The best Christmas gift ever? My son, Nash, who was born a few months ago on Christmas Day. Immediately, my world was rocked. Mostly, of course, in a good way; my love for Nash is unexpectedly beautiful and boundless. But at the same time, I found myself tackling the most difficult job I’d ever had. Even though other parents had told me how hard those first few weeks would be, nothing can prepare a new parent for the sleepless nights, seemingly endless crying, and lack of time for self-care.
Now that Nash is three and a half months old, I love being a mom. He laughs at me and his dad, sleeps most of the night, and is developing his own personality. But just a few weeks ago, parenting was not so joyous. Here are some tips for new parents to get through those rough first weeks of parenthood:
- Accept and ask for help. When family, friends, church members, and neighbors offer to help, tell them what you need. Others can wash the dishes, walk the dog, and empty the dryer. Keep a running list of the chores you need help with and the food you’d like to appear in your fridge. That way when someone comes to visit, you can easily tell them how they can help you.
- Learn what is “normal” for babies. My son cried every evening for weeks, and I was so frustrated because I thought I was doing something wrong. I mentioned this to a parent group facilitator, and when she explained that many babies do the same thing, I felt so much better. The HANDS program is a great resource to help you understand what to expect, both before your baby is born and after.
- Connect with other new parents. Find a parent group in your area—local retailers and hospitals are good places to start—or reach out to friends who have recently had babies. I found it helpful to talk about my experiences with other moms who were going through the same thing because we could share tips, resources, and empathy. These connections also help to prevent postpartum depression.
- Give yourself a break. More than once I had to lay my inconsolable baby in his crib and leave the room for a few minutes because I was so frustrated. That’s a safe approach when you’re home alone with your baby. If you need time away from your baby and don’t have a partner at home, ask someone you trust to care for her so that you can recharge.
The first line of prevention against child abuse is making sure parents and caregivers have the support they need to care for children, and all new parents need help. Most parents do not intend to hurt their child, but sleep deprivation, frustration, and lack of support can lead to unexpected behaviors. Do you know parents who have just had a baby? Drop off a meal, stop by and unload their dishwasher, or offer to give them a break. Friends and family members who are helping new parents can communicate and tag team tasks to make it run smoothly for everyone.
Keeping kids safe is up to all of us. And as a new mom, I am grateful for everyone who has stepped up to be part of Nash’s village.
Visit the Kosair Charities® Face It® Movement resource page for more child abuse prevention resources for parents, youth, professionals, and community members.