There is no doubt about it; relationships can be tricky especially once the baby arrives. But by making a baby plan before the birth of your little one, you can significantly ease the strain the baby can and will impose on your relationship. And here's why...
A New Baby in the House is Stressful
Having a newborn is intense! Who am I kidding? Having a baby or even a toddler are also just as intense. But I'm mainly talking about the first 3 - 4 months. I've learned a lot from parents I've worked with throughout the years and there are some common themes I have heard over and over and over. Here is what I've heard and it will most likely apply to you as well.
You and your partner both may feel:
- Like your world has been turned upside down.
- That you miss your once spontaneous life.
- Your emotions will be raw.
- You never imagined how different your lives would be.
- You will feel like all you do is feed, burp and change your baby over and over, day in and day out.
- That time moves so slowly.
- You will be madly in love like you've never been before. And other times you will feel like you want to run away.
- You are completely obsessed regarding the safety of your baby. You will check on them to make sure they are still breathing. You have dreams that they are in danger and you wake up scared and have to check on your baby again.
- You will feel insecure, like you're not a good parent and that you're not doing things right.
- Everyone else has a life but you.
Most couples experience one or more of these feelings or thoughts. It's totally normal.
Welcome to Baby Boot Camp
Get ready for one of the most physically demanding moments of your life. But don't worry, you can and will get through it just like billions of moms and dads before you. Both you and your partner will experience great strain caused by physical adjustments of parenthood, the biggest being lack of sleep and more work. This is what surprises new parents the most. You see, getting up every 2 - 3 hours to feed, burp and change the baby can be tough for everyone. Lots of new parents feel like there is no time for themselves, let alone their relationship.
One study suggests that having children is more stressful for the mother. But here is some good news. Another study shows that if the mom breastfeeds, certain chemicals and hormones are released that actually help her cope with the stress of new parenthood better and the bonus is that the baby also gets these natural stress relieving hormones. So it's a win, win. But keep in mind that breastfeeding can be difficult for a lot of new moms. And this can add more stress and insecurity. If this happens make sure you seek help from a lactation specialist right away. Partners are going through their own transition too!
Beware of the Tension Building Formula
Like I said before, lack of sleep is really tough especially on communication between couples. It's really hard to communicate and listen when you're dog tired. Add a crying baby to the mix and believe me your stress hormones will be at an all time high. A baby's cry is designed to make you feel stressed so you will take action and care for your baby. Mother Nature knows whats she's doing. Oh yea, lets talk about SEX... what's that? That's off limits for 6 weeks after the birth of the baby. Romance and affection can take a back seat. Plus, assuming your partner knows what you need and want can lead to tension between couples and cause an increase in conflict.
Assuming Gets Us in Trouble
Lots of couples get into trouble by assuming that their partner knows what they need or how they should be helping when the baby arrives. Assuming and getting disappointed is where tension can begin to build when we don't get what we want or need. This is where communication comes into play. Most first time parents are shocked once the baby arrives at how all consuming it is, especially the first 3 - 4 weeks. The first 3 months of a baby's life is called the 4th trimester for a reason. They need you, all of you, all the time!
But Don't Worry
If you are mentally prepared and know that others are going through what you're going through...it can help you understand what's happening and get you through it. Normal life as you know will change but you will find a new normal. I promise. Did you know you can make a game plan before the baby arrives? You can. And I strongly suggest you do. It has helped a lot of my parents get through the baby boot camp phase.
Just so you know, babies are very sensitive to their environment and they can feel tension in the home, you or your partner. Believe me that you can't fake your energy with a baby. They need a calm, peaceful and secure environment or you might have a fussier baby. I get it, no one has a stress free, tensionless home. But just keep in mind that your baby can sense everything. So just do your best and remember that no one is perfect. Nor is anyone's family life perfect. If you need a break...ask for help!
So here's the BABY BOOT CAMP PLAN. Make sure to do this together and know that adjustments can be made once the baby or babies arrive.
To download the Baby Boot Camp Plan PDF - click here.
The Baby Boot Camp Plan: Preparing Your Life With Baby
What are your feeding plans for the baby? Do you want to breastfeed or bottle-feed or both?
How do you plan on learning about breastfeeding? Will you be taking classes? If yes, where? (i.e. Date of class, friends / family to ask for support from, books and other information.)
Plan for buying bottles:
Plan for introducing a bottle: When _____________ Who _____________ What bottle brand will you be using? ____________
Tip: Ask friends that have babies and ask what brand of bottle they prefer. But make sure it's BPA free. BPA is an endocrine disrupter.
Formula or Breast-milk?
What brand of formula: __________________ Powdered, Concentrated, or Ready to Serve. Is it a DHA enriched formula? Organic? Cow milk based, soy based or hypo allergenic?
Plan for pumping breast milk: hand express, manual pump, electric pump (regular or hospital grade):
Plan for storing pumped breast milk:
How many hours of sleep do you and your partner need to feel good?
How will you make sure you get enough sleep once the baby arrives?
Feeding the Parents
Before baby is born, what food will you stock up on? Plan on a month’s supply of these things!
List at least 15 foods that:
1. You can eat with one hand while holding a baby.
2. Doesn’t need to be prepped.
3. Is good both hot or cold.
4. Doesn’t spoil when left out for a few hours.
5. You like to eat.
After baby is born, who is responsible for grocery shopping:
Who will cook dinner (on the nights when baby allows you to cook)?
List some easy to grab, healthy snacks? (smoothies, nuts, fruit, etc.)
Tip: Make a list of groceries that are needed and put them on the refrigerator. Then when you have friends and family come over after the baby arrives, you can ask them to pick up those items from that list.
Diaper Service ______ Disposable ________ Mix ______Wash my own cloth ________ (cloth diapers)
What brand of diapers? Do you want to go with the standard diapers (Pampers, Huggies etc.) or do you want to go with a "green company" (7th Generation, The Honest Company etc)?
Where will you change baby?
Who’s responsible for changing baby when you are all together?
Who’s responsible for getting rid of the dirty diapers and providing the clean ones? (ex. washing and putting away if you are washing your own. Or putting dirties out for service to pick up on assigned day, or putting out trash and buying new disposables.)
Who is responsible for washing (machine or hand-wash) the diaper covers when they need it?
Washcloth and warm water __________________ Diaper wipes _______________ (newborns can only be cleaned with water and washcloths). Do you want to use non toxic- less harsh brands?
Where will you bathe the baby?
Who is responsible for baths?
Who is responsible for washing baby’s clothes ?
Putting them away?
Who’s responsible for mom's laundry?
Sleep and Night-Time Wake-ups
Where will baby sleep for the first three months?
In parent’s room
In baby’s own room
In parent’s bed
In cradle / bassinet
Some people do a mixture (e.g. putting baby down in the evening in a crib in his own room, bringing him into the parents bed in the middle of the night). If you’re planning to do a mixture, write plan here:
What steps do you need to take to have baby’s sleep environment be as safe as possible?
When baby wakes up in the middle of the night, who’s responsible for going to the baby first?
Who’s responsible for feeding _____________ For diaper changes __________ For calming
_____________ (or will you take turns throughout each night?)
Cleaning and Household Tasks (i.e. paying bills, running errands)
Which household tasks can you totally ignore / let slide for baby’s first 6 weeks?
Of those tasks that must be done, who’s responsible for what?
If You Have An Animal At Home
Who will look after the animal?
Who will walk it, feed, it, clean up after it?
How will you introduce your baby to your animal?
Calming Baby / Caring for Baby / Playing with Baby
These questions are about who's got primary responsibility for taking care of the baby at various times of the day. (Note: if baby is breastfed, mom has to do that, but partner can do the other baby care tasks.) Of course, babies have their own opinion and sometimes they may want a different parent than is officially (on-call). It's not personal.
Who has primary responsibility for the baby in the morning?
From when to when?
During the daytime?
During the evening?
For calming baby; what techniques do you plan to use?
Tip: Check out Baby Behavior 101. Understanding your baby's sleep and cues.
Support and Sanity Savers
In the first 3 weeks, who can help take care of both of you (parents)? (Bring food, run errands, do dishes, laundry, etc.)
When mom needs emotional support, who can she call? (name / phone #)
When partner needs emotional support, who can he call?
What are your plans for taking care of some of your own individual needs?
Tip: Think of hiring a post partum doula to help you get more sleep and feel more confident as a parent.
What are your plans for taking care of your relationship needs?
As a couple...write down 5 things that your partner does that makes you feel loved. Put it on the refrigerator. Try to do them for each other especially when the baby comes home. It's the small things that are sooooo important.
Encourage alone time with each other. 1 hour a week. Who can look after the baby?
This one is very important! Remind your partner that they are doing a good job no matter how big or small it is. Tell them that you are grateful for the way they are with your child or when they help you. It's really hard to be a new parent and you both will need reassurance that you are doing a good job. You both will feel insecure at times.
Remember...no one is right all the time, you will both have your parenting techniques and you will have to come to a happy medium and agree on how to raise your child.
For more relationship tips from our own relationship expert, click here.
To download the Baby Boot Camp Plan PDF - click here.
QUESTION: What are you planning on doing to keep your relationship strong once the baby arrives? OR What tips do you have to keep your marriage strong? I would love to hear from you because I believe we can all learn from one another. Please post your answer in the comment box below.
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