No matter how present and helpful your partner may be, there is simply no denying the fact that moms do the brunt of the heavy lifting in those early days.
From growing the baby for nine months to the actual delivery, she’s all in, no real way around it. But as soon as that newborn is out in the world, moms need all the help they can get, and this is where partners can shine.
Some partners may feel comfortable diving right in, while others may be more tentative, unsure of how to be the most helpful. Just like you, your partner is brand new to this whole parenthood thing and experiencing a variety of emotions and thoughts. Lack of sleep often gets the best of us, so it’s essential during these early weeks and months to keep in mind that everyone is trying their best. No matter what role we play in this new family arrangement, we all have the same goals (happy and healthy baby, happy and healthy parent).
Unsure of how to actually have your partner step in and help? Open communication is key. Each family is unique, and everyone has different strengths, but there are a ton of daily activities that dads can jump in and assist with when it comes to baby life. And guess what? Not only does this make a mother’s role a little easier, but it bonds the whole family together. Here are my tips on how to get your partner more involved during the newborn phase:
Diaper duty is for everyone
I’ll be honest: I have absolutely no patience for any partner who says they won’t change a diaper (looking at you, Kanye). Get over it.
My husband changes 50 percent of the diapers when he’s home and that’s because we consider ourselves partners as parents—these are not just my babies. This is not something I had to ask him to do, he just expected it as part of his role as a father. And he’s done it from day one. When I was recovering from my deliveries during those early days, he would simply take the baby from me, change, clean, and return without saying a word–and I know he’s not the only one. Any new mama can vouch for how helpful that simple gesture is.
Bottles are your friend
If you are breastfeeding, then it’s a bit trickier to get your partner involved in feeding time. He can hold the baby if you need to pump and assist with figuring out the right position for you both, but when it comes to the actual nursing act, mom’s on her own.
But if bottles are part of the equation (regardless of if it’s pumped milk or formula), partners can share the feeding responsibility. I encourage you to let your partner take over here and let them do as many feedings as they can. It gives you a break, it lets them bond with the baby in a whole new way, and oftentimes, breastfed babies feed better when Daddy is holding the bottle versus Mommy.
We switched to formula much earlier than expected with my second baby, and it allowed my husband to feed him much more than he did our first child. Now, a little over a year later, my husband and Otis have an amazing bottle routine. Otis snuggles in, and you can tell he loves his special cuddle time with Dada and his “Baba.”
In the most basic of terms, your partner is now your personal assistant. No task is too small for them to help with, especially in those early weeks. That includes but is not limited to: shuttling baby to and fro anywhere they need to be (clothing changes, diaper changes, baths, playtime), tidying up all the stuff that has taken over your home (rattles, swaddles, nose bulbs, baby wipes, nursing pads), running out to get everything you now need (more baby wipes, more nursing pads, another pacifier to try, that chocolate milkshake from McD’s just because), helping you in and out of the shower and bed if needed (especially for those recovering from C-sections), and everything and anything that comes your way.
Don’t feel embarrassed or guilty for asking for help; we aren’t meant to do this alone and every little bit of assistance means more time for you to recover, rest, and recharge.
The kitchen is the new hangout
Your new baby isn’t the only one in the household that needs extra care those early weeks–you do too! You just went through a major physical feat—growing and delivering a baby—and your body needs all the love, support, and nutrients it can get. Let your partner help keep you hydrated and fed. Your body needs fuel to maintain the intense newborn schedule, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Let your partner make and bring you meals. Let them refill your water bottle. If cooking isn’t in their arsenal of abilities, put them in charge of grocery shopping, picking up or ordering meals to go, or at the very least, getting prepared foods from the store.
Lean on them for nights
There may be no area of baby life where you are more in need of a support system than sleep training. No matter what approach you take, having a partner right there beside you is literally sanity-saving. Whether it’s having them be the one to do the timed check-ins or the one to put baby to bed, it helps make a tough training much more doable and a whole lot less scary for us sensitive new mothers.
Once your little one starts sleeping well on their own, it doesn’t mean Dad is off duty. Have him continue to be involved in bedtime, bathtime, reading stories, and more. My husband works long hours, but whenever he can be home for bedtime, he tries. He walks in and dives right in, picking out books, putting on PJs. Our boys love it–and I love the teamwork.
Let them own it
Encourage your partner to discover their own little rituals, their own special routines with the baby, and then let them really own it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the littlest of things, it’s still helpful, and it’s still something special between just them two. My husband took care of swaddling our firstborn and quickly became a pro, so much so that it became a joke in our household, and when baby #2 came along, it was once again his duty. It’s his newborn thing; he has a method and is very picky about the fabrics.
There are things your partner will help with, that you may do differently. And that’s OK. Learning to let go of some control and letting them help is a wonderful lesson of parenthood.
The joy continues
Just because your little one isn’t so little anymore doesn’t mean that we don’t need partners to help as much. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Let your partner still own activities–both basic childcare tasks and some fun routines that just them two have together.
The baby may not need help with a bottle anymore, but Dad can still be in charge of the morning sippy cup of milk … or the bathtime routine. And as the children get even bigger and more active, so can those tasks; my husband and our toddler love their weekend Costco outings. And I love the 1-2-hour break I get at the same time. Win, win.
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