Newborns are a full time job to the point where you need to be full time plus have an assistant or three. Alas, life is not that well designed and so instead we have a demanding small person who can’t communicate efficiently and a parent attempting to support said small person twenty four hours a day.
I know that some countries have the whole maternity and paternity leave nailed like Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland for example and that some countries are so backwards in coming forwards that first time moms have to go back to work while they’re still bleeding and healing like the USA. The UK is better than most but not as good as some in that you get government maternity pay for 39 weeks and the other parent gets two weeks paid paternity leave, they have recently introduced shared parental leave as well which is great – but I’m veering off course here.
I have heard and read about so many fathers who throw their hands up and say that they don’t know how to help or that mom is breastfeeding so they don’t have to get up or that they don’t hear the baby…you get the picture. Babies are a tough gig and both parents need to be hands on, not only is it a great adjustment to go through as a team and therefore really good for your partnership but it also means that both parents get that really special bonding time with the baby.
First time mothers are also adjusting and terrified and learning everything all at once – it’s so much better for everyone if the dads step on up and get involved and here is ten top ways for dads to help;
1. Be a cheerleader
Reassure, reassure and reassure some more. If your partner is tired, hormonal, emotional, feeling alone – the most important job is to lift her up. Let her know that you think she is doing an amazing job. Tell her how much you appreciate her. Encourage her when she’s doubting herself and tell her how beautiful she is when she is vulnerable.
2. Get involved
There is nothing worse than taking a “break” and not actually getting a break. Make sure to get involved to the point that you don’t have to double check things with the mama. When she gets to put her feet up, it means she steps away from being a mom and finds herself for a minute. If you aren’t sure and it’s not going to cause any harm to the baby, either figure it out or ride it out. Be a co-parent, not a babysitter.
If your baby is breastfed and your partner isn’t expressing then your interaction with feeding is obviously limited but that doesn’t mean you can’t burp baby afterwards which means that you’re still getting that contact with your babe and giving mom a break (win win).
If your baby is bottle fed (with breast milk or formula), you can get much more involved with the feeding. Feeding is a special time, it’s calm and quiet and there is a lot of eye contact and even though I struggled with my inability to breastfeed, the fact my husband had those moments with our son too was important to me.
Lets not beat around the bush shall we, there are a shitload of nappies. This is not women’s work – get your hands dirty and change some nappies.
5. Give the gift of time
When our son was 5 weeks old I left him for the first time and went out to work from a coffee shop. My husband had him for a few hours so I could recenter and it made such a difference. We have kept this up and every week I get “me time” and I go and find a nook somewhere, order a mocha and set myself up for four hours or so where I can work uninterrupted.
I always come back feeling refreshed and more of a complete human as opposed to just somebody’s mom.
6. Take photos
I LOVE taking photos of hubby with our son and we have some goddamn beautiful ones. My other half isn’t so hot at it and when he does take them, its double chin, blurry or just a terrible photo. Take so many photos that your partner can pray for a decent one out of twenty.
These moments go so quickly and capturing them especially in the first few weeks when everything is just a little foggy is so important.
7. Back your woman
This may sound a little hypocritical given my whole equal parenting push but there will be times when people want to come over or overstay their welcome. There will be times that your partner is sore, tired, moody, hungry or just doesn’t feel like people. Don’t make her have to hint that she doesn’t feel like it or that it’s time to go.
You know her better than anyone, you read the situation, have a quiet word and then ease the stress or pressure for her in whatever situation. Keep your priorities straight.
We found that when we have all our postnatal checks and first baby checks/vaccinations that the doctor/nurse would always just address me which I thought was really disrespectful considering my hubby was right there.
If you have questions, ask them.
If you’re worried about something, let them know.
If you don’t feel like yourself, share with them.
If you feel that your partner is struggling, tell them.
9. Be silly
This comes naturally to most parents but if doesn’t come naturally to you, give it a go. A newborn is a little more challenging but you can cuddle and try introducing tummy time. As they get older you can sing, dance, laugh, play peekaboo and make every funny face under the sun to get a smile out of them. Don’t be afraid to be silly!
10. Just be there
In anyway you can be.
Do the laundry, pick up nappies, cook, buy her favourite drink, treat her to a few hours out, mop the floors, do the dishes, cuddle her, do the shopping, google helpful tips for her stitches, record the tv show she missed because she fell asleep. In any and every way you can be, just be there for her.
What are your top tips for how dads can help out?