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Is it normal to be nervous about being a new mom?
Jamie Burlington
Jamie, it's totally normal for you to go through physical and emotional ups and downs as a new parent. One moment you may feel on top of the world and proud of the beautiful baby you made; and the next moment you might feel physically exhausted and anxious about the tremendous responsibility of taking care of this tiny creature. You feel this way because your hormones and your body are changing dramatically, you're not getting much sleep, and everything about parenting is totally new. You are not crazy!

Being a parent is the hardest job in the world—there's a lot for you to learn about taking care of your baby's needs and yourself as well. Take the time to enjoy every little thing about your baby—hold her; feel and smell her skin; study her face, hands and feet; talk to her; and sing to her.

Take care of yourself, too—make sure you eat well, rest, listen to music, go for walks, talk with your friends, see a movie, etc. Use all the help that you can get. Let your husband take turns with the baby so you can get some rest. Ask your mother, sister, or women friends for help if you need them. Read books, magazines and web sites about caring for babies.

Be sure to take your baby to all the well-baby medical visits and ask the doctor and nurses questions—that's what they're there for. Also ask them about other services for new parents such as a parenting hotline or parent support group. Many parents find it helpful to talk with other parents who are going through similar experiences—you'll find out that you're not alone, and you may pick up some helpful tips to make things easier.

One thing you'll learn is that there are many different approaches to parenting. Learn as much as you can, but also trust your own instincts. Although some people may believe you should let a 3½-week-old baby cry, most experts in child health and development say it's best to pick up and calm a crying baby—it helps her feel secure, and it won't spoil her. Your instinct to comfort your baby is good.

Sometimes, new mothers can feel extremely anxious or depressed. If you're feeling so overwhelmed that you're unable to enjoy or take care of your baby, or if you feel like you might hurt yourself or your baby, you may be suffering from post-partum depression. Be sure to talk about this with your doctor right away—there is help.

For more information, visit Postpartum Support International at www.postpartum.net.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician