Hey there New Dad,
I know it is hard for you too. You watch as the one you love is completely consumed by your new baby. You are so tired, but you know she is even more tired, so you cannot complain. And despite how tired she is, she seems so capable. She seems to know instinctively what to do for your baby. You are feeling a bit lost. You want to help, but you don’t know how. You feel very out of your depth.
In the very early days of fatherhood, you may not be able to do much for your baby. If your partner is breastfeeding, there is even less you can do. But there is one big huge job you can do. A job that will make all the difference to your family.
You can care for HER. The Mother of your child. She needs you right now. Even if she says she is okay.
Her world has been completely flipped upside down. She is healing from the pain of childbirth. She is struggling with huge hormonal changes and learning how to feed her baby. You can be her shoulder to cry on and her anchor in the storm.
But where do you start? You don’t want to ask what she needs, she already has so much on her plate. Why don’t you start by doing these few simple things. These will keep her sane and show that you care.
Make sure she is eating and drinking enough
This may sound silly to you. You may think that she is capable of figuring this out for herself. But motherhood, especially when breastfeeding, leaves a woman feeling absolutely ravenous. But when she cannot put down her newborn baby, and has a million other things on her plate, caring for her own nutritional needs is the last thing from her mind. And staying healthy at this time is so important.
When I was a new mother, my husband would leave a smoothie in the fridge for me every morning. It was filled with healthy ingredients, and because it was pre-made, I could just drink it one handed. This made a massive difference to my day. But would only take him about five minutes to make.
Engage with your baby
It may feel a bit unnatural at first, you may not think that a baby can understand much of what is going on around them. But make the effort to engage with your baby when you are caring for them. Read them books. Make funny faces. Give them lots of cuddles and love. Talk to them. This will help you to get to know your baby, and will give your partner endless joy. Because as a mother, there is nothing that brings me greater happiness than watching my husband be a father.
Take Candid Photos
My phone is filled to the brim with photos of both my children, and my husband with my children. I barely make an appearance. So when my husband does take a photo of me with my children, especially a candid photo, it means the absolute world to me.
So if you see your partner asleep with her baby nestled in her arms, take a photo. If she is feeding her child, take a photo. Messy hair, poor lighting, playing a game, or even when she is comforting a crying baby, take a photo. These will be cherished for many years to come.
Don’t complain when you walk through the door and are instantly handed the baby
When you walk into that door, chances are she has been holding or caring for another baby, or maybe several children, for hours upon hours. Don’t stop to take off your shoes. Don’t stop to go to the bathroom. Open up your arms and take your baby and give her a break. She has to do all these things at home by herself with the baby. So you can figure it out as well.
Check in on her emotional wellbeing
Postpartum depression is real, and can affect any new Mother. Even if it is her second, third or fourth child. Even if you think she is doing well. Make sure you research and watch for signs of struggle. Most women suffer in silence without ever asking for help. If you are worried that your partner is suffering from depression, and you don’t know how to help, call PANDA on 1300 726 306 for advice. And remember to keep the lines of communication between you open, even when you are both tired.
Give her opportunities to play with her other child/ren one on one
As a second time Mother, I desperately miss that one on one time I had with my toddler. Having been his primary caregiver for almost three years, I often feel like a part of my body is missing. So give her opportunities to play with her other children. Take the baby into another room for a cuddle, or settle them to sleep for her so that she can spend uninterrupted time with her other babies. Trust me, the Mum guilt of constantly having to care for a baby and not being able to give that undivided attention to my toddler is heartbreaking.
And be careful of the language that you use with your other children. Try not to say things like “Mummy is busy with the baby so we need to leave her alone”. Instead try, “Mummy really wishes she could put you to sleep, but I am so happy that I get to do it instead”.
Above all, be kind and understanding
You may get yelled at. Snapped at. Treated indifferently. Try and be kind and understanding. She is just so very tired. And so very hormonal. Think back to your teenage years. Remember the huge mood swings that were entirely out of your control. That is similar to what a woman who has just given birth feels. Please don’t take it personally. Hug her when she cries and forgive her if she isn’t nice or if you aren’t receiving the attention you are used to. She will come back to you eventually. Be waiting for her.
While this article has been written in the style of a father and a mother, I am completely aware and sensitive to the fact that each family is very different. Whether there are two Mums, two Dads or other family dynamics, the wording can be changed to suit anyone. I would never in a million years want to discriminate. This is just based on my personal experience.