundry, new mothers often find themselves "falling more deeply in love with the baby than they ever thought they would," Swanson said.
Julie Pfitzinger is a West St. Paul freelance writer. Have an idea for the Your Family page? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with "Your Family" in the subject line.
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