Stress and the First Year of Parenthood

        The first year of parenthood is a memorable time.  You’re getting to know your baby and becoming acclimated to your role as a parent.  You learn how to feed your baby, how to clothe him or her, and even how to medicate your baby.  Every few weeks, you check with your pediatrician’s office to chart your baby’s growth.  It is, in fact, an incredible period of growth for both you and your baby.

       However, there is also a great deal of stress associated with new parenthood.  You often have to toss aside your pre-conceived notions as you actually experience motherhood or fatherhood.  You may be stressed out by the endless diapers and mounting piles of laundry…by the constant feedings…and by your newborn’s continual crying.  At times, you may even wonder whether you’re really cut out for parenthood.

       The important thing to remember is that every new parent feels stress.  It is, in fact, part of the job.  And the stress will continue once your child is in school, once your child becomes a teenager, and once your child starts college.  In essence, the moment your baby is born begins a lifetime of stress for you and your mate.

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       How can you best combat new baby-stress?  Recognizing the amount of stress you’re under is an important first step.  Many new parents become frustrated and irritable, never realizing that they are simply reacting to stress.  Given the fact that new parents often get little sleep, the stress can be easily compounded.

       Once you recognize your stress, it is important to engage in some stress relief.  For many parents, this will mean calling Grandma and Grandpa to take over during the rough times.  Just a few hours away from your baby can help you to re-charge your batteries, enabling you to improve your coping skills.  It can be particularly helpful if you and your mate arrange a date night while your baby is with the grandparents.  This couple time can be extremely relaxing and beneficial for your relationship.

         A simple technique you can use is to play lullabies—not just for your baby, but for yourself as well.  There is something so soothing about a pleasant lullaby—it can take a great deal of the tension away.  Singing with your baby can also help to cement the bond between you and can help to eliminate stress.   You might even try dancing with your baby—the best dances include both parents!  Taking the time to relax with your baby can help to reduce the tension you feel.

       Books can be another helpful resource.  There are a number of books on the market that tell you what to expect during your baby’s first year.  For instance, many offer doctor’s recommendations on when it is necessary to call the pediatrician, and when a home remedy will work just as well.  Reading such “baby how-to” books can take a great deal of the stress out of first year parenting.

       Arranging play dates for your baby can also be quite therapeutic.  In some cases, you might be able to drop your baby off at a friend’s house while you do your shopping, cleaning, or other chores.  In other cases, arranging a play date offers you the opportunity to get together with other mothers and fathers who share similar stresses.  Just talking with other parents might help to ease your worries tremendously.

       Another tried-and-true formula for dealing with new baby stress is to put the baby in a stroller and start walking.  Just a short walk around the block can help to clear your head, helping you to better deal with the demands of new parenthood.  You might even enlist a friend to walk with you.  Some mothers and fathers even buy special jogging strollers so that they can run while their babies roll along.  Such exercise can be quite relaxing, especially after a hard day around the play pen.

        Your new baby should be the light of your life.  Therefore, you shouldn’t let stress ruin your relationship.  By employing some simple coping strategies, you can learn to love your new life—despite all the stresses involved.  You’ll wake up each day refreshed, and ready to take on the day’s challenges.           

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