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25 Ways to Handle the Stress of a New Baby

Bring some calm to the chaos with first-year survivor strategies that work.
By Suzanne Wright
WebMD Feature

Jen Singer, author of You're a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren't So Bad Either) andcreator of MommaSaid.net, isn't particularly fond of babies. "That's because both of my sons' first years were the most stressful for me," she says.  "They were colicky, one had reflux, and neither one slept through the night for a whole year."

Tammy Gold understands Singer's sentiments. Gold is a New York-based psychotherapist and a certified parenting coach and mother. She launched Gold Parent coaching in November 2007 to help distraught parents like Singer. "There are nannies, doulas, and lactation specialists," she says, "but no service helps parents with this gigantic change.  Everybody's learning, everybody's struggling."

"It's not just the actual time and effort involved in caring for this tiny creature that makes it so tough to find time for yourself," says psychologist and mom Pamela Freundl Kirst. "There's also an instinctually based psychological drive called primary maternal occupation that focuses your life on the relationship with your infant. Appreciating this can help you find ways to nurture and care for yourself directly."

Making the Transition

One minute, you’re child-free, and the next your life is 12 diapers a day, cuddles, cries, coos, and a fuzzy memory of what life was like BB -- Before Baby. It might be a shock to the system, but having a few basic guidelines can help ease your mind.

1. Establish a Parental Plan

Gold recommends parents discuss how they will address a wide range of issues. How are you going to handle visiting in-laws? Who's going to get up in the middle of the night? And how does each of you feel about letting a baby cry?

"Once you get on the same page physically, emotionally, and philosophically," Gold says, "things will be smoother." But, she says, "you must do it before chronic sleep deprivation and physical and emotional exhaustion set in."

2. Postpone Energy-Draining Projects

"I would warn that extreme demands like marathon training should be put on hold by both parents until after the baby's first year," one mom, who requested anonymity, says.

"The combination of new baby and his training schedule did not mix well. I did a lot of single parenting, felt lost as a new mom, and had no time for taking care of my own exercise needs post-pregnancy. It takes time to adjust. And if that adjustment is not a team effort, it can cause tension that will impact the whole family for years to come."

3. Plan for Baby's Arrival -- Now

Before the baby is born, create a schedule of day care drop-offs and pick-ups, planned down time, and date nights. "It sets the pattern for the next 18 years of schedule juggling," one mom says.

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Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

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