When I had my second daughter, my husband came home from work one day to a fussy baby, unruly toddler, and exhausted mama. “She’s cluster feeding,” I told him. His eyebrows went up in complete understanding. I didn’t have to explain what cluster feeding was or ask him to entertain our toddler. He knew. All I had to say were those three words and he leapt into action, ready to help take care of the baby, toddler… and me.
Every relationship is different and every postpartum journey is unique. What I needed most from my husband varied after each of our daughters were born. The first time around I needed his support in breastfeeding and holding my hand as I struggled to return to work. When our second daughter was born, I needed his focus on our toddler while I cared for our newborn. Both times, his support during the postpartum phase was crucial to my healing and wellbeing.
So taking things I’ve learned through my own postpartum experiences and talking to other moms as well as some expert advice, we’re sharing some of the most meaningful ways partners can support a postpartum mom.
Co-Create a Postpartum Plan
Molly Nourmand, LMFT and founder of Life After Birth® shared that co-creating a postpartum plan together can be one of the best ways to support a new mom. “[Partners] can really help reinforce the support that the birthing person needs when the baby arrives. In my experience, a new mom needs just as much care as the newborn… I am a huge proponent of the following ingredients: support/community, nourishment, rest, repeat.”
Work with your partner to create a postpartum plan before your baby arrives. When doing so, consider the following:
- Meals for several weeks
- Household chore responsibilities
- Childcare for other children
- Specifically how family and friends can help
- A plan for overnight
Ask Questions at the Hospital
During and after labor, there were a lot of medical professionals who cared for me and our baby. There was also an overwhelming amount of information thrown our way. Having my husband there to remember things and to ask questions was such a comfort.
I remember being particularly grateful that he was there the first time a lactation specialist came by. Helping my newborn get a good latch was difficult, but because my husband watched and listened to the lactation specialist, he was able to better assist with this once we were home and on our own.
Partners: Play an active role in working with your team of experts. Listen, ask questions, take notes, and learn as much as you can.
Provide Breastfeeding Support
With each daughter I experienced different breastfeeding obstacles and, as all breastfeeding moms know, the amount of time I spent nursing and pumping was equivalent to a full time job. (Expecting moms: don’t let this intimidate you!)
Amidst the engorgement, mastitis, and never-ending cluster feeding, my husband never once suggested we switch to formula. Had I decided to switch to formula I know he would have been supportive, but he had my back when it was tough. He always made sure my ice packs were in the freezer, washed my pumping supplies, and regularly encouraged hot baths when I was sore. Here are helpful ways partners can support a breastfeeding mom:
- Keep healing packs like these in the freezer and regularly bring them to her when needed
- Keep her “nursing station” comfortable so she can just sit, nurse, and (hopefully!) relax
- Support her breastfeeding goals, whether she aims to breastfeed for a month, two years, or not at all
- Wash pumping supplies
- Never let her water cup run dry
- Tell her what a great job she’s doing every day
Keep Mom Fed and Hydrated
My husband did the grocery shopping and made dinner most nights. He had to go back to work after just a week home, but he still made sure we had all our favorite snacks and easy meals to fix for breakfast and lunch.
All his help in this department was (and still is!) so appreciated, but in hindsight, setting up a more structured plan would have been a good idea to help us both. With the short amount of time he had at home, we should have made other arrangements for grocery shopping and cooking. What I really wanted was for him to be with us as much as possible, playing with our toddler or holding our baby.
I highly recommend organizing a food train (family and friends each choose a night to drop off dinner), setting up a meal delivery service, or freezing meals before your baby arrives. Create a nutritious dinner plan for the first few weeks postpartum, and you’ll be so glad you have one less thing to worry about.
You’ll also want to have plenty of easy-to-grab snacks on hand. For breakfast and lunch, have food available that requires little to no prep work or cooking.
Take Candid Photos and Videos
It seems like moms are usually the ones taking photos and rarely the ones in them. There will be countless moments when your partner is rocking your baby and basking in the newborn glow; take a candid photo or video of these moments for her. This is such a simple way to show her that you appreciate all she does for your baby. Let her see herself through your eyes.
Get Involved in the Bedtime Routine
Every night our bedtime routine looks similar: bath, pajamas, brush teeth, read a story, sleep. My husband helps with every step of this process. If I’m nursing or changing a diaper, he’s helping our toddler get her PJs on or brush her teeth. This helps everyone get to sleep faster.
Also, for the first couple of months my husband often took the first overnight “shift.” Here’s an example of what this looked like: I nursed our baby and then gave her to him. He held her while I slept until she was ready to nurse again. This was the best way to ensure I would get a few consecutive hours of sleep. He also soothed our toddler back to sleep when our baby’s cries woke her up.
Haley, a mom of a now-two-year-old, echoed similar sentiments. “I think the most helpful thing was when my husband helped out with feedings during the newborn stage. Waking up at all hours of the night was a lot to adjust to… When he would take the later shifts to let me sleep a few hours meant the world!”
Be an Active Participant
Don’t wait for your partner to ask for help or give you instructions; jump in and be a teammate to your spouse. Hold your baby so Mom can eat a meal with both hands, kindly insist she take a bath or shower, make sure her favorite comfy clothes are clean, and enjoy each precious moment together.
Christa, a new mom, appreciated that her husband took an active role in the newborn stage. He rolled up his sleeves and got to work to take care of his wife and son. “After having my son, my husband was extremely helpful in more ways than one. Most importantly, he made himself available. He was attentive to my needs and my son’s needs. He asked me daily what he could do to help out. I am forever grateful to have him as the father of our child and partner in life.”
A Final Note From a Postpartum Dad
“It’s easy to assume that the ‘hard part’ is over once you bring your baby home, but Mom will still need help. Be a little more aware of what you can do to help her out, whether that’s taking the other kid(s) out for a walk to let her get some quiet time or something as simple as making sure she has a cold or warm drink at her side to stay hydrated. Change those dirty diapers and bring home dinner without being asked. Most importantly, never forget to tell her that you love her. Small gestures can make a big difference.” Wise words from my husband.