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Changes in daily life after the birth of a child

The arrival of a baby drastically changes almost every aspect of a couple’s daily life. Changes in eating, rest, sleeping, communication, everyday activities and leisure manifest in many ways.

The couple’s anxiety and tension about their new role as parents may disrupt their diet. For example, a mother’s desire to return to her pre-pregnancy figure has a significant impact on the diet of the new mother who is breastfeeding her baby and must consume an additional 450 kcal/day during the lactation period. In addition, mothers must sometimes deprive themselves of foods they like because the baby has a hard time digesting them. Ladewid, London & Olds (1992) advise breastfeeding mothers that some of the foods they consume may be difficult for the infant to digest and may cause colic or abdominal pain for the baby. If this occurs, they advise mothers to avoid these foods.

The couple’s need for rest and sleep is also disrupted, and they may find it difficult to not be able to get a full night’s sleep without the baby needing to be fed. After giving birth, it is common for mothers to feel tired and complain that they have no energy. Many claim to sleep lightly and have difficulty recovering. During the day, it can be difficult to relax and rest when the baby is sleeping because mothers often use this time for household chores and meal preparation. Fathers who work during the day help their wives at the end of the day with household chores and childcare, leaving little time for rest for either of them. Caring for a baby takes time, and it is not uncommon for new parents to feel as if everything revolves around the baby and they no longer have a personal life. It is important for couples to take time for themselves and allow themselves small outings on occasion.

Some mothers worry about experiencing postpartum depression. Chabrol (1998) wrote about postpartum depression, recognizing the symptoms most frequently cited by women following childbirth. He described crying spells, moodiness, sadness, insomnia, anxiety, fear of not knowing how to take care of the baby, loss of sex drive, etc. Nicols & Zwellig (1997) agree and describe postpartum depression as a psychological disorder that occurs after childbirth and lasts from 2 to 6 weeks after the birth of the child. Symptoms include unexplainable crying, fear of not doing well as a mother, irritability, impatience and general fatigue.

It is important for both the mother and father to verbalize their opinions, ideas and fears about their new role as parents because their actions, behaviours, fears, anxiety and nervousness reflect their beliefs, past experiences and values. How parents feel will have an impact on their child’s development. When parents are nervous or impatient with the baby, the child will feel it and respond in ways that may be unpleasant for the parents, such as by crying a lot. Mazet & Lebovici (1998) conducted research with 526 newly formed families. They concluded that infants are very sensitive to the quality of their interpersonal environment, and when they feel threatened, they quickly show signs of distress and protest by crying. In the same vein, Dugnat (1996) states that babies who perceive anxiety and nervousness in their parents show insecurity which is expressed by crying. Thus, the challenges faced by each parent include gaining self-confidence and developing parenting skills and abilities in order to reduce the tensions related to caring for a child.

Learning to parent is not something that happens overnight, and there is no secret recipe for how to develop parenting skills. New parents who follow the never-ending stream of advice provided by those around them will inevitably be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of this sometimes contradictory information and will be confused as to what’s best for their child. This is why it is important for new parents to verify the information they receive with competent resources in the field so they can take the right course of action for their child. Choose one or two references, whether it’s a nurse at the CLSC, your physician, a book or someone close to you whose parenting skills you recognize, and rely on them as your guides.

Source : Stéphanie Gagnon, Nurse, UQO
In collaboration with Francine de Montigny, Professor, Department of Nursing, UQO

References :
CHABROL, H. (1998). Les dépressions de la maternité. Paris. Presses Universitaires de France.
DUGNAT, M. (1996). Troubles rationnels père-mère/bébé: quels soins? Ramouville-Saint-Agne, France. Eres.
MAZET, P. & LEBOVICI, S. (1998). Psychiatrie périnatale: parents et bébé: du projet d’enfant aux premiers mois de vie. Paris. Presses Universitaires de France.
MCKINNEY, E.S. & MURRAY, S.S. (1998). Foundations of maternal-newborn nursing. 2nd ed. Philadelphia. W.B. Saunders.
NICOLS, H. & ZWELLING, E. (1997). Maternal-newborn nursing: theory and practice. Philadelphia. W.B. Saunders.
WIELAND LADEWID, P., LONDON, M. & OLDS, S. (1992). Soins infirmiers maternité et néonatalogie. 2nd ed. Quebec. ERPI.

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