Baby-Proof Your Sanity: 6 Parenting Tips
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
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
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."
3. Take Personal Time
Quality time away from your child is just as important as quality time with
your child, says Jerrold Lee Shapiro, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and
chairman of the department of counseling psychology at Santa Clara University.
"You have to nurture yourself so you're not running on fumes," he tells
WebMD. What qualifies as quality time? "Working out, walking, reading a
book, sitting down with a close friend... It can be almost anything that relaxes
and centers you, and takes you away from the immediacy of someone else's
Psychologist Arthur Kovacs, PhD, stresses that your own needs don't
disappear when you have a baby. "Every human has three critical needs --
solitude, human warmth and companionship, and the need to feel productive, that
one is making use of one's talents. If you're a conscientious parent, you may
forget about this. But it's important to spend at least a few hours a week on
something other than changing diapers."