As a new parent, you likely have all these hopes and dreams for your baby. You hope your baby will be healthy and safe. You dream about the day she’ll walk and eventually take the stage as a prima ballerina. But what about yourself?
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your child’s life and helping her achieve developmental milestones and other baby goals, but you should also have parenting goals and objectives for yourself; such as, parenting goals for being a new parent and for developing a healthy relationship with your baby.
1. Trust Your Instincts.
What does that cry mean? Should his poop be that color? What body wash should I use? As a new parent, you often wonder if you’re doing everything right. You may even start second-guessing yourself if your baby cries, spits up after a feeding or doesn’t like sleeping on his own right away. Guess what? Babies cry, spit up and love being held, especially during their first few months of life. You have to learn to trust your parenting instincts. Because once your baby is born, your senses are heightened. You are more aware of your surroundings, as well as all those newborn sounds and movements. Your desire to take care of and protect your baby increases. So while it’s normal to question if you’re doing things right and ask your pediatrician, family and friends questions, remember you should also trust your parenting instincts. Your experience as a new parent will soon teach you nearly everything you need to know about your baby.
2. Take Time to Find a Rhythm.
When your baby is born, you’re on her schedule; except, she doesn’t have a good schedule figured out yet. Your life at first revolves around feeding her when she’s hungry, changing her diaper whenever it needs to be changed and letting her sleep when and wherever she falls asleep. That first week, or that first month or two even, can feel like utter chaos. But after some time, you and your baby will find a good rhythm. To help, make note of when your baby eats, sleeps, wets and dirties her diaper. You’ll start to notice a pattern (as well as changes) of when things normally happen, how long they last, how long she goes in between feedings and diaper changes, etc. This will help you get in a good daily routine and better plan doctor’s appointments, grocery store visits, when to have people over, when to work, etc. Just keep in mind that it’s going to take time to figure out a schedule. It could be a few weeks or a few months. But the sleepless chaos will pass!
3. Build a Healthy Connection With Your Baby.
Obviously, you’ll spend a lot of time with your new baby. He depends on you for basically everything right now. But is the time you spend with him quality time? When you’re together, are you focused on him or distracted? Is the TV always on or are you on your phone? I don’t say this to make you feel guilty. It’s fine to watch a little TV or see what your friends are up to on Instagram stories. But it’s important to make sure you have healthy connections with your baby throughout the day. Skin to skin is a wonderful way to bond with your newborn. Feeding time is another great bonding time. There’s something so sweet, even magical, about making eye contact with your baby while feeding him.
4. Reset Some of Your Expectations.
Thinking about life with a baby can be a very different picture than what your life as a new parent is really like. Your baby may not sleep through the night at 6 weeks old. You may not be able to breastfeed. Your baby may cry when you’re at the store. You may not fit into your favorite pair of jeans two months after giving birth. Overly optimistic, unrealistic expectations or saying something like, “My sister’s baby didn’t do this!” can cause unnecessary stress, anxiety and guilt in your life. It can even make you feel anger or resentment toward your baby. There’s no such thing as perfect babies or perfect parents. There is such a thing as reality, and when you choose to focus on your reality and what you can do to be a good parent, you’ll enjoy parenthood more.
5. Learn to Love Your New Mom Bod.
This one is just a mom goal. Pregnancy and childbirth take a toll on your body. It may be weeks or months before you feel like or are able to exercise. And while you may never get your pre-baby body back, you can feel like your old self again. You simply have to try getting back into shape once your doctor gives you permission to start exercising again—but don’t rush it. Your body may bounce right back or it could take your entire first year of parenting. That is OK. Everyone’s bodies are different. Put your baby in her reversible stroller and go for a short walk or jog every day. Do mom and baby workouts at home or at a mommy and me exercise class. Get in some me time at the gym a few days a week. Do what works for and feels good to you. And never be ashamed of your body. Because no matter how short or long it takes or what your end results are, you look good. Love your new mom bod. Embrace every new curve, pound or stretch mark. You just carried and birthed a baby—you and your body are amazing.
6. Focus on Self-Care and Self-Love.
Some parents have this misconception that becoming a parent means sacrificing who you are. It doesn’t, though. Yes, your identity changes a little (for the better) and your priorities may too, but there’s no rule saying that as a parent you have to give up everything that matters to you. I know first-hand the importance of self-care and self-love. I believe to be the best parent and person, you have to make time for yourself. So go out with your partner. Have a girls’ night out. Go to the gym every morning. Take an art class once a week. You will make sacrifices for your child, but you don’t need to sacrifice who you are in the process to be a good parent.
7. Ask for Help.
Your baby has her days and nights mixed up. She’s up all night, so you get no sleep at night. To keep from being a zombie, you sleep during the day when she does rather than doing laundry or dishes. You’re exhausted. Your house is a mess. You’re feeling overwhelmed trying to take care of a baby and your home. This is when you ask for help—and never feel guilty asking for help. You have more family, friends and neighbors then you probably know who would love to help you. All you have to do is nicely ask them for help, whether that’s doing your laundry and dishes or watching the baby for a couple of hours so you can sleep, shower or run some errands.
8. Celebrate the Small Daily Victories.
Sometimes we feel like only big wins are worth recognizing, like running your first marathon or buying your first home. But as a new parent, it’s the small daily victories that make a difference. Taking a shower and getting ready before noon is worth celebrating when you’re a new parent. Taking your baby out of the car without waking him is a huge victory. Setting, achieving and celebrating small goals will make you feel good. It can also motivate you to continue making and achieving more of your parenting goals.