When my baby was three weeks old, we went away for one night. The car was so full of stuff, there was barely room for the baby. We weren’t even going camping, but to a house. Why is it that the size of the infant is in inverse proportion to the amount of equipment it seems to need?
The answer is that it doesn’t need all those things. Here are five ways to reduce the amount of baggage, both actual and mental, of new mother overload.
Life with a newborn
1. When you are expecting a baby, you will be swamped with advice from baby books, health professionals, family and friends as to what you need to purchase for your new arrival. There is a place for this, but remember to trust your instincts - you know if a room is too hot or cold by standing in it, a thermometer will only make you anxious. Also, a baby doesn’t care what it is wearing. Accept all the second hand stuff you can and don’t purchase cute little outfits that will be covered in “everything” within the day.
2. Don’t worry about the housework. If it gets a bit dirty and cluttered, then so what? When your baby rests, so should you. The mess can wait. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to keep everything looking neat and tidy. Accept offers of help and food. If at all possible, arrange for a cleaner to come, even just as a one-off to help you get on top of it. You want to look back and remember all the sweet moments you had when your baby was the tiniest it will ever be, not how clean your bathroom was – it’s not that important!
3. When you’re feeling exhausted and emotional you might make the mistake of going on Facebook or Instagram and see pictures of ‘perfect mothers and babies’. Put. The. Phone. Down. What you didn’t see, but certainly happened, is the same mothers looking an exhausted wreck with a screaming infant. Shut off the online world when you can, it will still be there when you’re ready for it.
4. Often your mind will struggle to shut down because of all the worries that come with being a new mum. This is made a hundred times worse because you won’t have slept properly in ages. Have a notebook (or several) placed in strategic places around the house. When you think of something that needs doing, or you have a worry, write it down. It will be released from the whirlwind in your head and you will feel less overwhelmed. Or if you prefer, create a note in your phone which you can text or email to your partner or family to help with easing the pressure.
5. Everyone has an opinion on how your child should be raised. You can (hopefully) block out advice from acquaintances and random strangers, but it’s harder if it’s your own family or mother-in-law chipping in. However, this is YOUR baby, not theirs. Someone I met silenced her mother’s fretting about bacteria on cutlery by saying she chewed the food and passed it to her baby’s mouth. You don’t need to be that extreme, but a simple, ‘Thanks, I’ll think about that’, should ward off most interferers.
But if you feel completely overloaded or just not quite right, reach out to your doctor or midwife and voice your concerns to friends and family as well.