Adjusting to Your Newborn Baby

Newborn in blanket and hands
Having a baby is a wondrous, awe-inspiring experience. Suddenly you are filled with an all-encompassing love, and you would do anything to protect your little one. No one can love your baby quite like you. However, having a baby is also a tremendous challenge. You need to adjust not only to caring for your baby and keeping him safe and happy, but also to the major changes that can challenge you and your relationship with your partner.

Mothers at home with their babies often experience a life change that is dramatic and unexpected. Where you may have previously enjoyed an interesting and challenging career outside the home, you are now faced with endless chores and a lack of adult conversation. Not only has your job changed, but your very existence as a person is different now. Before motherhood, you were an individual in your own right. You had a partner, friends, and most likely a job, and they were all you needed to assure your identity as an individual. Parenthood changes all of that. Your baby becomes the primary focus in your life, and everything else is secondary. You may not know who you are anymore, and you may not know who to talk to about this change.

If you are lucky, you have friends around you who are new to parenthood too. You can support each other and share your concerns with them, knowing that they are interested in helping you. However, you may not have a support group of friends. Your mother might not be as sympathetic as you might have hoped. Your partner might not understand what you are going through, or may be preoccupied with his own adjustment to the baby.

You may also have problems with your body image. Your breasts and nipples look different and may leak often. Your hips are wider and you still have excess body fat that may take a long time to lose. You may feel insecure and unattractive.

Add to this the fact that you may be going through financial stress. If you were a two-income family before your baby was born, having one parent at home can significantly affect your financial stability. Your partner may be especially worried about this, and it might be a cause of interpersonal conflict.

This section of the Pregnancy & Babies Resource Centre explores the stresses that can affect you, your partner, and your relationship after you have a baby.

Hazel Pleasants, RN, MN

Andrew James, MBChB, FRACP, FRCPC