October 2018

Adjusting to Parenthood: Ask Nicole October 2018

Nicole M. Young MSW

When my son was a newborn, I remember feeling frustrated that I couldn’t make sense of his eating and sleeping patterns – because there were no patterns yet. I couldn’t tell if he was crying because he was tired, hungry, wet, or had gas. Every time I tried to take a nap while he was sleeping, he woke up as soon as my head touched the pillow. When my daughter was a newborn, she was colicky and could only be soothed if we wrapped her tightly in a blanket and turned on the vacuum cleaner – even in the middle of the night. I longed for some peace and predictability in our daily lives. Now that my kids are older and more independent, I long for the days when they were small enough to hold in my arms.

This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is helping raise children, based on the world- renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question or idea for a future column, email me at [email protected]

Dear Nicole,
I had my first baby a month ago. I thought I’d be excited about becoming a parent, but so far, I’ve mostly felt sad, lonely, and overwhelmed. Everyone tells me to enjoy my baby while he’s little because kids grow up quickly, but I have a hard time handling the constant feeding, crying, and dirty diapers. I can’t go anywhere or do things I used to enjoy, and it makes me wish I had my old life back. Do you have any suggestions for me?

– Magda

Dear Magda,
I’m so glad you asked this question. Having a baby can be a joyful and stressful experience for many parents. Even when expectant parents feel prepared to have a baby, the reality of frequent crying, diaper changes, and sleepless nights is often overwhelming. For first-time parents, it’s especially hard to understand how much life will change after having a baby until it happens. Here are some tips to try:

Take Care Of Yourself

Remember that taking care of your own needs is not selfish or a sign of weakness. In fact, taking care of yourself will help you be physically and emotionally ready to face each day and care for your baby. If you have a partner, close friends, or supportive family members nearby, ask them for their help with housework, grocery shopping, preparing meals, or watching the baby so you can have some time to yourself. If you feel yourself getting stressed and can’t find anyone to give you a break in that moment, take some deep breaths and tell yourself positive thoughts, such as, “I’m doing the best I can. I will get through this.”

Develop Daily Routines

When babies are very young, parents’ everyday lives revolve around meeting their infants’ needs. In the beginning, it can be difficult for new parents to understand their babies’ cries or to predict when and how long their babies will sleep or stay dry be- tween diaper changes. If this sounds familiar, try keeping track of your baby’s activities for a while. Notice when he cries and what calms him down (feeding, sleeping, being held or rocked, new diaper), when he sleeps and for how long, and how he responds to hearing you talk, read or sing to him. After a while, you’re likely to notice patterns that will help you create daily routines for feeding, sleeping, diaper changes, and playtime. The predictability of these routines will make everyday life easier for you and your baby.

Talk to Someone About Your Feelings

It’s common to feel sad, lonely, anxious, or overwhelmed after having a baby. Sometimes, talking to someone who will listen without judging is all that parents need. Other times, parents feel so sad, lonely, anxious, or overwhelmed that they have a hard time getting out of bed, leaving the house, or getting through the day. If this sounds familiar, talk to your health care provider so that you can be connected to a counselor or other professional who can provide support and services that will be most helpful to you.

Final Thoughts

It takes time to adjust to parenthood. If you’re feeling sad, lonely, anxious, or overwhelmed, reach out to someone who can offer practical help and emotional support. If you know someone who’s experiencing these feelings, take time to listen and find out how you can help. We could all use more kindness in our lives, even if we’re no longer raising newborns.

Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 14 and 18, who also manages Santa Cruz County’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, the world’s leading positive parenting program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit http://triplep.first5scc.org, www.facebook.com/triplepscc or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or [email protected].

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