I’m not going to lie – having a baby completely rocks your world.
You can read as many books as you like, watch as many episodes of One Born Every Minute as you can stomach and attend as many parenting classes as you can sit through, but I’m telling you that NOTHING can really prepare you for the moment that tiny human enters your life.
It’s usually more of a game-changer for the mother because well, you grow the baby for nine months (usually closer to ten), you go through the experience of labour and actually birthing the child, and then if you choose to breastfeed, said baby is attached to your breast for the next 12-odd months.
But it’s also easy to understand why some new fathers feel overwhelmed and sometimes clueless as to what they can do to pitch in. My own husband cut his paternity leave short and went back to work early because he felt useless, like there was nothing he could really do to help. This actually left me feeling a little flat because, while our daughter might have depended on me slightly more this meant that I, in turn, depended on him more both physically and emotionally.
In light of this, we have put together a list of 10 things new dads can do to help their partners when they bring their newborn home:
TELL HER SHE’S DOING A GREAT JOB
Welcoming a baby into the world is overwhelming, terrifying, exhausting and a new mother is often filled with doubt. While much is instinctive, she will spend many hours just ‘figuring it all out’ and many more hours wondering if she’s actually doing it right.
It sounds so simple but do not underestimate the value of letting her know that she IS doing a great job. Encourage her, tell her that you are proud of her and how much you love her. This reassurance will not only give her more confidence with your new baby, it will also go a long way in your own relationship with her.
MAKE SURE SHE’S TAKING CARE OF HERSELF
It is very common that when a woman becomes a new mother, the first thing that goes to the bottom of the pile is herself.
You can help by making sure that she is eating enough, which is crucial not only for her health but also for the baby’s as this assists with milk production when breastfeeding. Let her take a bath or shower uninterrupted for as long as she’d like or give her the option to take an hour for herself, whatever that entails. If she just wants to stay home and have a quiet hour watching television, reading a book or drawing, take the baby for a walk so if it gets upset, she won’t hear it and come rushing over, completely defeating the purpose of the exercise.
Other things you can do include sending her to get her hair or nails done so she feels refreshed and more like herself, or sending her for a post-partum massage.
MAKE SURE SHE FEELS SUPPORTED
It is important to encourage a new Mum to seek support with other mothers in the community and check in with her regularly to make sure she is coping well with the transition into motherhood. If she appears to be struggling with her birth experience or you suspect she may have some emotional trauma from it all, lovingly suggest she speak to a professional
“JUST DO THE DIRTY WORK, MAN.”
Actor Ryan Reynolds nailed it when he said, “You gotta do the diapers, you gotta do the middle of the night thing. I mean, your wife – a human being will exit your wife, so she’s done enough. Just change the diapers and do all that stuff.”
Make sure you learn how to bath the baby and change diapers – even the explosions!
Mums love it when Dads take over a specific job and many take on the nightly bath routine which not only takes something off Mum’s plate, it’s also a great chance to allow for some father/child bonding time.
You can also take over some of the feeds where possible, including some of the middle-of-the-night feeds and even before you go to work in the morning so she can sleep in.
CRY IT OUT
Some new Dads will get frazzled when a baby won’t stop crying and want to hand it straight back but it is important to persist where you can, so that Mum can have a break and doesn’t feel as though she is stuck with always having to be the one to soothe the baby.
Don’t be afraid of a crying baby as it usually means one of three things – hunger, wind or a dirty nappy. If you can figure this out before you handball bub back to Mum you’ll really be helping her out and feel much more like a team.
If you do have a particularly upset baby you can always take it for a nice walk in the fresh air.
One of the easiest and most rewarding things you can do as a new Dad is interact with your child. This includes supervising tummy time, reading books, singing songs and playing with toys.
DADDY DAY CARE
If you happen to have other children, help to look after them as much as possible so Mum can adjust to life with a newborn again as well as giving her quality time with your new baby.
MAN OF THE HOUSE
As important as it is to be hands-on with your newborn, it’s just as important to help out around the house.
If you partner was previously a domestic goddess, don’t get upset if the house is messier than usual or your dinner isn’t on the table the minute you walk through the door. Remember that being home alone all day with a baby without any breaks is an extremely tiring and intense role, and she may feel the need to sleep when the baby is asleep rather than catch up on housework.
Take over the grocery shopping, help out with the laundry and if the budget will allow, you could hire a housekeeper for the initial couple of months.
DON’T WAIT TO BE ASKED
If you see something that needs to be done, don’t leave it or wait to be asked to do it. Make a conscious each day to check if there’s anything you can help with – are the nappies fully stocked? Have the bottles been sterilised? Has the washing been brought in? This doesn’t mean you have to constantly be on high alert but from experience I have learnt that some things generally just don’t occur to men!
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