A baby changes everything! All the routines, practices and rituals you had before baby can turn into chaos and a juggling act once your little bundle of joy arrives. Embrace pregnancy and plan for your new child with healthy habits that can lessen your anxiety and help all family members adjust to a new addition:
1. Focus on yourself.
An expectant mom needs to be mentally prepared for the gigantic changes a baby brings. “We need to understand what is most important to us internally: our goals, priorities and values,” explains Michelle Karl, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in teaching women how to balance motherhood with their own individual lives, personalities and values. “Just asking ourselves to evaluate what is most meaningful to us, and incorporating these things into our family life can help us transition.”
2. Focus on your relationship with your partner.
“Make time for you and your spouse – time to take care of who you are and your relationship,” says Karl. “What you want and what you need are different, [so think about] how you can support each other in getting what you need.” Defining and maintaining a strong adult relationship is essential in growing a healthy family. Knowing your partner’s and your own strengths and weaknesses will help you balance one another in parenthood.
3. Establish family mealtime.
Whether this is your first child or not, establishing a regular family mealtime is helpful in encouraging happier, healthier, more well-balanced children. Create enjoyable practices that make mealtime joyful and relaxing for everyone. “Ending a meal with a favorite prayer, poem or song is a simple, calming routine that eases the transition to homework, bath time or bedtime,” says Melanie Potock, a certified speech language pathologist and child feeding specialist.
“Columbia University found that children who have a relaxing dinner with their families on a regular basis do better in school,” Potock notes. “Other studies have cited the importance of joyful family mealtimes in raising a well-adjusted child.”
4. Make friends with your doctor.
Keep wellness a high priority in family life. “Prior to the arrival of a child, as a family practitioner and father myself, I find that establishing a trusting relationship with your physician allows for open dialogue,” says family medical practitioner Joshua Solot, M.D.
“Building confidence in this relationship allows for removal of fear in asking questions, as well as knowledge not only of the new child, but of the family dynamic.”
5. Eat healthily.
• Eat food in its most natural form. “Whole foods have the best nutrient density and absorbability for your growing belly and baby,” says holistic nutritionist and lifestyle coach Sue Van Raes, M.S. “Eat fresh, local organic fruits and veggies as much as possible.”
• Keep your blood and sugar levels even, during and after pregnancy. “Avoid the sugary, high-glycemic foods that spike and crash your sugars, wreak havoc on your hormones and directly affect your mood,” Van Raes says. “Stick to the foods that keep you satiated longer, give you more even energy and keep you a happy, glowing mother.”
6. Bring in music.
Music is a critical element for mom and family. Newborns have a greater response to music than most people realize. “While babies lack the ability to communicate through speech, they are extremely responsive to the emotional aspects of music,” notes music educator Mark Biesterfeld.
Music is a universal language that helps convey your emotions to an unborn child. “You can even start singing to your baby before he or she is born,” Biesterfeld says. “What a lovely idea that your child might recognize your voice and your singing when you first meet face to face!”
Music can also provide ways for an older sibling to help welcome and bond with a new baby in the family “When a family sings and makes music together, the older sibling already has a deep connection to the importance of music in the household,” Biesterfeld says. “Older siblings often enjoy the responsibility of showing the new baby how to sing a song or do a dance.”
Julie Bielenberg is a freelance writer.