You may feel excited and relieved after giving birth. It’s a time when you are likely to have had lots of visitors coming to see your new baby. In hospital, the nurses are there to help you breast feed; your meals appear without you having to think about shopping, cooking or cleaning the dishes; and your sheets and towels are clean without having to wash them. But soon your emotions and moods may swing, and although arriving home with your new baby can be exciting, you will rapidly realise just how much you are introduced to a new life. So suddenly reality might strike and you may feel you have less time or desire to socialise with friends or family.
- Sleep deprivation from feeding 6-12 times a day, can make you feel tied down or unable to leave the house for long. Some babies refuse bottles, so you must be available for all feeds, making you even more tired and strung down.
- Changing nappies, bathing your baby, getting them to sleep and listening out in case they wake up, washing their clothes, and then as your baby gets older preparing and sterilising bottles and solid foods for extended periods out of the house, makes it difficult to find the time to socialise.
- There is so much to think about and organise, so you may start to worry about what to do first, or what will happen if the baby won’t stop crying. Everything can grow out of proportion – especially if you are feeling exhausted.
- The result of all this is that you can feel lonely or isolated. You may even feel a bit claustrophobic and want to get out of the house more often, but you just don’t have the energy to do so.
- The time between feeds will eventually lengthen giving you more opportunities to go out. Many shopping centres and restaurants have facilities for heating babies’ bottles and changing their nappies. For more information see expressing and storing milk (external)
- Eating healthy food, staying active and getting as much sleep as possible will help you find the energy to socialise.
It is important to stay in touch with your friends and family, but you may be surprised to see how many ways there are to meet new friends with young babies and children in your community. Here are some tips on how to socialise even with your new baby:
- Your friends and family are a big part of who you are and will
be interested in your new life as a parent. It may require
some effort to stay in touch as life gets a little more
challenging, but keeping connected with your friends and family
helps keep your daily life balanced and puts it in
in touch is important for your wellbeing. Remember:
- Your friends want to see you and your baby.
Whilst you may feel like your baby is now your only identity and it is likely that everyone will ask about them, to your old friends it is still you who they want to see too. If your friends have children, they will be interested in hearing about your experiences of being a parent and details on your baby – they will love sharing experiences and will be sympathetic and supportive with ideas on how they overcame similar problems.
- Even friends without children want to stay in touch. They may be less confident in asking questions about your baby, but they usually are interested in your new job as a parent. They are still happy to catch up with you – just try to choose the right activity, for example, going for a walk in the park, having a coffee, or going for a swim. Or invite them to your house but ask them to bring some food, eg. morning tea, or to pick up some milk on their way over. Ask them to make a cuppa while you settle the baby to sleep. They will feel happy to help you and you will benefit too.
- Your friends and family are a big part of who you are and will be interested in your new life as a parent. It may require some effort to stay in touch as life gets a little more challenging, but keeping connected with your friends and family helps keep your daily life balanced and puts it in perspective. Staying
Try planning ahead and suggest meeting at times and places where it suits you best. Entertaining at home might seem like more hard work, and it doesn’t get you out and about. Or:
- Visiting friends’ homes, especially those with other children, that way you will need less things to carry along!
- Go to parks near where there are coffee shops (external), or take some fruit or snacks along with you.
- Meet at shopping centres, restaurants or coffee shops that have facilities for changing babies’ nappies and heating bottles.
- Go with them to the cinema at babies hours (external)
Try planning outings in advance and don’t worry if you have to
change your plans. Roll with whatever happens – things may
not go to plan, your baby may be unsettled, throw up over their
clothes, and you may have to return home a little sooner than
expected. Your friends will still have been happy to see
- Stay in touch with working friends or hobby friends. Try meeting other work friends in their lunch break to stay in touch with what is going on. Or go with your sports or hobby friends to local sports events, or mother and baby exercise groups, and swimming, art, or dance classes.
- Ask questions and talk about things other than your
baby. Even if you feel you don’t have much to say as your
life now focuses on your baby, your friends will probably also want
to talk about other things you have in common, like music, food,
sports, gossip and what’s going on in the office! Although
you might not have much news, try asking your friends lots of
questions. Making an effort to listen to their news and gossip will
help you feel part of their social network too. You have lots
of wonderful stories to share about your baby, but remember to try
and talk about other things too.
Stay in touch through phone calls or SMS. If you are going through a difficult time and haven’t had enough sleep, try staying in touch with via SMS or social networking sites, if chatting on the phone is too difficult. Keeping in touch with others via social networking sites can be a great way to share your news and photos and keep in touch with what your friends are up to. They will be excited to hear from you even if they can’t see you and they will pass on the messages to other friends.
Once the initial rush of visitors is over you may find catching up with parents during the week is your best source of social contact. Here are some tips on how to go about this:
- Contact your local community centre (external) or neighbourhood clinic to find out what is available and how you can to join. Local newspapers and particularly local libraries often have information on what’s going on around you, and where you can go to join local playgroups and toy libraries. Maternal and child health nurses are usually a great source of information.
- Join a Ngala Parenting and Playtime group or other playgroup (external) and outdoor activities (external). It may take a lot of energy at first to meet new people but it will be worthwhile for you and your baby. By playing and learning together you will meet other mothers with whom you can share ideas, information and experiences, develop new friendships and create a supportive network with whom you can have fun.
- Check your local libraries for Baby Bounce or Rhyme Times. These sessions include nursery rhymes and songs as well as simple picture books. Most libraries provide print copies of the rhymes, songs and actions learnt and many also have them online. Check your local library websites for times. Or just walk in with your baby and as your local librarian.
- Become a member of a mother and baby exercise group, for example join a local mothers swimming and dance class. Or join an art or music class. Your library will probably be able to tell you where to go to join one, and will tell you the date and times when new events and classes are being held.
- Local cinemas often have ‘parents and babies’ sessions. You can either walk by and ask them for information, phone them up, or just look them up on their website (Event Cinemas; Hoyts; Yahoo movies sesion times)
- Try to remain in touch with new parents who have met locally or who you got on with during antenatal appointments. Joining a play group or mother and baby activities may be less scary if you go with someone else you know. It can also make you more committed.
- If you don’t yet have the time and energy to join any of these groups, just go to park or a local community area and sit there with your baby. You will be surprised how many people will come and talk to you. Other mothers may be there with their children and they might be interested in playing with your baby.
- Join an online forum (external) and chat with other parents.
Couples often talk about feeling closer in the
days after the birth when they are excited and feeling joyful about
their new baby. However, after a period of time, usually within the
first months, interrupted sleep, increased household
responsibilities, and work and financial pressures lead many
couples to report a significant increase in personal stress.
Here are some tips on how to maintain a good
relationship with your partner and make your job as a
parent much easier:
- Your family has changed a lot since the arrival of your new baby. If you find it difficult to spend some relaxing time together, try planning a few simple things to do together, like sitting in the garden and talking about what you have done or what to do and deciding on things together, or just going out for a short walk around the block, out for a coffee or down to the park.
- A positive relationship with your partner will be extremely beneficial for your child. Small things such as asking each other about the day, and focusing on what your partner is saying makes communication more meaningful. You might have to put some effort into improving the communication between you and your partner. Tips such as picking your battles and setting aside a time and place to discuss frustrations and working out a solution might be a good start. Open communication can improve the relationship with your partner, as well as with your family and friends.
- Try to make things like shopping, cooking and eating meals a family activity that you can do together.
- Set up a regular babysitting time for one of the grandparents or aunts/uncles. Or otherwise organise babysitting ‘swaps’ with friends so you can look after their baby once a fortnight and they look after yours in return. This way you and your partner have the chance to go out on the town, go out for a meal and have a chat, see a movie, or go to a party.
Being a single parent might make socialising even more difficult. But friends can help you and you can either ask them for a favour or talk to about what’s going on. You can also get professional support (external). Even if you are feeling down, remember there are several other single parents who will understand what you are going through. Go online and try to connect with other single parents. Other things you can do include:
- Make connections in your local area - your local community centre (external) or neighbourhood clinic can provide you with information on what is available in local area. Local newspapers and libraries also provide information on what’s going on around you, and how to join local playgroups and toy libraries. Maternal and child health nurses are another great source of information.
- Join a Ngala Parenting and Playtime group or other playgroup (external) and outdoor activities (external). Making new friends may take a lot of energy, but by playing and learning together you will meet other mothers with whom you can share ideas, information and experiences, and with whom you can have fun.
- Seek out support groups and groups for single parents. Many single parent groups have forums, chatrooms and social networking sites.
Once either you or your partner goes back to work keeping up your social life may become even more difficult.
If it is your partner who goes back to work and you are at home alone with your baby and perhaps your other children, try to:
- Have friends around or join a playgroup. This way you won’t feel so alone.
- Try also to have a rest when your baby is sleeping, don’t just think this is the time you can do everything.
- When your partner gets home from work, ask them to join you with the baby in the garden or sitting outside the house, or let them take over with the baby for a while so that you can relax and do something you want to do.
- Let your partner help you out when they come home. They can give the baby a bath, or help feeding them.
- If it is you who has gone back to work, you may enjoy having more variety in your life and other things to think about. But equally, you may feel guilty about leaving your baby with someone else, stressed at having to do so much extra work, and concerned that you’re not quite as focused on your work as you used to be. There are lots of tips on how to deal with this on the Raising Children Network (external).
If your partner is a fly-in-fly out (FIFO) worker, you may feel even more alone, especially if you don’t have much family support. When your partner comes home they may feel it is their time to relax and party and you may feel they are changing the routine that you have tried to establish. Talk to them and try to agree on responsibilities. For more information read about FIFO Effects on Families (external).
Ngala Books & DVDs
For families of babies and
young children who reside or work in W.A.,
if you need further assistance contact the Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or Country Access 1800 111 546
8am to 8pm 7 days a week or
or get support online via the My Ngala Forums
When: 24 Apr, 9:30am
Where: Banksia Grove
4 - 7 months. Interested in learning more about introducing solids to your baby? This workshop covers introduction of solids for parents with babies aged 4 months to 7 months. You will be given information and tips to help you with this important milestone in your baby's life.