News dads, gather round, there’s something you should know.
Life with a new baby is a tough gig.
You and your partner are in it together.
Yes, she’s the one who spends most of the time with a baby attached to her.
But that doesn’t mean she’s got it completely together.
Right now what she needs is support, support and more support.
She’s tired all-the-time, may not being feeling too confident about her mothering abilities, and possibly doesn’t find much funny right now.
So here are 11 things you definitely shouldn’t say to your partner when she becomes a new mama, and definitely what you should say instead.
What Not To Say #1: “Can’t You Stop That Baby Crying?”
There’s not much more distressing than the sound of a tiny newborn crying, except the sound of a tiny newborn crying constantly.
Your partner will do anything to stop those wails and it’s likely she’s tried it all: feeding, a bath, soothing, walking around the house singing baba’s favourite song.
Nothing is working. Your partner is probably feeling incredibly helpless and useless and asking if she can stop the baby crying is only going to take everyone’s emotions to the next level.
What you can say instead: I’ll take the baby and rock/feed/sing while you take a breather. Letting her know you’re a team and she doesn’t have to work it out on her own is a big plus.
What Not Say #2: “It’s Your Turn to Change The Nappy!”
That’s the funny thing about babies, especially newborns – they seem to constantly need a nappy change. As soon as a fresh nappy has been applied, probably a new outfit if there was a pooplosion, your baby starts to make grunting sounds or turn red in the face.
This isn’t just a one off, it can happen multiple times a day. And despite your baby having the cutest bottom ever, if your partner spends the majority of her day changing nappies, she might just be sick of wiping poop out of skin folds.
What you can say instead: I’ve got this one! The more you change nappies, the better you get at it and as a bonus, you get to spend some quality one on one time with your baby.
What Not Say #3: “Honey, You Go Out, I’m Happy To Babysit!”
Because you know it’s not all sunshine and giggles for your partner and she could really do with a tap out, you offer to make that a reality. You know she really wants to go see that movie, meet up with some friends, or just go somewhere that’s not the same four walls she gets to look at every single day.
But let’s be clear – dads don’t babysit. Dads are parents too and you’re not doing your partner a favour by looking after your own child.
What you can say instead: You get ready to go out/take a bath/go have a nap (insert your partner’s wildest fantasy here) and I’m going to take over parenting duties.
What Not Say #4: “I’m Too Tired After Work To Help With The Baby Tonight”
There’s a baby in the house – everyone’s tired. It’s not a competition but it can feel like one of you is feeling more tired than the other. There are degrees of exhaustion too. You probably find going to work, being a responsible adult and not falling asleep under your desk a right challenge at the moment. And you should, parenting and holding it together is a tough gig.
It’s important both parents support each other because you’re in this together. Imagine coming home from work and your partner says you have to parent for the rest of the night because she’s too tired after being the primary carer all day. It wouldn’t feel right or fair. Parenting together lessens the burden resting on just one parent.
What you can say instead: I’m going to unwind with bub on the floor while you take a bath/pee in peace/go for a nap.
What Not Say #5: “Must Be Nice Hanging Out With The Baby All Day!”
You probably get home from work every day tired and yes, even a little jealous of your partner. After all she gets to stay at home and hang out with the baby.
Even if that means folding endless piles of washing while trying to get the baby to sleep, wishing she could have just one hot cup of tea and a shower. Your partner is basically the baby’s slave and gets to do the lion’s share of the domestic chores while she’s at it. Any of her own needs are on the second tier 99% of the time and while your partner loves being a mum, it’s bloody exhausting.
What you can say instead: You are an awesome mama and I really appreciate all you do.
What Not Say #6: “Must Be Nice Having Coffee And Cake All Day With Your Friends!”
If you’ve ever hung out with a small human being for any length of time, you get to realise they’re not great conversationalists but they are pretty demanding of your attention.
Trying to catch up with friends with a small baby about your person involves constantly having disjointed conversations while feeding, changing, cleaning up baby spit, picking up things off the floor, forgetting what you were talking about and then realising you’re that tired you can’t string a sentence together, and having to ask for your latte to be reheated four times.
It’s worth it though, because getting out of the house and talking to adults is pretty mind blowing when you’re a new parent, even if you have to cart the pram, oversized nappy bag and giant bags under your eyes.
What you can say instead: It’s really great you have a circle of friends to support each other.
What Not Say #7: “Why Don’t We Start Formula Feeding?”
Pretty much every mother wants to breastfeed. Hormones and instinct to do the best for your baby means you will give it a go. Most women can breastfeed successfully, even if they have a wobbly start.
While you might want to be supportive if you think she’s struggling with breastfeeding, offering an alternative isn’t necessarily the best way to go. There are plenty of options other than formula feeding and it’s a great idea to explore all of them and see which she feels most comfortable with.
Remember, breastfeeding doesn’t come easy for all women and suggesting formula can be seen as a not so subtle criticism of her choice to try to continue with breastfeeding.
What you can say instead: I’ll get the shower going (for sore breasts), call the lactation consultant (for painful breasts), take the baby so you can catch up on some sleep (if she’s been up all night). Check out BellyBelly’s article about how crucial a partner’s support is to breastfeeding success, here.
What Not Say #8: “We Never Have Sex Anymore!”
Sex is often the one area of a relationship that takes the biggest hit when a baby arrives. It can often become a battle ground when one partner is keen to resume intimacy while the other isn’t.
Your partner has any number of reasons why sex isn’t high on her agenda: including sore body after birth, hormones, being touched out, extreme exhaustion forcing her to prioritise sleep, and sometimes fear of how her body has changed and what you might think of it.
You can respect this interruption to sexual intimacy by understanding it’s not something you can or should change because of your needs.
What you can say instead: Talk about how normal this is, remind her you love her. Have a read of Why Doesn’t She Want Sex After Having A Baby? so you can better understand where she is and how you can work together to find a new normal.
What Not Say #9: “What Do You Do All Day?!”
If you rush out of the house at 8am and get back at 6pm and your partner’s trapped under a sleeping baby under the couch, you could be forgiven for thinking she hasn’t moved all day. But remind yourself of how much you do when you’re parenting and your partner is taking some well earned time for herself.
You changed nappies, fed and burped, cleaned up baby spit, changed more nappies and outfits, cuddled, rocked, walked and soothed. Your partner does all that and more during the day. She might be so tired she can barely see but she’ll get washing done, groceries ordered, bills paid, dinner prepared etc.
What you can say instead: You’ve had a busy day.
What Not Say #10: “My Mum Thinks…”
Whether it’s about feeding, sleeping, how to dress the baby, everyone has an opinion and new parents can feel overwhelmed. And as much as your mother might intend to help, your partner may see her as interfering or suggesting she is not a good parent.
Support is so important for new parents, so finding a balance here can be important but also tricky. Having a friendly but open chat with grandparents about their role before baby is born is a great idea. How Grandparents Can Help Out With a New Baby is a great article for everyone to read.
What you can say instead: My mum wants to help, what would you like her to do?
What Not Say #11: “When Are You Going To Lose The Baby Weight?”
There are few people in the world more conscious of how their body has changed than a woman after giving birth. Pregnancy does incredible things to your body, some amazing, and some downright weird.
Most of the time, these changes become less noticeable over time and while her body is never the same, your partner will find herself getting used to this new normal.
But there is a period of adjustment, especially in the first year, when tiredness, hormones and lack of self esteem can make her very sensitive to how she looks. She is not the same person she was before she became pregnant. Pointing out these changes in a negative way can be hurtful and very harmful.
Support her efforts to feel good about herself in a positive and healthy way. If she wants to start gentle exercise, join her (but don’t badger her). If she’s struggling to eat healthy, make her delicious and healthy meals and don’t bring home bags of crisps.
What you can say instead: Your body is amazing, it made our baby!