Many women are guilty of it – sometimes we expect (and/or would like!) for our partners to read our minds. Usually it’s due to thinking that they should be able to work out what we are trying to get at or that he should already know what we need. This can be very unhelpful though, especially during times when we really do need help, i.e. after we’ve just had a baby.
Because it’s quite difficult to simply ‘guess’ what women, especially as new mothers, need, I decided to write an article full of various tips and suggestions coming directly from experienced mums. BellyBelly’s Psychologist, Danny Chable, has also compiled his ten top tips, in order to help take the guesswork out of supporting new mums. Oh and don’t fret; we’ve also created a similar article for mums too – how they can help their partner after baby is born!
Firstly, here is a list of suggestions which BellyBelly mums came up with, which was helpful to them after their baby was born. Some of these things are physical help, but some of them also help emotionally, allowing mum to have a rest in order to prepare for another day of taking care of your beautiful, but also very dependent, baby. Nurturing another human being 24×7 is a pretty demanding job, and its important that mum gets some nurturing in return to fill her back up, so she doesn’t feel ‘bankrupt’. Just like a bank account, if you keep making withdrawals, you’ll have nothing left, and that doesn’t feel very good at all. And remember – which ever parent goes out to work, that’s their job. Which ever parent stays at home with the baby – thats their job. But when both parents are home, its a shared job. Its important to see your role as a parent as exactly that, a 50/50 split with the other parent. But especially in the early days of sleep depravation and intense caring – mum needs a big hand so she can be rested and healthy, so she can take better care of your baby.
Things Dads Can Do With Baby
- Take baby out for a walk so mum can have some quiet time
- Feed the baby in the middle of the night or bring the baby to mum if breastfeeding (could also be expressed breastmilk to give mum a rest); or;
- Feed the baby in the morning (again with expressed breastmilk or formula if formula fed) so mum can get a sleep in
- Take the baby for a cuddle if s/he is crying and mum is getting upset or flustered
- Help to look after any older children so that mum can adjust to life with a newborn again as well as give mum a bit of quality time with the baby. This applies to the other children as well – all need equal one on one time with both parents
- Make sure you learn how to bath baby and change nappies
Many mums find it helpful and enjoyable when a specific job/s can be designated to dad, for example doing the nightly bath or going for a nightly walk – something regular that mums can look forward to as time they know they will have to themselves to ‘zone out’ and not be on alert.
Things Dads Can Do For Mum
- Make mum any meals, e.g. breakfast in the morning before going to work, or take over cooking every now and again – make sure she’s eating three good meals a day which can often get overlooked with young children.
- Send her off for a massage, regularly if possible – a babe in arms all day, especially after giving birth, is not good for the poor old back! Or offer her a decent massage, without expecting anything in return. It may be a good idea to keep your clothes on if you’re worried you’ll want more!
- Encourage her to seek support and check in with her regularly to see if she feels she is coping
- Tell her she’s doing a great job
- Tell her that you are proud of her / how much you love her
- No pressure for sexual acts – intimacy will return again soon, however pressure can make this a less enjoyable time. For further reading on this topic, check out our articles Sex After Baby and What Will Happen To My Sexlife?
- Bring a drink of water when breastfeeding
- Let her de-brief / talk about the labour and birth as many times as necessary, without getting annoyed. Women find the need to talk such a huge life event over with someone who will just listen. Being a good listener is important – if she doesn’t feel heard, she’ll want to talk about it even more desperately – this is common with many people – not just new mums. If she appears to be struggling with her birth experience, or you suspect she may have some emotional trauma from the birth, you may like to lovingly suggest she talk through her birth to a professional birth de-briefer or counsellor.
- Tell her that it doesn’t matter if the home is messier than usual and help to do a bit of tidying
- Let her cry or be emotional without trying to ‘fix’ her – simply comfort her
- Appreciate her
- Buy her a pressie for no reason
- Send her out for a haircut / colour so she can feel a bit more fresh or glamourous
- Send her out to buy a new outfit or two – after having a baby her maternity clothes wont fit and neither will her pre-pregnancy clothes, which can leave mums feeling miserable with not much to wear
- Run her a bath and buy her some non baby magazines
- Let her take over the remote
- Insist that she go and have a shower while baby is sleeping and you will take care of it if baby wakes; or offer to take baby out so she can have a peaceful shower. New mothers are always on alert and if she hears the baby upset she may too become upset or want to rush her shower, defeating the whole purpose!
Being at home alone with a baby is an extremely nurturing intensive role; even though it might seem like she is doing very little or nothing, tending to a baby all day requires a great deal of emotional and physical work. It can also be terribly isolating at times, especially when baby is crying and nothing is working, ending up in mum crying too. Women used to raise babies in a community, with extra hands, reassurance, guidance and nurturing – we’ve long lost what we used to do and are far from the community we used to have. Many mothers are left to raise their babies without much support (apart from yours of course!) and its not as easy or natural as you may imagine.
Because babies can only communicate to us through crying (which they normally do a great deal of in the early months!), it requires much energy and patience to find out what the problem is and then resolve it. Lots of settling and cuddling – day after day this becomes very exhausting and tiring.
One thing to consider too is that mums can become so distracted and busy with a baby that they don’t even get the time to eat properly, not to mention fitting in time to do the cleaning. Eating well is very important of course, but at this stage in your lives, cleaning is not. Mums may feel that if they don’t attend to their babies needs first and foremost, that this may label them as a bad mother or failure. They may also feel down or stressed about not getting any housework done – trust me – we hate living and ‘working’ in a messy environment just as much as you do. So you can see how they can put eating, resting or caring for themselves on the back burner.
By offering lots of nurturing to mum, you are loading her with more power to nurture others, including yourself. It certainly makes mothering MUCH easier when mothers feel that they are being taken care of too.
Things Dads Can Do With The House
- If in the budget, hire a cleaner, regularly if possible in the early weeks / months
- If you can see that the clothes need washing, do a load of washing and hang it out
- Clean the bathroom / kitchen / lounge room
- Take charge of making sure that visitors don’t outstay their welcome or turn up at inconvenient hours
- Hire her a post-natal Doula – a post-natal Doula can help out with baby care and attending to mum, providing nurturing, light housework and a someone to lean on in times of need. Check out our doula directory to find a post-natal doula in your area.
- Pick up take away on the way home or cook dinner (after cooking dinner do the washing up)
- Be a spokesperson for visitors
- Take over some of the household responsibilities – i.e. paying bills, organising thank you notes, checking emails, making appointments
- Take over the grocery shopping or do the shopping online
- Be the one who organises the maternity payment and child payments
One thing to mention here is that if you can see something that needs doing, don’t leave it and wait to be asked. Make a conscious effort to check and see if there’s anything you can do, from picking up wet towels in the bathroom to bits on the living room floor to cleaning the microwave – be one step ahead and you will be surprised how much it can actually help reduce the stress and pressure on both partners. This doesn’t at all mean that you have to be constantly cleaning and on alert without having a rest or time for you – but there are little things you can do while you are already in a specific room which require little effort.
BellyBelly’s Psychologist, Daniel Chable has these top ten tips for men
- Don’t be solution focused
- Do try to nurture your wife, e.g. prepare, serve up, and clean up a meal at least once a week
- Don’t behave as though nothing has changed e.g. continuing to play cricket, hang out with the boys – you’re not an adolescent any more and your partner needs you
- Do be prepared to be around without actually believing you have to do stuff – this is very hard to do but your partner really values you being there
- Don’t be a wimp i.e. you need to be able to do everything your wife does except breastfeeding (if she does that)
- Do arrange things such that your wife has the opportunity to have some free (non-shopping) time at least once a week such that she can actually leave the house and do something for herself
- Don’t expect that your partner is going to be passionate about sex for a while as she’s actually exhausted – what she needs is a soul mate
- Do make time to listen to her problems, concerns issues by for example, making a cup of tea or coffee and sitting down with her; let her know that you hear what she says, be empathic to her difficult experiences, and don’t come up with answers
- Don’t talk to your wife as if she’s a bloke i.e. she doesn’t think, feel and process things like blokes do
- Do remember to include humour in your relationship and don’t let your fights continue overnight.