5 ways to mindfully parent your newborn


Let’s be honest, so much change and adjustment happens in pregnancy that often little thought is put into what it will be like to have a baby – many people just want to make it through childbirth!

Fast-forward past the birth of your child, and all of a sudden here you are, a parent with a tiny helpless baby who is incredibly demanding and whose survival depends on you!

Not only are you required to learn how to feed, change nappies, bathe, swaddle and settle but you are now a parent for the rest of your life! And if you are the primary caregiver then the influence you will have on your child’s social and emotional development is huge. Now if that isn’t overwhelming, I don’t know what is!

So how can we learn to manage the challenges of these early days to be sure we’re making the most of the precious moments, while continuing to support our child’s development? A simple practice called mindfulness can help.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness refers to the art of being fully present, with openness, acceptance, and curiosity. When we are fully present, we are not distracted by thoughts about the past, fears about the future, or the usual (unhelpful) stories that our mind creates about our experience. This allows us to feel grounded among the chaos, respond to situations calmly and confidently, sensitively respond to our children’s needs, and importantly extend kindness to ourselves.

Try giving these simple exercises a go as you care for your newborn.

1. Ground yourself in the present moment

The early days of being a parent can be confusing and it is easy to get distracted by our thoughts. Start taking three mindful breaths throughout your day, to ground yourself in the present moment.

By breathing softly and deeply, expanding your ribs or belly as much as possible as you breathe in then letting go of all the stale air as you breathe out, you are assisting your body to shift from a state of arousal and stress to one of calm and relaxation. This is a great exercise to practise on your own or in the presence of your baby when he or she is feeling upset or in need of soothing.

Taking a few mindful breaths when feeling stressed helps us to respond to situations mindfully rather than reacting, and provides essential role-modeling behaviour.

Try experimenting with increasing the number of breaths and notice how your experience changes.

2. Try seeing the world through the eyes of your baby

The prospect of getting to know a baby can be daunting. Try to get into the mind of your baby. What is his or her experience like in this moment? Every baby is a separate individual with a separate mind, and so to truly understand our children we need to try our best to see the world through their eyes.

By mindfully tuning in to our babies with our full attention, we are more able to let go of our own worries, assumptions and judgments, which often colour our perception and behaviour. In doing so, we are better equipped to truly understand our children’s non-verbal body language, thus sensitively responding to his or her physical or emotional needs.

This form of present moment attention sends a message to our children that their needs are valid and important, which in turn supports their social and emotional development.

3. Mindful walking

Believe it or not you can practice mindfulness at any time of day, even when you are pacing the house in the middle of the night with an unsettled baby!

Walking meditation is a simple and universal practice for developing a sense of calm and connectedness. It can be practiced at any time of the day when you are on the move. So next time you are moving about with your newborn, try this: take your three mindful breaths, then direct your attention to the feeling of your feet planted firmly on the ground, supporting the rest of your body, then take a step, feeling the weight distribution under your feet, noticing the feeling of your muscles holding you and your baby, letting go of unnecessary tension, and then begin to walk slowly with full attention to your body and breath. Whenever your attention wanders, take your three mindful breaths and reconnect with your body as you move.

4. Practice self-compassion

As parents were are often hard on ourselves. Many of us hold high expectations when it comes to organisation and productivity. Once a baby enters the scene, our life changes so dramatically that we are required to shift our pre-existing view of ourselves to prioritise the needs of our child.

It can be extremely difficult to leave the washing, cleaning and cooking when each day at home is a reminder of what tasks are still not done! Next time you find yourself in this situation, experiment with introducing some self-compassion into your day.

Take a few moments to congratulate yourself for what you are in fact doing – caring for a helpless, demanding and dependent newborn! Place a hand on your heart and as you breathe in direct feelings of gratitude and kindness into your heart. Repeat this a few times and notice the impact it has on the way you feel about yourself.

5. Take some time out

It’s hard to find time for yourself in those early days. As a way of working towards gaining some time-out, begin to notice the signs that you need a break and consider what your self-care needs are. This could be time with friends, reading, taking a walk, having a glass of wine, a massage, a bath, a movie, or doing some meditation.

It is healthy for our children to have time away from us, as this provides them with a sense of independence and confidence in the world, and allows us the opportunity to welcome them back with open arms.

It is often difficult to ask for help, and one of the largest barriers to mothers’ seeking help is the belief they should be able to cope on their own. So in asking for support, remember the phrase, ‘It takes a village to raise a child!’ Often people would love to help, they’re just not sure how.

Lastly, remember there is no perfect parent. We all feel overwhelmed at times and there are often no right or wrong answers to the questions we face. When you practice mindful parenting, you are in the best place to feel accepting of yourself and grounded in your role as a parent.

Dr Adrienne Brown is a clinical psychologist who facilitates mindfulness-based antenatal classes and provides individual therapy to individuals around fertility, pregnancy, childbirth preparation and parenting. More details at www.mindfulbeginnings.net.au.