Making the change from being a couple to having a baby can be exciting and exhilarating. It can also be scary and exhausting. It is common for a lot of parents to deal with mental and physical exhaustion in the months prior to welcoming a baby and immediately after the baby arrives. Sadly, if there is poor communication between them, this often strains a lot of relationships, making it harder to transition into parenthood.
The good news is that it does not have to be so. When you properly prepare for the transition, a baby can actually bring you closer as a family. Here is a look at some of the most common issues new parents deal with and what you can do to avoid them:
1. Dealing with postpartum depression
Having a baby is a wonderful and exciting experience, but it’s not uncommon to experience both negative and positive emotions after birth. For example, you and your partner might feel overwhelmed and stressed as you learn how to look after your bundle of joy with very little sleep.
However, postpartum depression is more than tiredness or stress. It lasts longer than two weeks and gets in the way of daily life. If this is the case, it’s important to get professional advice. Postpartum depression can be extremely difficult to deal with without professional help. It’s important to seek professional support early on for quicker recovery. There are many services and people who can help with postpartum depression, including your GP, local mental health services, your obstetrician or midwife, and your local community health center.
It’s also useful to be supportive as a partner. Some of the ways you can provide your partner with emotional support when they’re dealing with postpartum depression include:
- Reassure her that things will get better
- Acknowledge that she feels down and show appreciation for all that she’s doing
- Talk with your partner about her feelings and listen to what she has to say
- Let her know that it’s okay to make mistakes
- Encourage the effort she put in towards taking care of your little one
2. Managing domestic duties
Before you had your little one, there were still dirty dishes, laundry, and other soul-sucking household tasks that needed to be done. However, you didn’t have a newborn who needed your undivided attention, and now you and your partner both feel like the other is not doing enough to help out with domestic duties.
Many couples fall into a tit-for-tat system in an effort to deal with this, where if one person vacuumed, for example, the other person is expected to do the dishes. As long as things get done, this system may not be so bad, but it might lead you to start keeping score and cause resentment to build up over time.
One way to alleviate tension is to post a list of daily tasks on the fridge and switch responsibilities each week. That way, everyone will be aware of what he/she is expected to do. It might also be helpful to thank each other after completing tasks – after all, niceties breed a less argumentative atmosphere!
3. Sex life after having a baby
Of course, you love your partner, but sex often becomes less of a priority once you have a baby. It’s tempting to let your sex life take a backseat after having your little one. However, sex is an important part of most relationships as it’s a way to bond and reaffirm your sense of intimacy with one another.
You may have a hard time finding the energy to have sex after giving birth. This is completely normal. That said, intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean intercourse. Sometimes, it can simply mean being tactile and close with your significant other, without having to lead any further.
You may also find it difficult to make time for intimacy. Consider planning time for having sex with your partner. It might be helpful to get a sitter and flirt a little to get in the mood.
4. Different approaches to parenting
Before you had your little one, you might have thought that you and your partner share child-rearing philosophies, but it’s often impossible to predict how you’ll feel about food, sleep, and discipline until you experience parenting.
You may discover that while you favor a sleep-training tactic that allows your child to self-soothe, your significant other can’t stand crying for any amount of time. You may also find that your approaches to parenting clash as you set up play stations rather than have toys lying all over the house, while your partner gets on the floor and plays where your child happens to be.
For issues such as sleep, consider looking at parenting articles and books together and then discussing what’s the best fit for you. For certain concerns – such as when to introduce solids – the best thing to do is follow set guidelines. It might also be helpful to discuss any issues you might be having with your pediatrician to learn what’s recommended.
5. Spending time together as a couple
With so much less time spent as a twosome, it can be helpful to plan ahead. An important part of maintaining a healthy and strong relationship is to make time to have fun together – so it might be a good idea to put aside some time to do exactly that. Try planning date nights – where you go out and do something as a couple – to spend quality time together and build a bit of variety into your schedule.
However, if you’re feeling totally exhausted, there’s no obligation to go out. Sometimes a date night can simply mean getting a friend or relative to look after your little one as you and your significant other choose to stay in and watch movies.
6. Dealing with sleep deprivation
Most couples have a hard time getting enough sleep in the first couple of months after having a baby. As you may know, less sleep means less energy and more crankiness. It’s of utmost importance that you treat the issue of sleep (or lack thereof) as a team. Have a plan for what you’re going to do when the baby wakes up every few hours at night. The most ideal solution may be to take turns to feed the baby and put him/her back to sleep. A useful technique that many parents swear by is to sleep when the baby is sleeping. This can take some getting used to, but you may find yourself becoming quite an expert at nodding off at a moment’s notice. Another helpful tip is to get some friends or family members who could take over baby duty to allow you to get some shuteye.
Being a new parent is not easy. The truth is, you’ll get mad at each other, argue, fight, and make mistakes along the way. That’s completely normal. However, you can also choose to be kind to each other and to support each other. Doing this will strengthen both you and your partner and you will become better parents because of it.