When baby arrives, it seems like there are two stars of the show: you (the mama) and baby.
However, dad has a feature role too!
It’s easy for dad to feel left out. After all, you have everything that baby needs, right?
You can breastfeed, you can provide skin-to-skin, and baby is already familiar with your comforting scent. Dad can just fetch diapers (nappies) for baby, and a snack for you, right?
Sure, he can do those things, but he can do a whole lot more!
While the benefits of an involved new dad have always been there, now we have science to really back up dad’s importance.
Just as new mamas need encouragement, new dads need it, too. One loving dad wrote about his struggles to bond with his newborn in our article, Blokes, Babies and Bonding – it’s well worth the read.
Here are 6 ways mamas can encourage new dads:
#1: Prepare For Baby’s Arrival Together
Encourage your partner to participate in your prenatal classes. Use his input when you’re creating your registry. Discuss parenting books and plans together.
You don’t need ‘his and her’ diaper bags, baby carriers, etc. but some couples find them fun – and encouraging.
Discuss his fears and excitement about the birth and baby’s arrival. Sure, dads don’t always seem as much into baby prep as mamas, but encourage him to join you as early as possible.
#2: Encourage His Involvement Right From The Start
Some dads like to cut the cord, or even catch baby. While that might not be possible, or desirable, in every circumstance, encourage dad to be involved as soon as he can, based on your situation and comfort level.
Mama deserves to have an undisturbed first hour, where possible. But dad can be close by. It’s great to find some time for dad to be more hands-on with baby, while you bond as a new family.
That first post birth shower can be like heaven. Rather than swaddling baby and placing her in the bassinet while you shower, this is a perfect time for dad to have some skin-to-skin bonding time.
This can be one of the best ways to encourage a new dad, as it actually rewires his brain!
#3: Let Dad Do Things His Way – And Tell Him He’s Doing A Great Job!
Let’s face it, dads tend to do things differently from mamas. It often makes us want to jump in and tell them what they’re doing wrong, and how it really should be done.
However, if all we do is jump in and criticise, we’re not exactly encouraging them to be involved.
Dad might take a bit longer to change the diaper, but it’s not a big deal. In fact, before you know it, he might even be faster than you.
Maybe the way he soothes baby is different from yours. Maybe he doesn’t dress baby the way you’d like. Maybe bath time looks very different when dad’s involved.
It might make you want to jump in and correct him. But it’s important to remember that different isn’t necessarily wrong – it’s just different. Instead of correcting him, simply say, “That’s different from how I do it. But it’s working, so great job!”
Having two parents with different approaches can be a wonderful benefit. It’s great for problem-solving during crying spells, or for figuring out a new bedtime routine.
Children have unique bonds with each parent, and that’s a good thing. It teaches them how to have relationships with varying personalities – a skill that’s important for a lifetime.
#4: Let Him And Baby Work It Out
You don’t have to jump in the moment baby fusses in daddy’s arms. Let dad figure out how to soothe baby and let baby learn to be soothed by dad. This doesn’t mean if baby is really crying and wants to breastfeed you ignore it and make them work it out. It simply means the two of them should get to know each other – even in the stressful moments.
Don’t rush out of the shower the second baby makes a peep. Finish your dinner, and let dad rock a fussing baby.
For a baby, fussing in loving arms while her mama takes a brief respite for basic needs, isn’t the same thing as being left to cry. Dad and baby can really develop a close bond by working through brief moments of fussing.
If you jump in the moment baby fusses, every single time, starting right from birth, when will dad develop the confidence to care for baby?
#5: Don’t Feed Into The Stereotype Jokes
For some reason, our society has decided that dads can be akin to Homer Simpson. Clueless dads are often shown as goofing up and being saved by their wives.
Sure guys parent differently from mamas, but that doesn’t make them clueless – and it doesn’t make them wrong.
As mamas, we make mistakes too. But we’d probably never forgive our partners for making a mockery of our early parenthood mistakes. For some reason though, it’s not only accepted, it’s considered hilarious to mock any and every mistake a new dad makes.
Avoid falling into these stereotype jokes. Don’t mock him – even jokingly – in front of your visitors. Don’t laugh at him when he’s genuinely trying. Unless it’s in true good fun between the two of you, leave the jokes out, and build up his confidence instead.
#6: Make Dad Time A Priority
Mamas and babies have plenty of time together. You don’t have to make it a priority to have some close bonding.
For dads and babies, sometimes it takes more of a conscious effort. Between breastfeeding sessions, going back to work, and house responsibilities, it can be easy not to make dad time a priority when baby is young.
Create a dad ‘thing’ – something that’s special between baby and dad. Maybe dad takes over the evening bath. Maybe he takes baby out for a walk. Perhaps a little lap time, while he drinks his morning coffee.
Having dad time and a regular dad thing is win-win for everyone. You get a bit of mama time out. Dad builds more confidence. And baby develops a strong bond with daddy.
It can be hard to let go of some of the parenting control, especially with a newborn. In the long run, however, you’ll be very thankful you encouraged dad to be an active participant right from the start. Taking time to encourage him really benefits all of you. Take it from a mama of five, who can now easily run to the store knowing dad has it all under control!