Moms do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to bringing a new baby into this world (OK, not just a lot, but you know what I’m getting at).
But while its important for dads to know how they can support a new mom, its also important for moms to know how they can support the new dad as well.
You’ve both gone through enormous changes.
And both of you deserve to feel supported and appreciated as you step into these new roles.
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Encourage him to take the responsibility for one bonding opportunity
Especially if you have your own bonding opportunity through breastfeeding, you can support a new dad by encouraging him to pick a bonding opportunity that he can have as his own.
When we brought our first son home, my husband took over bathing duties.
Not only was it a nice reprieve for me, it was a great bonding opportunity for my husband and our son. Especially when he was having a difficult time bonding with our son.
A couple of options for bonding opportunities for the dad in your life can be bathing the baby, diapering the baby, or bottle feeding the baby.
Get his favorite meal (ordering it is totally OK)
Sometimes we all just need a comfort meal when things are hard.
And bringing home a baby is hard.
Navigating marriage after bringing home a baby is hard.
Taking care of yourself after bringing home a baby is hard.
One way you can show him some support by getting him his favorite meal – whether homemade or by ordering it.
Encourage self-care and time with friends
One of the best ways mom can support a new dad is to encourage him to spend time doing things that will refresh him: time with his friends; taking up a hobby; joining a sports team; or whatever it is that refreshes him.
I know it can be hard to give your partner the green light to step away from baby duties, but hopefully he is willing to let this be a two-way swap. Because you both need a chance to be something other than just “mom” or “dad.”
So even though it might be difficult to step back and encourage some autonomy for your partner, the benefit is that he will likely come back refreshed (at least sort of) and able to better support you and your new little one.
But please take this piece of advice with the rest: if you really cannot manage (or are struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety), make sure you have another set of hands to be with you if you’re going to green light a boys night or some other break for your spouse. And if you don’t have help and can’t manage (which is totally fine and normal), wait to give him this option until you’re in a more stable position in your new roll as mother.
Encourage him to come with classes with you before the baby
This may seem like a way to support you, but encouraging your husband to be engaged with the birth and breastfeeding classes is truly a support of the dad as well.
It not only provides him with the confidence to be able to help you and coach you when needed, but it also helps him to have a better idea of what is going on when the baby comes.
I think my husband felt a bit heroic being able to coach me on some of the breastfeeding techniques we had learned in class. Especially when I had been in labor for 20+ hours and suddenly needed to feed a baby and it ended up being much, much harder than anticipated. I couldn’t think straight in that moment, but his ability to help me with some gentle reminders was so helpful — I could let his brain do the work instead of mine!
Arrange for quality time with him
A lot of dads tend to feel a bit rejected when the baby comes.
Which may sound silly, but if you think about it then it sort of makes sense.
One day they’re your partner and the one and only love of your life.
The next they’re sharing you (or possibly feel like they’re losing you) to a new love.
It can be hard to find the time and energy to share more of yourself, when you feel like you’re pouring all that you have into this new little body that really does need you for survival.
But it is important for your whole new family until to make sure mom and dad are still spending some quality time together.
One of the most supportive things a new mom can do for a new dad is to make sure he knows that he is still important and necessary to her life.
So even if its just making time to have a cup of coffee before work, or talking about your day over containers of takeout at the end of the day– make time to connect.
And if you really want to try for a date night, but don’t want to (or can’t) leave the house, you can alway try out dating at home.
Encourage bonding opportunities
You had a whole 9 months (give or take) for your baby to find comfort in you – your scent, your temperature, your voice…. Everything.
Your baby will know you are theirs the moment they’re born. Which is wild.
Your baby’s dad won’t have that same experience.
So find opportunities that can be used by the new dad in your life to bond with his new baby.
A couple of ideas might be skin-to-skin time, bedtime routines, feeding the baby a bottle, changing your son or daughter, or bathtime.
All of these are opportunities for your daughter or son to associate dad with comfort and caretaking and for both of them to feel a connection forming.
Something to keep in mind is that it may take a while for them both to get comfortable with their roles and that’s totally OK and normal!
Any opportunity to connect is a good thing for both of them.
A little note here, because a lot of moms struggle with struggling to step back and release the reigns to someone else (yes, even Dad): this is absolutely a way to help you as the mom, but also to support Dad in the process. It’s good for him to have an opportunity to take ownership of his role and ability to make decisions as Dad, and its good for you to remove some of the responsibility from your shoulders. That’s what partners are for.
Communicate frustrations and listen to his concerns and frustrations
So many men hate trying to read between the lines.
Being frustrated at him for what he’s doing, or not doing, is only to going to create more tension for both of you.
Trust me, I’ve been there with both of my babies 🙂
Something that neither of you wants or needs during an already stressful transition.
If you need a mediator because you’re sleep deprived and don’t think you can handle the conversation tactfully, consider couple’s therapy.
This stage is HARD. And that’s OK and normal.
And it makes sense that you would have frustrations with one another.
But they won’t get better without talking them out.
Involve him in decision making
It can be really difficult when you are trying to figure out what is best for your child.
You’re navigating your own “mother’s intuition” (or not – that’s normal too) and you may be having some intense feelings about how things “should be done.”
But try to curb some of those drives to do things your way when you can.
Remember, you are in a partnership.
And one of the most crucial things to remember when you’re trying to support your husband’s entrance into fatherhood is that he is your partner.
And I personally know how hard this can be, because I know there were times when I really wanted Daniel to do things a certain way because that’s the way the baby handled it best (such as bath time).
But you know what?
Dad is competent and has to form his own bond with your child too.
And he can ask you questions if he is uncertain.
He’s the person you trusted enough to have a baby with – so supporting his journey to fatherhood should include acknowledgment that he too is capable and an important part of the decision making process for your children.
Don’t undermine his parenting
Sometimes you too won’t agree.
You, as a new mom, can support the new dad in your life by having conversations about your parenting strategies.
Talking over how you think you each want to do things and why.
Your husband won’t always make decisions that you will agree with, and he won’t always agree with your decisions.
As long as no one is being harmed, then these are opportunities to discuss how you each have your own opinions and preferences regarding how to do things.
Offer suggestions without being overbearing
You’re both going to need help from one another.
I remember vividly what a great help my husband was when I had just gone through strenuous labor and had no idea what I was doing when I was trying to breastfeed.
Thankfully, he remembered what we had learned during our breastfeeding course and was able to offer helpful suggestions so that I could feed my son successfully.
When you remember how to do something or know how to do something in an easier fashion (like getting your baby to take a bottle) offer suggestions gently and thoughtfully. The same way you’d want him to offer suggestions to you.
Ask for help when you need it
Your husband is not a mindreader and you’d both find it exhausting to try to figure out what your spouse needs most from you.
So many couples find the postpartum period to be incredibly difficult on their marriages (I know we felt it).
And many of us struggle, in large part, because we have unmet needs we aren’t communicating.
So try, really try, to communicate what it is when you need it.
When you need more sleep, for example, talk to your baby’s dad about the need and strategize how it can be done. Maybe he can take the baby for a walk so you can get a nap. Or get his mom to pitch in for a bit.
Many new dads just want things to go smoothly.
Your husband loves your baby, but he also loves you and wants to support you.
So help him to do that, by communicating those needs when you can.
Offer him rest when you can afford to
There will likely be days when the need for sleep will swing more heavily in your favor and your husband should support you in that.
But there will also be days when that need will swing more heavily in favor of the father of your children.
When possible, offer him a chance to sneak off for a nap or a morning to sleep in.
Ask for help from outside sources
This was something I had a difficult time doing, but it is worth it.
Sometimes it can be hard, because you don’t want to leave your baby in the hands of someone else, but it is so worth it for both yourself and the new dad to ask from help from others.
Maybe your mother-in-law can watch the baby in your home while you and your husband or partner get a nap.
Perhaps you can ask your mom to come help with laundry.
Maybe you can ask your dad to grab lunch when he’s on his way to visit.
Your partner doesn’t have be the only one to carry the weight when its too much for you.
Show him appreciation for all he does
Unfortunately, a lot of dads have to go back to work pretty much as soon as their babies are born in the US.
If this is the boat you’re in, acknowledge how hard it must be to miss out on time with his new baby.
Acknowledging someone else’s hardship does not take away from your own difficulties (such as the struggle you have at home with being the default parent).
You can thank him for letting you rest, changing the baby, or whatever else he is doing.
As a gentle reminder, just because he should be helping with these things, doesn’t mean they don’t warrant a thank-you (the same goes for him thanking you for these things).
Little moments of appreciation and affirmation go a long way – especially when you’re in the trenches of early parenthood.
You’re both exhausted, so feeling like all that you’re putting into this time in your life isn’t going unnoticed can be the boost you both need.