Dishes are piled high and items are scattered about the house…a sweater here, a receiving blanket there. Dust gathers on the coffee table. A cup of coffee and half-eaten bagel sit forgotten, cold and unappetizing. Bills, flyers, yesterday’s newspaper are spread across the kitchen counter. Laundry sits on the living room couch, waiting to be folded.
Life with a new baby. Who would have thought that one small infant could need so much of you?
You were sure you wouldn’t be “one of those mothers”, the ones who aren’t “disciplined” enough to keep on top of things. Now you know better…a new baby’s needs are intense and time-consuming. Life has changed and you will need to let go of preconceived expectations about time management with a newborn.
Babies take time, a lot of time.
When you contemplate what’s involved in mothering a new baby, you soon recognize why there is little time left for things other than baby care and basic mama care.
Newborns nurse a minimum of 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. Likely, they will be cueing to feed more often than that – after all, your breasts are a source of comfort, security, and connection – so much more than simply a way of providing baby with perfect human nutrition. Feeds, in the early months, take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes, sometimes longer if baby is cluster feeding and wanting frequent small amounts of milk, possibly throughout the evening hours. A quick calculation confirms it… breastfeeding a newborn can take up to 12 hours per day.
Diapering, including washing a bottom, applying cream, possibly a new outfit, and a few belly kisses for your sweet naked baby, can take a minimum of ten minutes. Six to eight diapers in a 24 hour period and you soon realize how much time you are spending at the change table…1.5 hrs each day spent changing diapers.
Then there are the essential mama tasks of eating, showering (at least some days if not every day), a little bit of fresh air and gentle exercise, and before you know it, the day is done.
What can a new mother do?
- Try an attitude adjustment – just knowing that this too shall pass and soon enough your newborn will be breastfeeding more efficiently, needing less time at the breast;
- Try asking for help – it takes a community to raise a child, beginning from birth when a new mother needs all the physical help she can get. Let someone else do the cleaning (partner, friends, family, paid help), buy prepared meals, order in and remember that a nut butter sandwich and an apple are excellent sources of nutrition;
- Try keeping it simple – do the basics and let the rest go. Ask yourself, on a scale of one to ten, how important is the task that keeps me from my baby? Will it really matter in a year or two from now?
- Try carrying baby on your body in a sling or wrap; babies are most content when close to their mothers.
- Try getting all the rest you possibly can. Nap often. A rested mama feels less overwhelmed.
- Try getting outside. Fresh air and a change of scenery are essential to both mother and baby.
- Try recognizing that dust bunnies and dirty dishes are a signal that you are tending your newborn; see them in a positive light. Babies need their mothers and you are choosing your baby over chores.
- Try doing something nice for yourself each and every day; read a few pages of a good book, savour a piece of delicious chocolate, use a scented cream, do some stretches, meditate…learn to take snippets of time and make them your own. Do these things before you do even the simplest of chores.
If you were to take a piece of rope, and section that rope into knots, each segment representing a different stage of your life, you would quickly recognize that the time spent mothering a newborn would be minuscule in comparison to the other stages. It would be barely noticeable, a moment in a lifetime of mothering, a brief interlude, a simple pause.
So be kind to yourself, new mama. Be present in the moment. Tomorrow is just around the corner.
And babies are small for such a short time.