The thing about babies is they don't follow orders, even when their mom is in the military. You and your baby will adjust in time, but meanwhile, you'll likely need some help.
As a mom-to-be, you're probably thrilled — and a little apprehensive — about the new arrival. And as a service member, you may face challenges most mothers don't ever have to think about and will need extra support to help balance your career and family.
Before your due date
Prepare for motherhood and the wonderful new addition to your family by knowing what to expect during pregnancy, childbirth and after your baby's arrival. Here are some things you can do to get ready:
- Call the New Parent Support Program on your installation. The program varies by branch of service and by installation, but most offer parenting or childbirth classes and home visits by trained professionals. Contact the Military and Family Support Center, or go online to MilitaryINSTALLATIONS for contact information on your installation.
- Notify your command about your pregnancy. It may affect important issues like duty, deployment plans and physical fitness test performance.
- Understand your medical coverage. Your primary care provider or TRICARE can provide more information.
- Write your family care plan. This will outline the specifics of caring for your child if you're deployed. Your installation's Military and Family Support Center and legal assistance office can help.
- Budget for baby. If you're in the Navy or Marine Corps, go to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society website to learn about its Budget for Baby classes. If you're a member of the Air Force, visit the Air Force Aid Society website for information about Bundles for Babies classes.
At home with your new baby
The following tips can help you adjust to all the changes after you're home with your new baby:
- Expect to feel exhausted. Try to get plenty of rest, and eat nutritious meals to regain your strength.
- Accept help. When friends or family offer to cook dinner or take the dog for a walk, take them up on it.
- Enroll your new baby in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Newborns are covered under TRICARE Prime for up to 60 days after birth as long as one person in the family is enrolled. Visit the TRICARE website to learn how to enroll your child for medical benefits.
- Think about getting back in shape. As soon as you feel up to it — and your primary care provider gives you the OK — start thinking about getting back in shape. You'll need to meet your weight requirements in six months, in most cases.
Going back to work
Learning to balance a career and motherhood is one of the challenges many mothers must face, and it's especially true for military mothers. Consider the following:
- Choose child care well before it's time to go back to work. If you live on or near a military installation, check with your installation's child development center for details about waiting lists, priority for military families and referrals to other providers. You can also find child care information through Military Child Care online or by calling 855-696-2934, option one.
- Re-establish ties with your workplace. It can be helpful to talk with the person who's been handling your job responsibilities to find out what's happened while you've been gone.
- Take care of yourself. Try to go to bed early, and get regular exercise. Remember that taking your baby for stroller rides can be a stress reducer for both of you.
- Establish morning and evening routines at home. Make a checklist of the things you need to do each day. Do a dry run before you go back to work, and time how long it takes to get out the door.
- Try to plan and set priorities for yourself at home, just as you would at work. Your time's at a premium. Now may be a good time to review household responsibilities with your partner to make sure your arrangement's fair.
Deployments and temporary duty assignment
Leaving your baby for a temporary duty assignment or deployment can be hard. You can feel less stressed by planning ahead to make sure your spouse or guardian is prepared to care for your baby:
- Prepare emotionally. Although it may be difficult to leave your child, try to remember that babies are resilient. The most important thing to a young baby is that someone who loves them is caring for them.
- Video or audio record yourself reading books. Just hearing the rhythm of your voice can help soothe your baby.
- Take care of finances and other necessities. Make sure your partner or the baby's caretaker has power of attorney or guardianship, if necessary. Also, be sure to make an allotment to care for your family while you're gone.
- Enjoy motherhood. Even though life can be hectic for you and your family, try to take some time out just to enjoy this wonderful new person in your life.