10 Ways to be a Supportive Partner When Your Baby Arrives
In those first few days and weeks when a baby first arrives, we tend to focus on mom’s healing and on baby’s health, but we often don’t talk about the important role partners play in both of those outcomes. Dads can help to care for both mom and baby and pave the road for a well-bonded family. Ten easy steps to support your new family are:
- If you can, take some time off of work. It may mean taking vacation, sharing your partner’s parental leave or unpaid leave, but your support for those first few days or weeks can make a huge impact on getting settled with a new baby.
- Manage guests and phone calls. Everyone is excited to meet your new baby, but you’ve only just met the little one yourself! Discuss with your partner when you’d both like visitors and begin to schedule them in at times that work best for all of you. If friends and family are calling to wish you all well, try being the one to answer the phone.
- Introduce your pets to the baby. When baby comes home, there may be more than relatives waiting for introductions. Pets can be excited, nervous or scared, but proper introduction can ensure they feel loved and safe with your new arrival, which should help keep your new arrival safe, too. Make it your job to research introducing pets to your baby and have a plan to do so as soon as you return home.
- Support whatever form of feeding you’ve chosen. If it’s breastfeeding, mom will likely need some emotional support (breastfeeding often has a learning curve) as well as some physical support, like grabbing her a glass of water, her phone, a magazine and other items that she might not be able to grab once she’s feeding the baby. If you’re using pumped breastmilk or formula, take the opportunity to bond with your baby while giving a bottle.
- Change diapers. This one might seem obvious, but, especially in a breastfeeding home, diapers often become part of the feeding routine: breastfeed one breast, burp, change diaper, breastfeed the other breast, burp, maybe another diaper change. Scooping up baby to change a diaper can be a nice small break in routine, and the change table is a great place to make silly faces and bond with your baby.
- Learn your baby. Mom might be great at soothing the baby, but you may be, too. The amazing thing is, you’ll probably do it completely differently and it’ll work wonderfully! Don’t be afraid to manage baby on your own: playing, soothing and, if possible, feeding. You’ll find your own tricks that work and gain confidence as a new parent, all while giving mom a rest.
- Be the cook. It’s truly amazing how much time a baby can take up. Before you realize breakfast is over, it’s already lunchtime and it feels like nothing’s been done. If you’re home, cook the meals or make food ahead of time and freeze it in meal-sized portions. If you’re not able to be home, leave a frozen lunch portion out on the counter before you leave for work. Mom will appreciate being able to grab a quick, healthy meal while juggling feedings, doctor appointments, laundry and diaper changes.
- Pack the diaper bag when going out. Not only does this take something off what is traditionally mom’s list, it’s a great way to learn to plan for your baby’s outings (hint: you’ll pack a lot more than diapers) and be comfortable throwing a bag together when it’s just you and baby.
- Take the night shift so mom can sleep. Babies aren’t born with a sleep pattern, which means one parent is often up past bedtime with a very awake little one. Try taking that late shift, or the very early shift, so mom can get a bit more sleep. If a breastfed baby needs to eat, you can always give the baby to her to nurse in bed, then change the baby and put him/her down when ready.
- Give mom a break, physically and emotionally (and yourself, too). New moms are dealing with a lot: physical healing, hormone fluctuations, identity re-evaluations and, often, learning to breastfeed. Telling her she’s doing a good job and allowing her to talk openly about anything that’s bothering her are more valuable than you might think. And then do the same for you. Becoming a parent is a big, wonderful event, but it can take some time to adjust, too. Talk to your partner and to other parents, and know that doing your best and being a supportive partner helps to ensure that everyone in your new family is happy and healthy.
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