Planning around becoming a new parent is an exciting but scary rollercoaster of emotions. When we are faced with the unknown, we can often find ourselves trying to find ways of feeling in control. For me this looked like buying every item listed in articles on ‘what you need for your new baby,’ most of which I never used. However, by doing this it helped me feel a sense of being in control. However, once bub arrived, I realised very quickly that I hadn’t packed anywhere near the number of nappies and newborn suits needed. But you know what, there was an abundance of people around me happy to go out and purchase more of these items for me. (I think I thought I wasn’t going to get to the shop for months and was reluctant to ask for help, a lesson I leant about quickly).
Plan to not have a plan! This coming from a control freak professional. However, it became my mantra during my pregnancy when I felt bombarded by do’s and don’ts from well meaning people. I am someone who has always had high expectations, and I knew that when it came to the birth and becoming a parent, I would have to let go of whatever expectations and need for control I was clutching to. I also knew that this went against every grain of my being! This mantra was hugely helpful for me, as I ended up having an emergency C section. I was surprisingly calm and felt very safe in the hands of the medical staff, and I truly think it was because I had adopted this mantra. It was freeing and helped me to trust that myself and bubs were in the best hands.
Listen to your gut instinct. Intuition is something that is always there inside of us if we are prepared to be still and quiet and trust ourselves. Becoming a new parent brings with it lots of changes, including our identity, which in turn can leave us questioning ourselves and our gut instinct. It’s obviously important to listen to the experts and seek help where necessary; but know that you too are an expert of your own child and your experiences.
Let your baby be your teacher: We are bombarded with so much information, often conflicting about how we should parent: from sleep, feeding, play, milestones etc, that we can get so caught up in the ‘shoulds and shouldnt’s’, that we can miss out on the precious gift of being in the moment with our little ones.
It is absolutely okay to say no to people and put boundaries in place, including family members when your bub arrives. I strongly encourage couples to talk about this before bubs arrives. You don’t know how you will be feeling after the birth. As much as this is a precious and beautiful time, it’s also a rollercoaster of emotions and very real ‘baby blues,’ You may find yourself feeling teary and overwhelmed and wanting to cocoon yourself from the world those first few days or weeks, and that’s absolutely okay. Discussing this with your partner before the birth, can ensure that you are both on the same page. There will be plenty of time for family and friends to meet bub. This is a huge life stage transition; and putting boundaries in that work for your new little family is absolutely okay.
Whether that be through a mother’s group, friendship group etc. If this is not available to you and you are feeling isolated ask for help. We tend to talk about all the wonderful things about becoming a parent, which of course there are many, however it is also a huge adjustment, and this can land as pressure for some new parents. There are lots of specialist supports out there, a good place to start is having a conversation with your GP or MCHN if you have any questions or concerns. Know that you don’t have to do this on your own and that it takes a community to raise a child.
Put your own oxygen mask on first! You’ve probably heard this saying before. It’s a great analogy for how we think of self-care. Babies and children tend to be happy and thrive when their parents are happy and healthy. Prioritising your own self care is not selfish, its essential. Creating some time for things that bring you joy, and that help you reconnect to yourself will translate in you feeling more emotionally available for you baby and family.
You’re the only toy your baby needs. Sometimes less is more. Babies only need a few toys at a time to play with, and you are the most important when it comes to teaching them things like attachment, safety and predictability.
Babies can get overwhelmed by sensory overload quite easily. We can have the best intention with play and toys; however, babies have very small windows in which they are able to focus and engage, small bursts are much more effective. Read your baby’s cues; if they are turning their gaze away and becoming grizzly it’s likely they have had enough of the play and may be becoming overstimulated or tired.
There is sooo much information on sleep out there. This can be daunting and can set us up to feel that our bubs are not doing what they should. It is very normal for young babies to wake every few hours. If we think about our own sleep, it’s common for most of us to stir throughout the night, so the idea of babies sleeping through the night is often quite unrealistic. Young babies are not able to self soothe, and they need their caregivers to help with co regulation, so it is normal for babies to need us, whether that be for a feed for hunger or comfort, as this helps them to self soothe. This can be exhausting. Ensuring you have regular healthy snacks and resting when you can, can help with this. Taking turns with your partner to allow you both to get some much needed sleep or getting a friend or family member to watch bubs whilst you catch up on some shut eye is probably the best way of helping new parents out!
Regressions will happen, such as sleep. It will likely feel like it will never end. However, all things do pass. Just when you feel like you’ve mastered one stage, you may feel like your bub has moved onto another developmental stage such as teething etc.
Singing is great for so many reasons, developmentally and emotionally. It helps to regulate mood, reduce stress, and can help regulate the immune system. Research suggests that singing to your bub whist they are still in the womb can have positive impacts on how they respond to lullabies and settling after they are born.
I know this sounds obvious, but sometimes the simplest things are the hardest yet the most effective. Slow deep belly breathing can help calm our amygdala and nervous system which looks like going from feeling out of control and overwhelmed, to knowing that you will be okay and that all difficult things will pass. Modelling this for your baby will help with the wiring of their brain and assist with co regulation. Our babies mirror us and our behaviour.
Walk, dance, basically move any way that feels good to you. ‘’Baby wearing’’ can be a great way for you both to reap the benefits of physical movement; it stimulates release of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals which play an important role in regulating mood. Research has also suggested that babies tend to sleep better at night after spending time outdoors.
Elsha Young is one of Australia’s leading family therapists, mum and co-owner/founder of The Peninsula Nest a brand-new hub and wellness centre for mums on the Mornington Peninsula.
With more than a decade in the industry, Elsha’s aim is to advocate and help children and families heal from trauma, and to empower them to make positive changes in their lives.
Highly respected in the industry, Elsha currently holds the following qualifications:
- Masters in Clinical Family Therapy (Bouverie Centre Latrobe Uni)
- Certified in Synergetic Play Therapy (Synergetic Play Therapy Institute)
- Diploma Community Services Alcohol and Other Drugs (Holmesglen)
- Post Graduate in Child and Family Practice (Latrobe Uni).
Her background includes youth homelessness-crisis work, senior child protection work, family therapy for adolescents who use violence towards their parents/carers and siblings, senior child trauma counselling, group facilitator, trainer on various child trauma/family violence workshops for professionals.
While running The Nest, Elsha also works in private practice and for an early intervention service.
Elsha lives on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula with her husband and is mum to a sweet little boy.
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