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Beating New-Mom Stress

Contain the Chaos

A new baby, with his 24-hour sleep and wake schedule and constant need for care, can leave even the most put-together woman reeling, and turn the most spotless home into an obstacle course.

Women who were super-organizers in their pre-baby lives often suffer the most from chaos-induced stress, says Murray. "If everything was perfectly organized and on time in your life before, it can be difficult to realize that babies have their own schedules, and that you may need to lower your standards."

Experts say simplifying is the secret to keeping your life not perfect, but livable. If your day-to-day routine -- or lack of one -- is overwhelming you, try to "do one thing differently," suggests Dr. Dryden-Edwards. For Tiffany Boone, 27, of Dunbar, Kentucky, her hair had to go. The mother of a 14-month-old and a 28-month-old, she found that blowing out her long tresses each day before leaving the house became unmanageable, so she got a new cropped 'do. "I love it," enthuses Boone. "I always swore I wouldn't be one of those moms who cuts off her hair, but it's easy to care for, the babies can't pull it, and it has taken a huge load off of me."

New moms should evaluate which beauty routines make them feel pampered and which are just a pain, says Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., the Durham, New Hampshire-based author of The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood and The Well Ordered Home: Organizational Techniques for Inviting Serenity into Your Life. Boone may have given up hair care, but she always puts on lipstick before leaving home. "Keep the routines that are special to you," Kendall-Tackett says, adding that moms should keep their beauty supplies in one convenient place.

Changing "just one thing" might also mean cutting back on a household task like cooking, either by preparing double dinner portions (so you can freeze the leftovers) or budgeting for take out. It could also mean simplifying your cleaning routines by keeping supplies where they're used (cleanser, gloves, and sponges in the bathroom, for example), suggests Kendall-Tackett.

Murray advises mothers to pare down their baby equipment. She says she sees mothers overloaded with new baby gizmos and suggests that moms consult their more-experienced mom-friends before going shopping, so that they only buy what they'll really use.

New moms can also try to arrange their homes with an eye toward function, not fashion. "Remember, you don't have to have everything in the house look so perfect," Murray says. "Say, okay, I'm going to have a lot of things in one room so I don't have to go all over the house, and I'm going to set up a station for myself with everything I need for me and the baby."