Hey new Dads! Congratulations on your little bundle of joy! I know things seem really crazy around the house lately- you’ve likely gone from sleeping to not sleeping, from relative independence to having a little 8-pound demanding mini-boss dictating your every move, and your partner may be experiencing a constant whirlwind of emotions from her hormones. I thought I would try to help you out by offering some advice on what you can do to make this new transition in your life go a bit smoother. These tips will go a long way to making you an even better partner and father than you already are.
1. Be more hands-on than Mom even expects you to be. I know this seems like a given, but new dads often feel a bit left out of the equation when it comes to new parenthood. But there are so many things you can be doing, whether Mom is breast or formula- feeding. Hold the baby any chance you can get, like after feeds. Get in there and do the burping. Grab spit-up cloths and help clean Mom off if baby has left a nice post-feed deposit somewhere on her back or shoulder. Try and make sure that everything your partner needs for the baby is available at the drop of a hat. Do the diaper changes. Better yet- do the diaper changes without being asked. Trust me- your partner will appreciate all of these things.
2. Make all of the food, and take over all cleaning and laundry. And I mean ALL. At least for the first 6 weeks. I know you might be working full time, but your partner is not only recovering physically from labour, but also responsible for the feeding, bathing and diapering of a 24/7 needs-machine, so the last thing she has on her mind is to make food for the rest of the household. If you don’t help out with the cooking and cleaning, mothers tend to end up cooking and cleaning while their babies are taking naps throughout the day, and those are the times she should also be taking a nap. Those first 6 weeks will be a short time in your life, but it will make all the difference if you take over the domestic duties and all Mom needs to focus on is healing, bonding with her new baby, and producing milk.
3. Stock up on groceries and snacks. It’s going to be hard for your partner to even think about eating in those first few weeks. And if she is breastfeeding, she’ll be starving all the time. So make sure to pick up lots of healthy and easily-accessible snacks, (think healthy granola bars, cut-up fruit and vegetables, pita and hummus, etc.). If your partner is able to grab things quickly and snack on them, she is more likely to be able to feel nourished, produce enough milk, sleep better, have less mood swings (no hangry wife moments) and heal faster.
4. Order in your partner’s favourite foods.
Everyone gets sick of eating home-cooked food all of the time, so set up a day that you’ll bring home something that is one of your partner’s favourite dishes. Your wife will love it- trust me- and you won’t have to cook that night.
5. Help her out in limiting visitation times. We know your baby is the cutest and everyone wants to see and smell him/her, and although your wife might love all of the attention, she is also probably feeling pretty tired and shouldn’t feel like she needs to host anyone. She might feel rude telling people these things or enforcing these things once guests arrive, so let people know that when they come, the visits should be 15 minutes or shorter. Or whatever works for you and your wife, but back her up, and come up with pleasant ways to tell your guests to get out of there.
6. Take the other kids out of the house to keep noise levels down. If you have another child, he/she is bound to feel a little jealous of the attention the new baby is getting. Take the other child(ren) out of the house, to the playground or swimming, or wherever suits you to have some Daddy time. It’ll make your firstborn(s) feel really special that they get special outings with just Daddy, and it’ll also allow quiet time for Mom and the new baby.
7. Pick the baby up for all the feedings and give her to your partner. Even if your partner had a pretty easy labour, she will still be pretty tender down there in her lady bits, which means reaching over to grab her baby from the bassinet before every feed can be quite painful. Add in a traumatic birth or C-section, and you should be doing all of the heavy lifting with the new baby.
8. Put the baby down for naps when possible to increase bonding. Your baby will often fall asleep on their mother if nursing, but take that chance to say to your partner, “I’ll hold the baby while they sleep so you can grab a shower or a nap, or go sit to have a meal uninterrupted.” Plus, you’ll bond more with your baby and get those coveted lovely baby snuggles in.
9. Make a point to tell your partner that you notice how hard she is working. Your partner will feel really proud of herself if you remember to tell her that you notice how hard she is working. Telling them that you want them to take the time to rest because they are recovering, making milk, and sleep-deprived will make them feel seen and acknowledged. It might be just be a small compliment from you, or an acknowledgement about how hard you notice your partner is working, but it will make her feel so appreciated.
10. Do research on the baby blues, postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum anxiety (PPA) and how to help. Most dads do research on how to take care of their new babies, but they should also be informing themselves on what is happening to their partner’s mind and body too. If your wife gets any of these conditions, she is most likely going to feel extremely alone and ashamed about it, even though it is out of her control. My husband was the first one to notice that my baby blues were turning into PPD, and because he had looked into it, he sat me down and told me we were going to get me help and get me feeling better as soon as possible. It immediately made me feel better. Your wife may also not even realize that she is experiencing PPD or PPA, so by informing yourself on the symptoms, you’ll also be showing that her that you care for her mental wellbeing.
11. Take more time off than you think you need. If you can take two weeks off work- do it. If you can take a month off, do it! With a newborn in the family, it’s not like you’re likely to be using that vacation time for an actual vacation anytime soon anyhow. And you’ll never get back this time with your newborn. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to stay at home and bond as a family, and your wife will love the added help.
12. Get your partner a treat. Even a card saying how great they are doing as a new mom will make her feel great. My husband bought me a mini book about 100 reasons why he loved me after we had our second, and to this day I would prefer that over diamonds. It made me feel so special to know that he thought I was doing a great job as a new mom.
13. Take lots of pictures of mom and baby in those first few weeks. She’s going to think she looks terrible those first few weeks, but she’ll appreciate it later. She’ll also love those moments of the baby later on that she wasn’t able to catch with her own phone.
14. Take over the thank-you cards without being asked. If she wants to send thank you cards for everything like the baby shower and all the food people have dropped off, just do it for her. She will really appreciate it, and you will look like an all-star husband!
15. Reach out to her close friends and family and organize times for them to drop off and help when you’re not around. Even if it’s just holding the baby while she takes a quick shower or nap. New moms never feel like they can ask for help, even when offered, so if you organize it for her, it’ll make her feel really loved. Just make sure to tell her when they are coming so she’s not caught off guard and she can leave the door open for them.
16. Run a bath for her to relax in. It’s crazy how much a new mom will neglect her own hygiene in those first few weeks because she honestly doesn’t even feel like she can put the baby down, or is just too tired to even take a shower. If you run that bath for her with a few candles lit, put her favorite treat on the side of the tub, and take that baby out of her arms, I can guarantee your wife will cry with joy.
17. Watch the baby so the mom can go for a quick walk and get fresh air. Mamas can get a little stir- crazy after having a baby, especially if they were a social person or worked full-time before the baby. Your partner might feel like she hasn’t had a proper conversation with an adult in weeks, so a quick walk around the neighbourhood, or going to grab a coffee down the street will rejuvenate her.
18. Be understanding if your wife is not ready to have sex after she’s been cleared to do so by her doctor. Let her know that when she’s ready, you’ll be gentle and you’ll go slow. Let her know that you’ll wait until it’s the right time for her. If she stops in the middle of the first time after birth, and says she’s not ready, cuddle up to her and let her know that’s okay too.
19. Tell that new mom that you love her new body. She’s going to feel pretty insecure because her body will have changed, so let her know that you love all those lovely lady curves and that you are so impressed with how her body made this little baby, got through labour, and is now nourishing her baby if she’s breastfeeding. It’s been 2 years since I gave birth and I still haven’t been able to get rid of all the baby weight, but my husband is constantly telling me how sexy it is that I have more hips and booty, and it honestly makes me love those parts of my body even more.
20. Tell her how beautiful and sexy she is as a new mom. She is not going to feel like she is, so tell her over and over and over again.
21. Tell her how much seeing her as a new mom has made you fall in love with her even more. She’s going to doubt if she is making the right decisions constantly, and by telling her she’s doing a great job, and that you love her even more now as a mom will make her heart so full!
22. Respect her wishes for space if she is feeling ‘touched out’. Some moms, especially moms with multiple children, will be constantly touched all day long, with a baby feeding off of them and toddlers crawling on them throughout the day. It can sometimes get pretty overwhelming; so if she doesn’t want to be touched when you get home from work, don’t take it personally. Tell her it’s okay, and when she’s ready for a hug that you’ll be there with open arms.
23. Feed that baby any chance you can get. Some dads may feel useless because they can’t feed the baby if the mom is exclusively breastfeeding, but if your partner pumps or supplements with formula, offer to be the one to give the baby the bottle. By doing that, you’ll be giving your wife and baby so much support. It’ll help you bond with your baby and give your wife a little break.
24. When in doubt make a call. If you have any doubts about what you’re doing right (or wrong) as a new Dad and a supportive partner- call your wife’s mother, or best friend. You might think you’re doing an A+ job and that you’ve got all your bases covered- but her closest confidantes will know the real scoop. Give one of them a call and see if there’s an area where you could get more bonus points. Everything you can do to make your wife’s life better will make your life better too.
New moms- If you’re the ones reading this, feel free to stop reading now and hand this to your man.
To the new fathers, good luck, and you’re welcome.