The first few weeks with your newborn baby are full of joy and wonder and maybe a little fear. At times it can be so overwhelming. But stay loose and remember this is a new experience for both mom and dad. In fact, keep that in mind for all of your upcoming “firsts” with your new baby. You’re in this together, figuring out how to parent the best way you know how.
“Once the baby is born, dads can do pretty much anything but breastfeed, so the more they get involved the better,” said Emily, local mother of two.
It’s true. Women can become the “go to” or “expert” parent by default if they limit dad’s role. It’s important to take a team approach. Both parents have a vital role to play and it is important for each parent to be supportive of the other as they figure out their new responsibilities of caring for their baby. Sharing responsibilities in the care of your newborn will prevent parental inequality during those somewhat trying toddler years.
Night feedings are routine during the newborn months and many dads choose to get up when mom nurses. However, that might not be the best use of time, unless you are bottle-feeding. This is especially true if the Dad is going to work in the morning. Now, as a Dad, you should definitely acknowledge her; don’t just snooze away. But talk about a plan where you can rest in shifts.
“After my wife’s early morning nursing, I would spend one-on-one time with the baby, to give her a couple hours of rest and relaxation,” said Shaun, local dad of two. “I was super tired, but it was quality time with my son that I really enjoyed and my wife was grateful, which in turn helped our relationship during those early newborn days.”
Ask for Help
If you are going back to work, communicate about how the pressure each of you is feeling during the day can be managed and alleviated.
Keep in mind that the woman’s body needs to recover from labor and delivery. There will be a time of pain and discomfort for the mother. And while dads can make every effort to keep up with the house, meals, and laundry; it is a real challenge. Think about reaching out to family and friends to help around the house. This is one of the busiest times of your life.
One on One Time
“While I was on maternity leave, my husband would come home from work and take the baby for a walk offering me the option to nap or just have a moment to myself,” said Jill. “Many times, I actually joined them and enjoyed the fresh air and being together, but I really appreciated his gesture.”
Bath-time can be a great time for dads to have some one-on-one time with baby, before a nightly nursing by mom. And once again if you’re feeding bottles of pumped breastmilk or formula, there’s no reason dad and mom can’t share the bath-time/bedtime routine, giving each other a break when needed.
Dads: Get Educated
Use the many resources available to understand how your partner is feeling after delivery.
Keeping an open line of communication with your partner is critical. As you both find your footing as new parents, you may find where you each bring specific strengths to balance each other.
“I was surprised at my lack of patience,” said Emily. “Our baby was colicky and I got frustrated by the amount of crying. My husband, who is very gentle-natured, was a calming force and would help me to pause, breath, and step away if I needed a break.”
Navigating the needs and development of a newborn baby takes some time and some trial and error; but talking about it and supporting each other in every way from making sure mom stays hydrated during nursing to sharing in the bathing, feeding, and overall enjoyment of being a parent will help and strengthen the whole family.