When the terror and excitement of baby’s arrival finally wears off, the recovery period in the hospital draws to a close and although dads and your partners are desperate to bring baby home, walking in the front door for the first time you have the realisation: It’s your responsibility to keep this tiny human safe now.
It’s a terrifying moment, and mum and dad may look at one another in blind panic for a moment. It can be hard to figure out your routine at first, the balance of childcare, the time mum needs for recovery, how to function on a seriously compromised sleep schedule – so here are a few pointers for first time dads about what’s going through new mums’ brain at this time. Here are the tings they want you to know:
We’re both clueless
Maybe we’ve done some babysitting in the past and love hanging out with nieces and nephews – but that doesn’t mean we know any more than you do! The first time we bring baby home and they won’t stop crying even after we’ve consulted every baby book in the house, please don’t look at us like we have the solution! We’re in the same boat, with the same information and same responsibilities – anything you know, I probably do too. Which is why it’s so important to us that you read the parenting and baby books before baby actually arrives – an imbalance of knowledge leads to one parent always feeling like the primary caregiver and therefore the one always the most responsible, rather than sharing the duty of care. If we both have all the information, we can both help one another out.
Help without being asked
We’re both going to be exhausted those first few weeks, but particularly mum is she’s breastfeeding. We don’t have the time to fulfil all the household tasks, baby-related care and manage all the visitors passing through the house too. If baby bottles are in need of sterilising, make sure they’re ready for mum’s next milk-expressing. If the piles of laundry are building up, put on a load or two. Take over dinner or pick up your other children or just help share the workload between you, without it seeming like favour – the house and children are your responsibility too, not an optional activity for ‘brownie points’.
Don’t be afraid to take over
If mum feels like the primary caregiver and you feel you’re not getting the bond or time with baby, then step up and change that. Take over certain duties, like diaper changing, be part of their sleep routine, help burp them after feeds. While there are some things dads physically can’t be part of, the majority of bonding with baby is putting the time in. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself to get time with baby as it will not only strengthen your bond, but will also relieve mum for a while and let her know you’re willing and able to step up.
She’s feeling vulnerable right now, just like you. But for her, there’s the added element of her body going through a strange new phase. Post-partum mums can experience a huge range of emotions in a short amount of time. They’ve just been through the physically and emotionally traumatic experience of birth that has left their bodies sore, weakened and requiring work to get back to health. She may be conscious of her size, the changes that have occurred, like how hair falls out for some women, or new stretch marks appear. Remind her of what she means to you, how proud of her you are for getting through the birth and how well you’re both doing as new parents. She may need to hear it more than you think.
Mum may not be feeling sociable right now
A new baby’s arrival is always an unbelievably exciting time. A whole new person from a person you love has just arrived into the world! It’s totally natural to want to rush over the second they’re home and smother them all in all the love you can give, and it’s totally normal for dad to want all hid family over immediately to see his beloved newborn. But it’s really important to be aware that although this is a joyful time, it’s also a stressful and worrying time for mum. Mum’s post-partum body is almost definitely still in pain, the whole family is still adjusting to a new and interrupted sleep schedule and you may feel inundated with well-meaning but sometimes overstepping visitors. Dads have a role to play in regulating visits during those first few weeks. Be sure guests know that they should schedule visits and not arrive unannounced and ensure anyone who enters the house isn’t sick and washes their hands. It can be hard to say no when family wants to come over, but the first responsibility is to mum and baby, who both need lots of rest those first couple of weeks.