Here we look at what to expect after birth, including what you can do to deal with tiredness as well as advice on getting support from your partner and others.
After giving birth, looking after a baby is hard enough, but most new parents also have to think about household chores, returning to work or seeing friends and family – all the things they did before. You may also have older children who will need your attention and understanding as they come to terms with the new baby.
In the first few weeks, try to cut down everything to a minimum of just looking after your baby, while someone else shops for food, cooks and washes. If you stock up the cupboards or freezer when you’re pregnant in preparation for the first couple of weeks after you have given birth, you can relieve some undue stress.
Decide what is important to you, and try to ignore the rest. You may feel better if you make a list of things to tackle when life has settled down again – although this could be some time.
What you can do after giving birth
- Decide on your priorities – write them down and keep the list where you can see it.
- Set yourself realistic goals – they may be very limited at first.
- Keep a store of nappies and change of clothes in each room where your baby is during the day and night.
- Accept offers of help from visitors. Let them wash up or do the ironing. You don’t have to let them cuddle your baby while you do the chores.
- Putting your baby into a baby sling tied onto your front can help. Make sure you choose one that gives you and baby good support.
I'm so tired...
Most parents say they never realised how exhausting a tiny new baby can be. Going without sleep or having your sleep disrupted can be physically and emotionally draining and can cause anxiety after birth. And sometimes, it might feel like your baby just doesn’t want to sleep, despite everything you try. This can be particularly stressful if you are returning to work, and for partners who are working and trying to avoid having disturbed sleep.
It is important to keep in mind that his period of sleep disruption – however difficult and tiring – won’t last forever. If you have disturbed nights, getting through the day can feel like a hard slog. You could try the following:
- If you can, sleep during the day, when your baby does.
- Don’t worry about non-essential jobs around the house, and accept help from family and friends when it’s offered – or just ask them.
- Take extra care of yourself in the daytime with nourishing food, gentle exercise and as much rest as possible.
- If you are finding it difficult to sleep when your baby sleeps even though you feel exhausted, talk to your health visitor or GP, as it could be an indication of postnatal depression.
One way to get more rest is to co-sleep with your baby in bed for part of the night or during the day. This way it is possible to let your baby breastfeed while you doze or sleep. There are guidelines on how to co-sleep with your baby.
Also read our article on Coping with tiredness for more support and information.
Partner's support after birth
The early days are hard for partners too. Although they can provide essential support by cuddling baby, providing food, cleaning up and keeping visitors under control, they may feel overwhelmed by the changes, sidelined and left out sometimes.
Keep talking to each other about how you’re feeling and that will help you understand each other better and what you need in those early days.
If you don’t have a partner who can offer support, don’t be afraid to turn to friends and family to lend a hand. Find a good friend who is also a parent to talk to regularly and share your highs and lows.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Home-Start has a parent-helper visiting scheme along with a helpline: 08000 68 63 68, 8am-8pm, Mon-Fri and 9am-12pm Sat.
Healthtalkonline.org has a comprehensive library of face-to-face interviews where parents share their experiences about breastfeeding, birth, parenting and many other issues