Tips for when youre feeling overwhelmed

When you bring your baby home, there will probably be times when you feel exhausted, stressed or overwhelmed. One of the most important ways to minimize stress is to take good care of yourself by continuing to eat as well as you did throughout your pregnancy, drinking plenty of fluids, staying physically active and getting as much rest as you possibly can.

In addition, the following suggestions can help you survive the postpartum period:

• Get help. Accept offers of help from friends and family members, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Keep a list of jobs that need to be done so that you'll have a specific task for someone who offers to help. Most people are glad to help out with cooking, housework, errands or watching the baby while you run errands. Many communities have services for new mothers. Check with your hospital nurse, with your local health department or in the Yellow Pages.

• Get out of the house. Being housebound with a crying newborn day after day can make anyone stir-crazy. Take your baby out for a walk or find someone to watch the baby for a few hours while you get out. Consider swapping child care with other new moms or joining a child-care cooperative.

• Simplify. Keeping the house clean doesn't have to be your priority right now. Getting enough rest and taking care of your baby are more important than having a spotless house. Accept some clutter in your life. During mealtimes, use shortcuts such as paper plates, frozen dinners or takeout foods. Don't feel guilty for bowing out of some commitments or turning down others.

• Avoid guilt. Many moms seem to be experts at feeling guilty. Remember that you can only do your best. There's no such thing as the perfect parent or the perfect child. Learn from any mistakes and try to do better next time.

• Establish some routines. Even though your baby's eating and sleeping patterns will change frequently during the first year, try to find ways to adapt your life to his or her daily routine. Try to have your baby eat and sleep at the same times every day.

• Take time to nurture yourself. It's easy to get caught up in the never-ending demands of baby care, but you'll be better able to meet those demands if you arrange to have at least a few hours to yourself every week. Make an arrangement with your partner, a friend or a relative to watch the baby while you pursue one of your own interests, have lunch with a friend or go on a special outing. In addition, try to do something you enjoy every day. For example, go for a walk, read a book, write, draw or listen to music. Treat yourself to a massage or bath. Talk with people you find uplifting.

• Take time to nurture your relationship or marriage. Find ways to spend time together both with and without the baby. See "Nurturing your relationship" on page 266.

• Share your feelings. Talk about all of your feelings — including feelings of anger, frustration and sadness — with someone you trust. Be sure to keep communicating with your partner.

• Connect with other parents. Make friends with other parents. Keep in touch with the people you met at prenatal class, or take a parenting class at a local school, child-care center, community center, health clinic, hospital or house of worship. You could also join a support group with other mothers and new babies or participate in an online bulletin board or mailing list for women who gave birth the same month you did.

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