Newborn babies are “little bundles of joy,” as the saying goes. They can also lead to a bundle of stress. For parents recovering from a substance addiction, stress can make the road to recovery more difficult, as confirmed by research by Rajita Sinha of Yale University.
If you, your spouse or a loved one are managing an addiction recovery while caring for a newborn infant, heed this advice to preserve the recovery process and avoid relapse:
- Take care of yourself. Self-care remains important, especially during this time. On an airplane, you are told to put on your oxygen mask before attending to your child’s. The same principle applies here. Balance the constant pressures of caring for your baby with your need to eat, sleep and stay hydrated. Instead, try to:
- Get as much sleep as you can. Catnap whenever your baby is sleeping. If you have a partner, take turns with nighttime duty.
- Eat a nutritious diet. Try to limit your intake of fatty and sugary foods and caffeinated drinks, and drink plenty of water.
- Exercise daily, if possible. Aim for 20 minutes of outdoor exercise each day, whether that involves a short but brisk run or a more leisurely walk with your newborn in the stroller.
- Get outside. The extra vitamin D from time spent in the sun can improve your mood and sleep.
- Accept help from others. Let others pitch in to relieve you with food, laundry or other needs. If your mother-in-law offers to drop in for a few days, put her to work cooking and cleaning. If your neighbors organize a meal chain for you, let them stock up your freezer so that you don’t have to. If a friend offers to babysit for a couple of hours so that you can get away for a date night or to the spa, accept the offer.
- Pay attention to your emotions—especially the more common relapse triggers. A helpful acronym to remember (one often used in the recovery world) is “HALT,” which stands for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.” During the first weeks and months of your baby’s life, you may experience a host of emotions. Tiredness will be on that list. Hunger and loneliness could be too—even anger. It’s only natural to get grumpy when you’re tired. You may also experience resentment at times: caring for a new baby places drastic limits on your time and freedom, after all. Be gentle and non-judgmental with yourself when you feel these things, and take care of the needs they are pointing to.
- Stay connected with your support system. If you’re in a 12-step or other recovery group, keep attending these meetings, even if it means taking your baby with you or finding a babysitter. At the very least, get connected with an online meeting. Now, more than ever, is a good time to lean on your close friends and support network.
About the author: Anna Ciulla is the Vice President of Clinical and Medical Services at Beach House Center for Recovery, where she is responsible for designing, implementing and supervising the delivery of the latest evidence-based therapies for treating substance use disorders. Anna has a passion for helping clients with substance use and co-occurring disorders achieve successful long-term recovery. Photo by Sadık Kuzu on Unsplash