Get Ready -- Baby's on the Way!
Whether it's your first child or a new sibling for other children, there's so much to think about and get done. We help you sort through the to-do list.
By Carol Sorgen
Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario
Baby's on the way and you're seeing the doctor, taking your prenatal vitamins, and getting the nursery ready. Fine, so far. But don't overlook the fact that having a baby -- whether it's your first, your second, or even your fifth -- is going to have a profound effect on your life and the lives of those around you.
"It's a huge change," says Claire Lerner, LCSW, child development specialist at ZERO TO THREE, a national nonprofit organization devoted to promoting healthy development in a child's early years.
"Having a baby is life-altering," Lerner continues, adding that it's important for parents (especially first-timers) to know this ahead of time. Otherwise, she says, they can be thrown for a loop when they're confronted with feelings of insecurity, jealousy, being left out, or misunderstood.
"Anticipate the feelings that most new parents experience," says Lerner. Moms, for example, are frequently exhausted and overwhelmed, and can feel that "nobody does it better," so they have to do everything themselves. Dads might feel that they can't do anything right, and have no place in the newborn's life. This may be especially true if the mother is breastfeeding, says Lerner, who suggests that mom use a breast pump so that dad can feed the baby, or have dad sit with mom and baby during feeding times, perhaps even singing or reading to the infant.
Brainstorm before the child is born, says Lerner, to come up with ways of coping with the situations that are bound to arise once the baby has arrived. "If you see this as an opportunity to become closer, and not an obstacle that is going to drive you apart, you'll be able to minimize the sense of aloneness that many new parents feel," says Lerner. "Try to feel what the other parent may be feeling, and then figure out ways together to deal with those feelings."
No matter how much a couple wishes for a baby and feels that their life is in order, the reality is always a major challenge, adds Mary Margaret Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, president of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
"Your life becomes completely disorganized and many fond prenatal dreams are not realized because of physical exhaustion from the work of labor and delivery, as well as the stress of trying to meet all of the new baby's needs and be 'perfect' parents," says Gottesman. "Babies change the very fabric of everyday life."
Babies are, however, worth all of the hard work at adjustment, Gottesman adds, and she offers these tips to smooth the way:
Having a baby affects not only the parents, of course. If you already have a child, the older brother or sister may have a difficult time understanding that someone new is coming into the home.
Ann Douglas, author of the mother of all pregnancy books, has these tips for making your first-born continue to feel special:
Children aren't the only ones who need an adjustment period to a new baby. When planning for the new arrival, don't forget your "other" baby -- your pet.
"Many of us practice parenting on our beloved pets," says Gottesman. "In many ways they are like siblings -- cautiously accepting and prone to jealousy and acting out."
Here are some suggestions for making sure both baby and pets are safe and happy:
The bottom line when it comes to smoothing the transition for yourself and your entire family when expecting a baby, says ZERO TO THREE's Claire Lerner, is to anticipate and to empathize. "Everything will go much more smoothly if you can put yourself in another person's shoes."
Published Jan. 20, 2003.
SOURCES: Claire Lerner, LCSW • Mary Margaret Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, president, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners • Ann Douglas, author, the mother of all pregnancy books.
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Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2005 5:29:23 AM
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