Long before baby is born, mom feels how her baby moves. Ava was a fluid dancer, Sri spastic – they came out exactly the same. The growing babe keeps her up at night and constantly reminds her of his presence with kicks, elbows and hiccups. She adjusts her schedule for OB visits. She plans for maternity leave with her workplace. Her body changes. Her wardrobe changes. Her diet changes.
When baby finally arrives, of course it is jarring, but mom has been changing her life for this tiny human for the better part of a year. It’s no surprise that most of us flow into motherhood much more smoothly than dads into fatherhood.
My sweet husband requested a post to help dads be more supportive and involved in the early days with baby. He said despite being on our second child he still feels clueless. He recalls he didn’t feel helpful until Ava was eight months when I specifically asked him to wash bottles and pump parts (he’s right, he wasn’t!), says the specific request was a relief, not a burden, and he hopes to be better for number two.
We struggled a lot when Ava was born – not from a lack of love but from a lack of communication. So my first word of advice is keep talking and talk about everything. After all, you are raising a child together now – you need to be on the same page.
Dropping the passive aggressiveness, being adaptable and recognizing issues to promptly come up with creative solutions are huge. Your husband loves you and wants to help, but, like mine, he may just really not know how.
I read a bunch of articles on how dad can be helpful, and I was happy to see my husband really does all of those things (maybe he’s been reading them??). In summary I found: help with chores, change diapers, make your wife feel desired. These are all great!
I hope my list will tackle some more specifics and may be more tailored to family’s with high intensity jobs like our’s.
20 Ways Dad Can Help with New Baby
- Your nuclear family has become more important than ever, but somehow people outside of it think this is the right time to drop in their opinions and needs. Ignore the noise and focus on your wife and kid(s). Everyone else is still loved and hopefully they can wait until things have settled down at home.
- Keep the nursing mama’s water glass full.
- Don’t finish the Gatorade, cookies or ice cream.
- Check your phone and TV at the door – mom has probably had minimal adult interaction or intellectual stimulation all day, so talk to her about your day, the news, etc.
- Cater to guests when they come over. She’ll want to, then be exhausted. You might have quite a few guests wanting to meet your perfect new baby!
- Plan a healthy dinner at least once a week – yes, she’s been home all day, but for some of us, this takes a lot of bandwidth that we don’t have. Eating out is easy to fall into and unhealthy. This doesn’t even mean you have to make it – just give her ideas!
- Don’t talk about how tired you are. Everyone is tired and fatigue is not quantifiable so you may actually be more tired than her, but still, this is not the time.
- If you have tasks for her to complete, send her a text with the list. I forget everything my husband asks me to do.
- Make the lactation cookies.
- Change diapers and burp baby promptly and if possible without being asked. Moms hate to ask for help. The longer you wait, the less time she has in between feed, wake, sleep cycles, and every minute counts when there are kids around.
- If your changing table is in the bathroom, leave the door unlocked when you shower.
- Give her privacy when in the bathroom and shower. These are her few moments of me time.
- Be cognizant of when you are needed. For example, playing with toddler from 4:30-6:30p while baby is sleeping and then taking a nap or phone call or shower at 6:30p when tot needs to get ready for bed and baby needs to nurse is not helpful.
- Learn how to clean baby poop out of clothes. Here’s a link to help you.
- Put things where they belong. Here are some specifics:
- Dirty diaper and ALL dirty wipes belong in the diaper pail.
- Baby’s dirty clothes belong in the washer or hamper.
- If you take the Rock ‘n Play downstairs to watch baby while she sleeps, thank you! Make sure to put it in an easily accessible place when you return baby to her to nurse.
- If you borrow her computer or phone, return it to where you found it so she doesn’t have to search for it when baby is hungry and screaming. Nursing gets super boring without them.
- Carry the diaper bag and the baby (or the heavier kid if there is one).
- Take over newborn’s bath time.
- Pay attention to her mood. Postpartum depression is real and she won’t be able to tell you if she has it.
- Love on your baby as much and often as possible. It’s tougher for dad to connect than mom, but working on that connection makes everyone feel good. Trust me, the breastfeeding mom is getting enough skin-to-skin. She will not be mad if you temporarily take the child away from her.
- Be a quiet sleeper. There’s nothing more frustrating than waking baby up with a huge sneeze or cough. Shaving and omeprazole have helped my allergy and reflux-prone hubby
Bonus: If you can afford it, invest in a housekeeper. Even better, especially if you work a lot and there’s a toddler in the picture, find someone to help in the evening with prepping dinner for tot, clean up, and toddler’s bedtime OR at least to hold baby while mom does these things so she’s not completely overwhelmed by multiple needy children and too few hands. Evenings tend to be the witching hour for most kids. The stigma of hired help making for disconnected parents is unfair. E.g. I can chat with my girl during dinner or sit under a blanket and read with her when nanny is there to make her dinner and pick up one million peas off the floor.