healthychildprogramme

Adjusting to parenthood begins during pregnancy and continues throughout a child’s life.

Learning to be a parent is a slow process and fraught with many demands. Not only do you have to change to cope with the physical demands of a baby, but also the emotional demands. As a couple or single parent, your life will never quite be the same again. Nevertheless, becoming a parent is one of the most joyous events you will ever experience.

As a parent life will be busy, often tiring, leaving little relaxation time.

As a couple, relationships may become strained and it is vital that you allow time for interactions with one another to enable change and growth as a family.

Meeting other adults in a similar situation allows exchange of ideas and sharing of like-minded situations in which others have learnt to adapt also.

Please explore the following sections for more information:

Please see below our list of helpful tips on adjusting to being a parent:

  • be flexible – do not set yourself up to fail with rigid plans
  • take care of yourselves, ensure you eat well, rest as much as possible and sleep when your baby sleeps if necessary
  • have confidence in your decisions
  • communicate with each other, allow family and friends to help if they offer
  • ask if you need help, it is fine to ask for help
  • the housework will wait, especially if you are exhausted
  • speak with like-minded parents
  • take time out for some personal time
  • remember, no matter how tough things seem, it will not last long. As you and your baby get to know and understand each other, you will start to feel more confident and less anxious
  • see visitors when you want to. If you are tired, say so and ask them to come back another time
  • keep water and milk handy, along with some food you can eat without cooking, like fruit and wholemeal bread

For further information on being a parent, visit NHS Choices

The NSPCC also has lots of great information, including ‘need to know’ guides. This one is all about keeping your baby safe, early days of parenthood, coping with crying and useful helplines – click on the link to view Handle with care guide

If you are worried about your own or baby’s health, always ask your midwife, health visitor or GP for help and advice – they are there to help you.

Adjusting to parenthood can be challenging, but things will get easier:

  • remember, no matter how tough things seem, it will not last long. As you and your baby get to know and understand each other, you will start to feel more confident and less anxious
  • see visitors when you want to. If you are tired, say so and ask them to come back another time

The first year of life is an important time to build a relationship with your baby.

Interacting with your baby helps baby’s brain to grow and develop. By smiling, playing and talking to your baby you are standing them in good stead for later life.

Spending time with your baby will also help you understand their needs and recognise when they need to feed, sleep or have a cuddle.

As time goes on, spending time together will help your child learn how to understand their own emotions and form strong relationships with other people.

  • Encourage your baby to look into your eyes.
  • Enjoy a cuddle and skin to skin contact with your baby.
  • Smile and respond with affection – your baby will copy you.
  • Use everyday events to talk to your baby about what you are doing, using short sentences.
  • Don’t be angry in front of your baby. Babies can pick up when you are tense or anxious.
  • Babies whose cries are soothed tend to cry less, not more.

Having a new brother or sister can be an exciting but challenging time. Our advice below aims to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Before the birth

Make sure that other children in the home are included in conversations about the new baby. Let them feel the baby move, talk to the baby and perhaps help choose a name for the baby. They can also help choose clothes and items for the baby in preparation for the birth.

Some children attend the midwife appointments with their mother and are able to hear the baby’s heartbeat.

After the birth

  • Encourage them to attend the hospital and bring a toy for the baby.
  • Give them a gift when the baby is born.
  • Include them in caring for the baby (fetching a nappy, holding the baby with support).

All of these things should aid a smoother transition in to the home of the new member.

Importantly, it’s a wonderful time and an experience that is very special, so enjoy it as a family supporting each other, however you need to do it.

Disturbed nights can be very hard to cope with. If you have a partner, get them to help.

If you are formula feeding, encourage your partner to share the feeds. If you are on your own, you could ask a friend or relative to stay for a few days so that you can sleep.

If you are breastfeeding, ask your partner to take over the early morning changing and dressing so you can go back to sleep. Once you are into a good routine with breastfeeding, your partner could occasionally give a bottle of expressed milk during the night.

Current advice is that the safest place for your baby to sleep is on their back in a cot in a room with you for the first six months.

Particularly in the early weeks, you may find that your baby only falls asleep in you or your partner’s arms or when you are standing by the cot.

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