Bringing baby home is cause for celebration. For some first-time parents this transition from couple to parent is a challenge and it is not surprising then, that these first moments with the new family member can wind up filling the relationship with unhealthy tension.
A 2013 Mail Online survey reveals sleepless nights caused by a crying baby have broken up to one-third of all marriages in the United Kingdom.
Especially for first-time mothers, the transition can be hard. You have to cope with a baby whose cries you are learning to interpret, who sleeps all day and stays awake all night, and wants to be carried all the time. This is exacerbated if you are having difficulty with breastfeeding. On top of this, hormonal changes may lead to baby blues.
"New mothers require a lot of support and attention because it is known that a new mum needs it," says clinical psychologist Caroline Olivares from Alliance Professional Counselling.
"It is normal for a new mum to feel down. It is psychological. She has been separated from a part of her body. Being separated from the baby is like being separated from a limb. For everyone else, the baby is a newborn. For the mother, it is a loss, a big loss. It feels awful. The thing is, she does not realise this. It is not a conscious thing."
As a new mother therefore, it obviously becomes so important to prepare for the new arrival.
Newborns cannot tell whether it is night or day because their body clocks have not yet adjusted to life outside the womb. You may hear from friends to "sleep when baby sleeps" but this does not give you the freedom of enjoying personal time away from the child.
"The first few days I took the opportunity to go online, to Facebook, Instagram, and to surf the Internet whenever my baby was sleeping. It was a mistake. At night, when I wanted to sleep, he would be looking at me with bright, alert eyes. Once I almost nodded off while rocking him to sleep. I learnt my lesson and went off my mobile devices. It was like going cold turkey!" says Nicole Tan, 33, mother of a one-year-old girl.
Prioritise your time and plan, plan, plan. Be strict with yourself. If you want to enjoy some me-time, go ahead and do so. Give yourself the luxury of 10 minutes (you choose) and then give yourself the luxury of rest.
Involve your husband
It takes two to make a baby and ultimately, parenting is a two-person job. Even before baby comes home, plan and delegate duties.
Francis, father of a four-year-old boy, was adamant that his baby would sleep in his own room, and that he would be in charge of all the night feeds.
"I don't want my wife to be tired. I want her to be able to rest," the 45-year-old teacher says.
Share in baby duties. Fathers may not be able to breastfeed but they can do diaper duty, bathe the baby, and entertainment. Neither parent should micromanage or criticise the other over the work. Trust in each other to do everything right.
"The mother needs to try to let go and be confident that the father can do it. Sometimes the mothers are so worried, they cannot let go. But the more she lets her husband do it, the more he can learn. Some women won't even allow him to try. You have to. He will make mistakes, but he will learn from them," says Caroline.
Adjust your expectations
Caring for a newborn is taxing and inadequate sleep can shorten temper. Both parents need to recognise this exhaustion and appreciate each other as individuals on the same task to avoid “baby quake” - a phenomenon born of newborn care tensions and blamed for ruining marriage intimacy.
Communicate to let each other know how you are feeling. It is easy to get caught up in the glow of new baby happiness, and let it over-ride the tension and conflict that you may be also feeling, so consciously make time to re-connect each day. Try to find a time when you are both feeling less stressed. Instead of rushing off to do your own thing after baby has fallen asleep. For instance, sit down with each other to share your day and your thoughts.
Ask for help
The other new baby dictum, apart from 'sleep when baby sleeps', is 'ask for help'.
You may be tired from lack of sleep, frustrated by breastfeeding challenges, or just feeling overwhelmed. Even the most independent and capable woman would appreciate aid at this point.
Sandra, 37, a multi-tasking high-flier in the workforce, says she is eternally grateful to her mother-in-law who delivered home-cooked meals in tingkat (Tiffin Carrier) for lunch and dinner.
"She did this for the whole month after my confinement. She would just deliver the food and then go home. She said that she did not want to disturb us and that I needed to rest, but that she wanted us to have proper meals," says the mother of a two-year-old girl.
When friends and family offer help, let them know exactly what it is they can do for you. This ensures you get the help you want and need. Whether it is laundry, meal preparation, caring for your older child while you breastfeed the newborn, or even just watching over (or holding) baby for a while to give you uninterrupted bath time.
Talk to other new mothers
It is three in the morning and your newborn has been nursing for what seems like hours – alert and not showing signs of going to sleep. When eventually the baby does, your energy has been sapped but you now cannot catch your sleep. Your husband is sleeping with the morning ahead for work so there is no one to vent your frustration.
The one place that never sleeps - the Internet. Go online to find a community of mothers in the same predicament as you. Online mothering forums and support groups give you the space to vent as much as you want - or not - anonymously. Chances are, there will be another new mother up at the same time as you, also looking to unload her frustrations of also being a sleepless new mother.
Early Childhood Development Agency