September 21st, 2022 | Blog
Overcoming the Culture Shock of Parenthood
My husband is from Australia, and while we were dating, I spent about a year living there. A couple of years before that, I had lived in South Africa for a few months. Then when my husband and I got married, we moved to America. Both of us have experienced what is called culture shock: the “feelings of uncertainty, confusion, or anxiety that people may experience when moving to a new country or experiencing a new culture.”
However, despite all the “uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety” that we experienced in culture shock, those feelings pale in comparison to what he and I have now termed baby shock.
Having our first baby was the biggest life change we had ever experienced. When my husband and I talk to expecting parents, one of the things we always do is give them a heads up as to this complete baby shock. No matter how much you’ve worked with or been around kids, no matter how many people warn you “sleep now before the baby’s born!”, nothing can ever truly prepare you for life with a newborn.
In an instant, you become completely in charge of someone else, from making sure they are fed to ensuring that their diaper is clean. Yet at the same time, they are in charge of you! This little bundle of joy controls when you can sleep, eat, work, and even shower!
To help with baby shock, here are three things I wish I knew before having a baby:
1. Ask for and accept ALL of the help.
You weren’t meant to do this on your own. Despite what our culture tells us about how “you were made for this!” and “you’re strong!”, the truth is that we NEED to ask for and accept help.
Receiving and asking for help doesn’t make us a bad mom–on the contrary, it makes us a better mom! Ask for advice from experienced moms that are past your stage, as well as those that are still in the trenches with you. Don’t feel embarrassed to use your mom or mother-in-law for as much as they want to help with! Seek out professional help when you need it, from sleep consultants to lactation consultants and more. If you qualify financially, get help from services like WIC.
Accepting the help and advice that is offered to you does not mean weakness; rather, it means that you’re smart, and you’re doing everything you can to provide for your child!
2. Set your baby up for healthy sleep habits.
Before I became a sleep consultant, I was clueless about how I was supposed to help my baby sleep. People say that babies can sleep anywhere, anytime, so I guess I just thought that my baby would simply just fall asleep when she was tired, and I didn’t need to specifically do anything to help her. Not true.
Since then, I’ve learned all about the foundations of healthy sleep. This includes:
Follow awake windows.
For a newborn, this means that they shouldn’t be awake for more than 60-90 minutes between sleep periods. As a parent, it’s your job to give them the right sleep environment when this awake window is nearing its end.
Set up a proper sleep environment.
Despite everything we hear about parents taking their babies out in the stroller or a car ride to get them to fall asleep, the BEST place for a baby to sleep is in a dark, quiet (but with white noise), independent, consistent space.
Babies who are constantly on-the-go, or in loud, bright environments will not get the same quality sleep. This is true even if they seem to sleep fine in any environment. Moreover, you will want to set them up early for healthy sleep as they get out of that newborn stage when it becomes harder for them to fall asleep anywhere at any time.
Don’t always resort to nursing.
As a new parent, I did not realize how much feeding habits would affect my daughter’s sleep. I didn’t realize there are several things to consider:
Many of her cries actually meant that she was tired–not hungry.
By letting her fall asleep on me for nearly every single nap, her naps were actually shorter than they would have been in the crib, and I wasn’t giving her the opportunity to learn to sleep in her own independent sleep space, which was causing more night wakings.
Because she was getting fed so frequently, she was just snacking, rather than getting full feeds. This meant that she didn’t have a full tummy and therefore wasn’t able to sleep for long periods of time.
3. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s okay.
No one is perfect, so don’t put that pressure on yourself. That homeschooling mom of 5 that you see at the park? She’s not perfect either, even if it seems like it from the outside.
Although it’s easier said than done, do your best to not compare yourself to other moms. Remember that everyone is in a different situation, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and everyone’s child is different. Keep this in mind during ALL stages of parenthood! We’re in it together–no matter the situation.