Welcoming a baby is a life-changing experience. Every family member goes through a period of adjustment when going from a family of two to three, four or more.
Monica Hartman, MD, a Mercy Health primary care and family medicine provider, is a mom and no stranger to this time of transition. She shares the advice she’s told her patients, as well as herself, about managing a growing family.
“Rely on friends and family when help is offered. Also, ask for it when you need it,” Dr. Hartman says. “Go easy on yourself and have low expectations for getting anything done apart from caring for your family. Also, talk with your spouse or partner and take turns caring for baby and sleeping. For example, we would trade nights. If I was up all night, I knew I could sleep the next day or the next night as my husband would take over.”
If you have older children, they can be part of your support network.
“You don’t have to do everything all by yourself,” Dr. Hartman shares. “Have some of the older kids help out where they can. You can incentivize them if needed. One of my kids is happy to do chores for a piece of candy and another does chores for screen time. Take advantage of the help already available in your home.”
While getting your baby on a schedule is helpful, Dr. Hartman cautions parents not too be hard on themselves when routines don’t fall into place.
“Give yourself a break and don’t focus too much on finding a specific routine. When each of our four kids were babies, we found at various times that just as we thought we were getting into a routine, things would change. We would then find ourselves looking for a new routine.”
Dr. Hartman adds, “be flexible as you work toward establishing an eat, play, sleep routine. Remember, you will get through this and while the sleepless nights are difficult, they are temporary. Your baby – and you, too – will sleep eventually!”
When a new sibling joins the family, parents can feel guilty about spending less time with their older children.
“That is an ongoing struggle,” Dr. Hartman acknowledges. “You can address this by involving the other kids as much as you can with chores and caring for the baby. If there’s an errand that you or your partner typically run by yourself, take one of the kids with you. You can make many activities a one-on-one or quality time activity in that way. Don’t be too hard on yourself since it’s inevitable that you won’t have equal time with each child. Remember that children are individuals who value different things. While we may not have the time to give everyone quality time every day, we can make them feel loved and valued in other ways.”
During this transition time, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself.
“Prioritize your own mental health,” Dr. Hartman advises. “Spend time doing things you enjoy, such as seeing friends, especially parents who are in a similar stage of life. Do your best to also take care of your body by eating healthy, getting enough sleep — easier said than done! — and exercising so you can be the best version of you. This goes for the kids, too. Making sure they are getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, and staying active helps them also to be the best version of themselves. And remember, you can always reach out to your doctor for help and advice.”
And don’t forget your partner, too!
“Make sure to spend quality time with and communicate with your partner as they are going through this with you,” Dr. Hartman says. “While it may be hard to find time with your partner, you can do little things like put a movie on for the kids and have a dinner date at home or take the family to the park and sit and talk while the kids play. Life is still crazy, but it’s less stressful if you are in it together.”
Learn about the primary care services we offer at Mercy Health and find a provider near you today.