Most new parents say they can’t believe how utterly exhausted they feel once they start looking after a new baby. It really is a life-changing experience. That is enough to get used to, but on top of it all you’re probably not getting much sleep.
Sheer exhaustion can make it harder to cope, especially when things aren’t going exactly as you planned or hoped, but it’s important to remember that this is normal and it will pass. If it doesn’t, talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP.
Getting a good night’s sleep
A full night’s sleep is one of the things that many new parents miss most after their baby is born. Newborn babies only sleep for a few hours at a time and it’s normal for them to need to be fed during the night.
It’s not realistic to expect your baby to sleep several times a day and wake only for feeds and to smile and coo. Some babies may behave like this, but most don’t. As long as you understand this, you can prepare for it – and look forward to the time when she sleeps through the night.
Don’t forget yourself
When you can, take time to have a relaxing bath before bed. Ask your partner, or a friend to take over for an hour. You might still only get four hours’ sleep before you’re up for another feed, but at least you’ve had a little ‘me time’. If you find yourself getting really tired, try and have a little nap during the day when your baby does.
It’s important to build some form of exercise into your day. Try to do it gradually at first by getting into the habit of taking your baby out in the pram, buggy or sling at least once a day.
Take the stairs, not the lift and walk to the shops instead of getting in the car. It’s good exercise for you and gets you out of the house. A change of scene can often calm your baby if she is crying and will help you feel better too. Going for walks together can help develop a close bond.
Aim to gradually build up to 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. Brisk walking, swimming and playing with your baby are ideal and will help give you more energy.
If you were quite fit before giving birth, then you’ll want to know how long to wait before exercising again. There’s no hard and fast rule. You will need to wait until the discharge (lochia) has stopped before going swimming. Or wait until your stitches have gone before attempting a high impact fitness class. But you’ll probably know yourself.