Newborns are very dependent on their mothers, and it can leave some dads and partners unsure of where they fit into the mix.
Baby hungry? Time to breastfeed. Baby fussing? Seems like she just wants to snuggle on her mother’s chest.
While mothers and newborns are wired to spend lots of time attached to each other, there are still many ways for dad to bond with baby while also helping his partner to get a little rest.
Life with a newborn can be a big stressor in many relationships. After all, we can all be a bit cranky when we’re running on very little sleep.
However, when parents find a nice groove of shared responsibility, and when a new mother feels cared for, a relationship can really begin to blossom.
How To Be An Awesome New Dad and Partner
Here are 5 ways to be an awesome new dad and partner:
#1: Read To Your Baby
While your little one might not be quite the scholar yet, reading to her, from the beginning, is an excellent habit to get into. Reading to little ones helps them learn to associate reading and books with feeling good – an excellent start to literacy.
Fortunately, it doesn’t really matter what you read to your newborn. It’s certainly fun and helpful to read nursery rhymes, and books with pictures, to draw a little one’s attention, but you can mix it up.
Early reading is more about bonding and positive associations. Go ahead and read your sports magazine or novel out loud to your baby. It’s great for bonding and your partner will certainly appreciate the break!
#2: Support Your Partner’s Parenting Goals
According to many surveys, the majority of women desire to breastfeed their newborns. Many hospitals see 70-100% breastfeeding initiation rates.
Breastfeeding initiation means a mother and baby begin a breastfeeding journey.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding can be challenging. In the US, 79.2% of mother-baby pairs initiate breastfeeding, but by 3 months of age, just 40% of babies are exclusively breastfeeding, and by 6 months only 49% are still breastfeeding at all. Australian breastfeeding statistics also have similar significant declines as each month passes.
Research shows that a supportive partner and father has a huge impact on whether mothers reach their breastfeeding goals.
You can support a mother in breastfeeding by being her cheerleader during the hard feeds, bringing her drinks and nutritious foods during breastfeeding sessions, by being understanding of the amount of time and effort breastfeeding takes, having realistic expectations about how much will get done around the home, and supporting her if pumping is necessary, and so on.
Your partner will deeply appreciate the support, and your newborn will have a lifetime of health benefits from breastfeeding during the early days, and beyond – making you a wonderful supportive partner and dad.
Whether your partner chooses, or needs, to bottle feed, your support will still be vital! Infant feeding is only one of many early parenting goals. If your wife wants to babywear, help her find a comfortable carrier.
If your partner wants to co-sleep, or help baby learn to sleep independently, help her find what works best for all of you. Simply being her cheerleader will help build her confidence as a new mother, which will mean excellent care for your baby.
Read more in our article, Blokes, Boobs and Breastfeeding – Why Your Support Is Critical, written by David Vernon.
#3: Take Over Or Help With Bedtime Routines
It’s no secret that newborns don’t really come home wired to go to bed at a certain time and sleep through the night. However, starting night time vs daytime behaviours early on can help your little one eventually figure out that night time is for resting.
Certainly your little one will be up for night time feeds for quite some time, but settling her in the evenings can help her learn to rest between those night time feeds.
Parenting is nothing short of extremely repetitive behaviours, which eventually lead to reaching a milestone or goal. A goal many parents have is getting as much rest as possible during the night time hours.
Many new mothers are constantly feeding, changing and soothing a newborn, which means by evening, they’re often beyond exhausted.
As a new dad, taking over the evening settling down time is an excellent opportunity to bond with your baby, while giving your partner a much needed break. An evening break can mean having the stamina to survive those night time feeds.
Many dads enjoy giving their little ones an evening bath or a gentle infant massage, or taking baby for an evening stroll in a pram/stroller or while babywearing. All of these can be quite soothing. Doing these things every or most evenings, and then keeping the home mostly calm afterwards, will help your baby learn eventually that after these activities it will be time to settle for the night.
#4: Babywear During Errands
Getting out and about with a young baby can be challenging. Babywearing is an excellent tool to make errands easier, but also great for bonding. It isn’t uncommon to see one parent holding a fussy baby while the other pushes the empty pram/stroller and neither is hands-free and able to complete the errand.
By utilizing babywearing, your partner will have her hands free to do whatever she needs to. Your baby is likely to be settled as she’s feeling safe and snug. Meanwhile, you’re getting a wonderful moment to bond with your baby and help her to feel comfortable in your care.
#5: Let Your Partner Know You See And Appreciate Her Hard Work
The more confident a mother becomes, the better her day and baby’s day will be. Being a new mother (whether for the first or fifth time) comes with many challenges. She might be used to completing huge projects at work or keeping her house in impeccable order. A newborn, however, makes either of those things nearly impossible.
When you’re with a newborn all day, you can feel constantly busy while also feeling like you’ve accomplished almost nothing. Logically we know that feeding, soothing and keeping a newborn alive is certainly not nothing, but it isn’t an easy accomplishment to measure.
Take time to remind your partner how well she is doing. Let her know how much you appreciate her caring for your baby.
As a new dad you can help support your partner to have a positive postnatal experience, and provide your little one with the best of care. In the early weeks it can be hard to figure out your role as a new dad, but in time you’ll find what works best.
When you’re unsure about how to help, just be her cheerleader and offer practical help (e.g. bring her a drink, walk a fussy baby, etc). It’s possible to find a parenting groove which will help your relationship grow even stronger.