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Health & Baby

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Baby-Proof Your Sanity: 6 Parenting Tips

By Sherry Rauh
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sleep deprivation combined with the constant demands of caring for a baby can test your limits. The challenges of having a new baby can take their toll, but while you are focusing on your bundle of joy, don't forget to take care of yourself.

1. Take Care of Your Health

"The health of a family depends on the health of the mother," says Elizabeth Stein, CNM, who has a private practice in New York called Ask Your Midwife, PC. She recommends following up on any conditions identified during pregnancy, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and focusing on good nutrition rather than weight loss. "I remind new moms that it took 40 weeks to gain 40 pounds, so she should give herself that long to lose it."

Sharon Wishner, a single mother with a 4-month-old son, says taking care of herself was tougher than she expected during her first few weeks as a new mom. "You know you need to eat because you need the strength, but I was so tired that I didn't have an appetite," she tells WebMD. "You think, 'Should I go to sleep or should I eat?' I didn't think about showering or dressing. My choice was whether to eat or sleep."

2. Tag-Team to Get Some Sleep

Chronic sleep deprivation doesn't only lead to exhaustion, but it can also interfere with your memory, your mood, your concentration, and your ability to cope with your new responsibilities. It can also make you more susceptible to illness.

While some degree of sleep deprivation is usually a fact of life for new parents, there are strategies for maximizing your shut-eye. "One of the most common mistakes young couples make is they both get up with the baby," Chamberlain tells WebMD. She says parents are better off dividing the night into shifts. "They should take turns. One should stay up and one should sleep. The one who is up should take the baby to a totally different part of the house if necessary."

Of course, tag-teaming isn't usually an option for single parents. "The first six weeks were pretty tough," Wishner says. "It was just me and my baby." Luckily, her son, Shane, started sleeping through the night at 11 weeks. Until then, "I just tried to sleep whenever he slept."

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