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Adjusting to Parenthood: A Guide for First Time Parents

Article By
Published On
15 Jun, 2023
Read Time
8 minutes

Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience that brings joy, love, and a whole new set of responsibilities. While it is an incredible journey, it can also be overwhelming and challenging.

Adjusting to life as a parent requires adapting to new routines, managing sleep deprivation, and finding a balance between caring for your new baby and taking care of yourself. In this blog post, we'll explore some practical tips and read advice from other parents to help you navigate the transition and thrive in your new role as a parent.

Becoming a parent

"The truth is, it���s hard to fathom just how much your lives will change. During those first few weeks when you bring your newborn home, you���re in this blissful yet extremely tired period where your whole life revolves around this little, tiny human." ��� Marina

During the postpartum period, many parents naturally feel highly emotional and unable to think clearly. You may feel snappier and more irritable, and these feelings can be heightened further by a lack of sleep and new parenting stresses that you've never experienced before.

Let's run through some tips for new parents who're adjusting to parenthood.

Get prepared

From baby clothes to feeding equipment and baby-proofing your home, there's a lot to think about when you're expecting a baby and it can overwhelming. It���s a good idea to buy what you're really going to need first, then any extras can be purchased when your little one has arrived.

It can help to ask your friends and family members about which newborn essentials they found most useful, and if you're worried about cost and caring for the planet, why not look into buying certain baby products second-hand? 

Establishing a routine

Settling into a comfortable newborn routine may take some time, and that's ok!

Babies thrive on routine, so establishing a schedule can be helpful for both you and your little one. This can include a regular feeding and sleeping schedule, as well as designated playtime and naptime. A routine can help you feel more in control and can provide a sense of structure to your day.

Feeding choices

Many new parents feel nervous about feeding their baby at first, and the process of getting into a steady feeding routine ��� whether you breast, bottle, or combination feed ��� often takes a little trial and error. How you choose to feed your little one is very much a personal choice that should be informed by what's best for you both.

Coping with crying

Your patience can be tested when your little one is unsettled. Each little one has a unique temperament, and many new parents find hearing their baby cry stressful, especially if they're suffering from colic.

Here are some things that might help settle a crying baby:

  • Taking a stroll or a car ride: Sometimes, a change of scenery or the gentle, soothing motion can help to calm a crying baby down.
  • Singing or talking: Your baby knows your voice and they like it! So hearing you talking in a gentle voice or softly singing something repetitive, like a nursery rhyme, may help to soothe them.
  • ���Rock-a-bye-baby���: Gently rocking your baby in your arms can be a really effective way of soothing them.

Excessive crying over time may lead you to have negative feelings toward your baby, this is a natural response to a stressful situation, but it's important to know that they don't make you a bad parent. It���s ok to walk away and take a breather if you've checked the baby is safe and the crying is getting to you.

If you feel like you can't cope, or you have feelings of harming your baby, you should reach out to a health professional for support.

Bonding with your baby 

Before they become a parent many people think that they'll bond with their baby instantly and automatically. But for many reasons, it may take days, weeks or even months before you develop a connection with your baby. This is common and doesn���t mean that you're not a ���good��� or ���natural��� parent.

"Becoming a new parent is pretty terrifying, and the connection to my baby didn���t come until about four weeks postpartum. I think this should be normalised and spoken about." ��� Emma.

"Dads need to know that it is quite common not to bond straight away. Being home looking after Michelle helped as I was able to do skin-to-skin, baby massage and play. These interactions boost dopamine and endorphins which help both dad's and baby's brain." ��� Mark.

If you're worried about your bond with your baby, you should seek professional help.

Mess around the house

The truth is, you need a lot of stuff to care for a new baby, and all new parents face the challenge of maintaining a clean and organised home. Having a messy house does not equate to being a bad parent or failing at parenthood. It���s so important to avoid comparison and remind yourself that what you see on social media is often an idealised version of reality.

If your house is a little more unorganised than it was before your baby arrived, that's just fine! You're likely prioritising your baby's needs, which is where your focus should be.

Some people can cope with a little clutter around the house, while others find it distracting and feel that they can't relax. If you���re the latter, try to organise just one area at a time or set aside 15 minutes at the end of the day for a quick tidy-up. And remember, don���t be afraid to ask for help.

"It���s not the time for your pride to get in the way and most of the time people are more than willing to help out new parents. Let them! Whatever your village looks like, use it." ��� Marina.

Body image

Changes in how you look and feel physically after birth may also impact your self-esteem, but it's important to resist pressure from 'perfect' parents and postpartum bodies that you may see on social media.

Self-care ��� whatever it looks like for you ��� and light exercise can help boost your confidence and mood. Try to eat well, get enough sleep, and take breaks when needed, while remembering that everyone is unique, and every journey is different. If you and your baby are healthy, that's all that matters.

"My body has changed since giving birth in lots of ways, and in terms of self-care, I���ve been on a bit of a journey. I am breastfeeding, so my boobs are bigger and very tender! I thought that I would have more stretchmarks, but they never came which actually disappointed me a little because I think they���re beautiful!

I am trying to get back into a light fitness regime by walking, stretching, and doing my pelvic floor exercises. I also try to eat well and keep hydrated." ��� Jessa

Juggling priorities

Managing everything that���s on your plate when you have a new baby can be overwhelming. It can help to prioritise and let go of some tasks temporarily. Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, break your to-do list down into smaller, manageable tasks.

Remember, it's okay if you don't get everything done at once. Try to be kind to yourself at every stage and celebrate every small win.

Relationship dynamics

Once you become a parent, you'll find that your relationships with others are constantly changing.

Whether it���s your relationship with your partner, wider family, or friends, remember to take things gradually and give yourself and others plenty of time to adjust to life with your tiny new arrival. Some plans may have to be put on hold and your social life may change, but you'll soon begin to see how everyone fits into the new picture.

"We are so lucky to have the support of our family to lean on if we need a break. Our relationships with our friends and family members have changed but for the better. We're closer than ever to our grandparents, and our siblings are so excited for us. Some of our friends have welcomed little ones at the same time as us and it's so lovely to share that experience with them." ��� Jessa and Jarryd.

Becoming a parent is also a great way to meet new people. Taking an NCT course or becoming a member of an online community or a local meet-up group like Peanut and MumsMeetUp can help you feel less isolated because you can bond and share how you're feeling with like-minded people who're going through the same things as you.

Managing advice for new parents from others

The endless advice you receive as soon as you announce your pregnancy can make you second-guess your abilities and question yourself.

The truth is, some advice will be helpful, and some won't be. It's best to trust yourself as the expert on your baby. You know them best of all! So give yourself time to learn as you go, and don't use the expectations of others to benchmark your idea of success.

"Throughout my life, I have heard people talk about how becoming a parent changed their life. They talked about the way it stole their freedom, how it gave them new unwanted lines on their foreheads and the envy that they have for the childless.

These throwaway comments and passing conversations seemed to paint a negative picture of what parenthood was and even though my maternal instincts were always strong (and never waned), that fear of losing my identity when the time came was real." ��� Rebecca.

Embracing the journey

It's easy to get caught up in the idea of being a perfect parent, but the truth is, there's no such thing.

Parenthood is a journey that���s full of ups and downs, and it's important to set realistic expectations for yourself and your baby while remembering that it's okay to make mistakes.

It can help to understand that parenthood is full of unexpected twists and turns, and your little one will grow and change quickly. When you're struggling, it can help to remind yourself that the hard times won't last forever and that you're doing a great job. 

Try to enjoy the journey and focus on the present moment, rather than striving for perfection.

Asking for help

Seeking support from others can be hard, and many new parents feel a sense of shame if they struggle to cope with their new baby. But the truth is, so many people find the adjustment difficult, and with the right support, you can thrive!

Even something as simple as speaking to a supportive and non-judgemental friend or family member or asking people to share the load of housework when they visit you and baby can lighten the load.

"The advice I'd give to expectant parents is, lean into your support circle. Voice what you need. Cooking, dishes, a nap? Voice it! On the flip side, if you don't want any visitors, say that too. You control the dynamics around you, so don't be afraid to be vocal about what you do and don't need. If people love you, they'll understand!" ��� Gianni.

If you feel that your mental health is being negatively impacted by new parenthood, you should always reach out to your GP or health visitor for support. They'll be able to help you and signpost you in the direction of local organisations that can get you back to feeling like yourself again.

If this content reminds you of your own experiences or makes you think of someone you know and you feel concerned or uncomfortable, please head to our support page for information about perinatal mental health resources that may be able to help.