When you’re preparing for a baby, you think about supplies, information, work and finances. But what about preparing emotionally?
Since pregnancy is probably the biggest event in your life, it’s a little surprising most of us don’t put as much effort into preparing mentally as we do physically. Creating good habits now can help you run through your to-do list quicker and set you up for more clarity to enjoy life with a newborn.
In this post, we’re sharing 6 tips you can use to mentally get ready for your bundle of joy.
#1 Getting Organized
As soon as the excitement of being pregnant settles, the massive list of things to do becomes apparent. When you’re contemplating everything, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Try to prevent that by developing a plan for each area of your life that you need to take care of before the baby arrives. Then, sort each plan into smaller tasks. Each day, try to tackle something on one of the lists; it could be the most urgent task or simply one that matches your energy level at that time.
Writing down what you need to do helps clear space in your head so you can enjoy the journey a little more. Checking off to-do list tasks also gives you a sense of accomplishment. Learning to get organized and take control now can help prepare you for the busy days once the baby arrives.
For example, projects may include:
- Buying baby supplies— Make a to-do list for each store you need to visit and what you need to buy.
- Learning baby information— Make a list of areas you need to research about (ex. labor choices, breastfeeding, etc.) and how you plan to get different information (ex. books, online, audiobooks, etc.).
- Making a baby budget— Start with smaller tasks to help you define an appropriate budget and then work on ways you could cut your spending.
- Work plans— Start thinking about your desires surrounding maternity leave and whether you will return to work. Then tackle the conversation with your boss.
#2 Get Your Supports in Order
Studies have shown that having support during pregnancy can reduce your risk of mental health issues, such as stress. Reducing your stress levels may lower your risk of pregnancy complications. For example, a 1993 study found that women who had more prenatal support had better labors and delivered babies that appeared healthier with higher birth weights.
Not only is social support good for your baby, but it can make you feel happier too. According to a 2015 study, having social supports may help prevent postpartum depression. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Pregnant women who have a decreased level of support have more depressive symptoms and reduced life quality, according to a 2007 study.
Building your social supports now can also help you with the added stress after labor. If your current circle of friends don’t share a similar lifestyle, you may experience even more of a disconnect during and after pregnancy. In this case, it’s a good idea to try to meet mother friends beforehand.
If you don’t feel like you have enough support currently, here are some ways to build connection:
- Strengthen existing bonds— Even though pregnancy can have your schedule jam-packed, try to make time to see and speak with family and friends. Even a short text can help you feel connected.
- Reach out to old bonds— Reach out to old friends you haven’t talked to in years or a friend that you’ve recently lost touch with. Or, call up a long distance family member.
- Childbirth classes— Attending baby classes is not only a great way to learn, but it’s also an easy way to meet other moms.
- Join online spaces— Even if you live in a small town, you can still connect with other mothers-to-be online. You can join related forums, apps or Facebook groups. Since they’re going through similar things at the same time, you could turn out to make a lifelong friend.
Need more suggestions? Read Social Support During Pregnancy: Why It’s Critical & 10 Ways To Get It
#3 Cultivating Self-Compassion
There’s no strict rulebook for raising a child. And even if there was, everyone would still make mistakes. It’s easy to be critical of yourself and your shortcomings when caring for a newborn. But being too critical can lead to more stress, a worse mood and even postpartum depression.
The alternative is self-compassion: The ability to be kind to yourself while observing and recognizing your humanly mistakes. The concept may sound overly optimistic, but there’s been some recent research on its benefits, including:
- Anxiety reduction
- Emotional resilience
- Positive affect
- Curiosity and exploration
- Personal initiative
Self-compassion is a concept that we need to reinforce until it becomes a habit. This could be as simple as shooting down every self-critical thought by saying, “X may be true, but I really tried my best and everyone makes mistakes.” However, if you’re more interested in learning this habit, you may want to read or listen to the book Self–Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff. Alternatively, you can listen to her TED Talk below:
#4 Get Comfortable Asking for Help
Taking care of a newborn is going to be a lot easier if you accept help from those around you. A family member offering to babysit or a neighbor bringing meals may be a small gesture, but it can have a big impact when you’re exhausted.
If you’re someone who prides herself in her independence, it can be a little tough to accept help and even more difficult to ask for it. Start expanding that comfort zone during pregnancy. When someone asks you what they can do, tell them honestly. Consider what they like doing and what would be helpful. That could be cleaning, cooking a meal, lending a listening hear, taking you to an appointment, etc.
Although you may feel like a burden at first, consider that most people ask because they genuinely want to help you. Doing something for you gives them a sense of goodwill and helps build connection. Plus, they get to be involved in your child’s life and one day tell them, “I used to bring your mother meals/babysit you all the time when you were just a baby.”
#5 Create Stress-Combating Habits
If you’re someone who is prone to overwhelm, developing habits that allow you to mentally slow down can help prevent a downward spiral. Relaxation can look different for everyone, but consider what you like and what you will have time for once the baby arrives. Once you choose a stress relieving habit, try to do it once a day or whenever you’re feeling anxiety building. By the time the baby arrives, the habit should be ingrained and ready for you to use on tough days. Here are some suggestions:
- Doing a simple breathing medication while you’re pumping milk or nursing your baby
- Practicing mindfulness when you’re cuddling your baby
- Setting aside a few minutes to do a prenatal yoga session while the baby is napping
- Setting aside a few minutes to do an easy exercise at home while the baby is napping
- Saying a mantra or prayer inside your head or out loud when you’re stressed
- Taking a short walk in nature while your partner is looking after the baby (or bringing your baby to calming outdoor spots)
- Using progressive muscle relaxation to tense and release whenever you’re feeling physically stiff
- Simply listen to the comforting sound of your baby’s heartbeat with the Baby Activity & Heartbeat Monitor and feel reassured
#6 Seek Out Extra Emotional Help, If Needed
If you feel like pregnancy is taking a toll on you, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help where you need it. For example, maybe your doctor is great, but you’d feel extra support with a midwife. Often, midwives and doulas can provide the emotional support or bedside manners that doctors often lack. (Read Midwife or Doula: 7 Tips to Find the Perfect One)
If you’re dealing with some mental health challenges, such as anxiety or depression, pregnancy is also a great time to start getting help. According to the American Pregnancy Association, between 14-23% of pregnant women experience clinical depression. Even if you don’t have a mental health disorder, a psychologist or counselor can help you manage stress and prevent the baby blues. In addition, it can help you deal with your own childhood traumas before you’re too busy tending to your child.
How are you mentally preparing for a newborn? Comment your tips below! If you have any pregnant friends, be sure to share this post to help them get ready, too!