Mentally Preparing Yourself for Baby
By: Dr. Ann-Louise Lockhart
It is easy for a new parent to get wrapped up in physically preparing for the arrival of their new baby – registering for gifts, buying stuff, preparing the nursery, and getting baby clothes – that you might forget to mentally prepare for becoming a new parent. This also applies to 2nd and 3rd time parents, too.
What does mentally preparing to be a new parent look like exactly?
1. Get into the parent mindset.
This starts by reflecting, thinking, and journaling about what being a parent means to you. There are several key questions to ask yourself:
What are your expectations? How are you visualizing your journey into parenthood? What do you think your new little one will be like? How will you handle feeding, sleeping, self-care, time with the baby, and time away? What are your plans for staying home or going back to work? Will you have a nanny, babysitter, or family member help out? What about childcare or daycare? What parts of your life will look different? What parts do you desire to stay the same? How will you track the well-baby visits, growth charts, milestones, feedings, and sleep? What important parts of your life do you want to maintain and hold onto? What parts are you okay letting go?
Being a new parent is full of exciting changes, but there are also parts of your life that won’t be the same. It’s important to have realistic expectations and allow yourself to grieve those losses, while celebrating the gains.
2. Talk to your partner about what being a parent means to each of you.
When I prepared for my first child, my husband and I enthusiastically talked about how we would share all the responsibilities all the time. We soon realized that is just not realistic. Divide and conquer was the name of the game once our new baby arrived. I made the grocery list, and he got the groceries. I set up the doctor’s appointments and we both took her. We talked about how far apart we wanted to have our kids, how many kids we wanted, and whether our current home would hold us all. These conversations are vital to smooth transitions and to decrease feeling alone in the decision-making process.
3. Ask friends and family about the best and worst parts of being a new parent (or 2nd time parent).
This can be a tricky one, since you’ve probably already received a lot of unsolicited advice. It’s also important to note that each person’s experience is their own and doesn't have to be yours. However, there is something to be said about lived experience in setting the path before you so you’re not reinventing the wheel. It’s okay to ask for guidance, wisdom, and advice and then make it your own.
Take what’s helpful and leave the rest. I wish I had known about the stuff no one actually tells you about. I didn’t know about the embarrassing underwear they make you wear after childbirth, how they check you for hemorrhoids in the hospital room, the painful breast engorgement when your milk comes in (and what to do about it), and how to decide between breastfeeding or formula feeding (without mom guilt). Hearing other people’s experiences would have been helpful.
4. Prepare for how you want to handle various challenges that may arise (especially if you’re a 2nd or 3rd time mom).
Think and talk about what you want to do if you have a fussy baby, a baby who cries a lot, if you’re having problems with feeding, when you feel sleep deprived, if you experience postpartum depression or baby blues, what resources are available for baby and for you, should you seek out a sleep coach or parent coach. Also, think about how you want to prepare your other kids for their new sibling, how you will handle tantrums and a tired baby.
Parents will do better if they understand that parenting can look very different each time a new little one enters the home. Their sleep, feeding, personality, and milestones may be different and that’s okay. There are a lot of things to consider, and these things can feel overwhelming. However, there are experts available to help you – from your pediatrician to your Ob/Gyn to psychologists and therapists who specialize in working with moms. Don’t do this alone. There is help.
Dr. Ann-Louise Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP
Pediatric Psychologist, Parent Coach and Owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology
Years of education, training and supervision in child development theory and evidence-based practices have cultivated Dr. Lockhart’s unique parent coaching approach. As a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), and Board Certified (ABPP) in Child/Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Lockhart has helped parents reframe their parenting mindset – supporting them during the most challenging times. She believes in the power of sleep to help parents be the best versions of themselves.