Congrats to you, Dad! Can you even believe you are a DAD?! You and your partner are about to embark on the most beautifully chaotic, life changing journey…together. Mom did a lot of the work over the past nine months and now she needs you.
During pregnancy you might have made the effort to really do your part around the house or offer a foot rub or massage as needed. You were probably the shoulder to cry on numerous times as those pregnancy hormones kicked in. Maybe you even helped pick out the perfect registry items or build the crib – during pregnancy you were there.
You read up on all of the books and articles about how to support mom during labor and delivery (and if not, I encourage you to do so here, by reading 5 Ways to Support Your Wife During Labor and Delivery From a Dad of Four!). When the water broke and it was showtime, you cautiously but quickly made it to the hospital. You knew what to expect, but were also surprised when the entire experience was way different than anything you could’ve prepared for. You’ve been a great dad, you have been supportive and helpful, but your job isn’t done – in fact, it is just beginning.
After birth, when you are holding that tiny miracle in your arms and all seems right with the world, remember Mama needs you too. There are ways you can, and should support mom after birth.
Words of Affirmation
Sometimes a few encouraging words can go a long way, especially for a new mom who is second guessing everything (and I truly mean everything).
- Tell her she is doing a great job and you are amazed at the mother she already is
- Remind her how much you love her, and give specific examples of the new things you love about her
- Build her up! Tell her how beautiful she is, you are her biggest hype man right now
- If you are proud of her, tell her. Your support and encouragement is important
Have (Extra) Patience with Mom
This is all new to her, just as it is to you. There is a learning curve when it comes to parenthood and neither of you will be experts right away. Remember you are figuring this out together.
- Have some grace as she is navigating these new tasks, like figuring out how to change a diaper or cut baby’s fingernails
- When she cries for no reason, as her hormones begin to crash, be patient. This is her new normal right now, and she needs you to help guide her through it
- Show patience as her mood fluctuates and her body doesn’t bounce back to pre-pregnancy shape right away. Remember, this is a journey.
Help Around the House
Do your part and more when it comes to household chores. Mom has a lot on her plate right now, so be observant of what needs to be done around the house. Dishes will start to pile up, the vacuum is still in the closet and mom’s been wearing the same clothes for three days now – pay attention and help out.
On the other hand, some new moms want to do housework. Sometimes it is more appealing to fold laundry than it is to change a diaper or rock a fussy baby. Communicate with your partner and be flexible to do whatever it is she needs.
Give Mom a Break
You just witnessed your partner grow a literal human inside her body and then deliver said human – she is superwoman. Mom also might be working through the challenges of breastfeeding, or sleepless nights, or even postpartum anxieties. She won’t be good at asking for it, but give her a break. Not only does she deserve it, she needs it.
- Let her take an uninterrupted shower, for as long as she’d like. Showers are few and far between these days
- Book a postpartum massage or have her schedule an appointment to get her hair or nails done. Self care is not on the top of moms to-do list, but it should be
- Encourage your partner to just go take a nap. If she doesn’t want to get out of the house (sometimes being too far from the baby causes more anxiety) let her go lay down. You know how deprived of sleep you both are, give her some time to rest and rejuvenate
Listen to Mom & Help Her
Moms aren’t good at asking for help, so sometimes she won’t start a sentence with “I need help with…” but rather she might complain about how long it takes to get a bottle made when the baby is crying and hungry. Mom might mention how her legs are sore and her back hurts all the time. Listen closely, read between the lines and problem solve.
- Make the bottle, or wash the pump parts and have them all ready for when mom needs it. Stay a step ahead if possible.
- If she was prescribed any sort of medication, keep track of the schedule and give her what she needs, when she needs it.
- Also, listen to the words she is saying and help her find postpartum care if needed. Postpartum depression and anxiety are a very real thing, and if she is experiencing this, support her in finding help.
Bond With Your Baby
This is your baby too, and you are also transitioning into fatherhood. It is natural for mom to get up and be the first to tend to the baby’s needs, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
- Take over some feedings if possible, especially during the night. This helps build your bond with your little one, but also relieves some stress on mom
- Learn what soothes your baby and be the first to jump in and try it. Mom will appreciate you making the effort
- Be a present father. Be sure you know how to do it all – the bath time routine, the feeding schedule, etc. Mom will also feel confident that she doesn’t have to do everything, but you have proved yourself to be fully willing and capable
Set Boundaries with Visitors
This fourth trimester that you are in (the first 12 weeks after birth) can be emotionally draining and physically challenging. Mom might be programmed to be the ‘yes man’ and feel like she can take on the world (although she can do this, she shouldn’t right now). You need to be her voice and support, and help her set healthy boundaries.
Specifically, this means managing visitors/phone calls/Facetimes. It is now your job to make sure the visitors only show up when it works for your family, mom isn’t going to be up to having a revolving door during those first few days and weeks. Know when it is time to politely ask visitors to leave, or to end a Facetime call. Mom is going to get burnt out faster now than she ever did before. Help her set healthy boundaries with the people around her.
Your partner has just given birth to your child – she has labored and pushed for many hours or she underwent major surgery just to be sure your child was delivered safely. How can you ever show enough thanks and appreciation? It’ll be hard, but you can start by being there for her at home, and helping her with all she needs- emotionally, physically and around the house.
At the same time, don’t forget about you too, Dad! Welcoming a new baby into your life is a transition for the whole family, you also will need breaks and time for yourself – it’ll be exhausting and overwhelming at times. Mom gets it, she is feeling the same way. You and your partner are now teammates and need to be there for each other. Consider reading the article, 5 Ways to Avoid Arguments as New Parents, to really brush up on what to expect and how to avoid some of that seemingly unavoidable tension. Congratulations again to you Dad! Soak up every snuggle, it all goes by way too quickly.