Burping your newborn, sterilizing bottles and nipples, or doing yet another wash? Maybe it's time you enlisted some help from Dad? Here's how.
The first weeks with your new baby are awe-inspiring — not to mention all-consuming! How can you be sure you're up for the new demands of your little bundle? Enlist some help from dad wherever you can! Consider these first several weeks the start of your lifelong parenting partnership.
Your advocate in the hospital
Your hospital stay is a time for you and baby to get off to a healthy, well-rested start. Dad can help by setting a visitors' policy that works for you. As new mom Carla and her husband Rob discovered, friends and family are so thrilled to see the newest addition, they sometimes overlook mom's essential recovery time.
"We had a long labor and an exhausting birth," recalls Carla. "On the first day, we had a ton of visitors who stayed a long time. It was overwhelming. Rob saw how wiped out I was. That night, he called our friends and politely explained that we couldn't have any more hospital visitors. After that, just my mom and sister were with us, and I was able to rest."
Dad can also be your advocate with the nurses and staff, ensuring that your medical needs are met. This is especially important if you have a C-section or a major episiotomy, for example. He can assist in ensuring that medications are administered on time, and that you are comfortable.
Before you head to the hospital, be sure Dad has your call list to announce the happy news!
Your wing-man at home
You'll have your hands full those first few weeks at home. Don't be surprised if you feel that you've lost your ability to multitask! (Don't worry, it's temporary!) Dad can help in a big way. The key is to ask for his able assistance — he might not think of everything you would. Consider the best approach in asking for his help throughout your new adventure.
Perhaps he can schedule doctor's appointments, do the grocery shopping, handle the bill-paying, and so forth. If the weather is mild, he can head out for a walk with baby while you take a relaxing shower.
Dad can also manage the visitors' schedule to be sure you're not overrun. If your phone is ringing off the hook, let him give curious callers an update on how you're all doing.
New moms need plenty of rest. A nightly eight hours of solid sleep will be impossible for a while, so nap while the baby naps during the day. As Isaiah and Jasmine discovered, resting isn't always mom's instinct.
"Jasmine wasn't getting enough sleep at night," Isaiah explains. "But when our baby napped during the day, instead of lying down, Jasmine wanted to put in a load of laundry or write thank you notes or whatever. I reminded her that I could handle the chores and her to-do list could wait — that her rest was a top priority."
"I started calling him 'The Enforcer,'" Jasmine laughs. "And he was absolutely right. When the baby went down, he fluffed my pillow and shooed me into bed. It was the sweetest thing."
Changing your newborn's diaper, caring for her umbilical cord, bathing that little body... all such tender tasks! Can you trust your husband with this tiny bundle? (After all, this is the same guy who is a weekend warrior on the field and has sledgehammered walls during remodeling.) Sure you can! Parenthood reveals a whole new side of your partner.
Be empathetic if he's a tad nervous about caring for this teeny newborn, with her wobbly neck and flailing arms. (You probably have some experience caring for infants, but does he?) Figure it out together, be patient and remember you're in this together!
Your partner might also appreciate some coaching from someone other than you, as Cheryl discovered. "My husband, Jeff, had zero experience with babies when our first child, Madeline, was born," Cheryl explains. "But Jeff adores my brother, who is a hands-on father of four. When Madeline was about three weeks old, we arranged for just the two of them to spend the day caring for Maddy at our house. In between football games on TV, my brother shared some expert diapering techniques, and he and Jeff gave her a bath. Jeff's confidence just took off. I think it's easier to learn some things from a buddy."
Housework is one area that requires flexibility when you have a newborn. For the first few weeks, you may be too busy and tired to tackle even the simplest tasks. Ask Dad to head up these chores — even if he doesn't do them to your exact standards.
If your partner has always done a variety of tasks — from vacuuming to dusting to cooking — then lucky you! He'll probably be willing to do the lion's share until you get your energy and stamina back. If you had a housekeeping service before baby, by all means keep it. It's a smart solution that allows you both more time to bond with the baby.
And heed the advice of Laura, a young mother of three: "If a close friend or relative offers to give your place a quick spiff up, swallow your pride and say, 'Yes, please.'"
The most practical advice may be to simply let go of expectations, and be willing to try a new plan. Forget the ironing and wash and wear for a while. Hire your favorite teenager to mow the lawn. And be willing to overlook the small stuff. Honestly, who cares about a dust bunny sighting when you can stare into those baby-blue eyes?
4 a.m. feedings
How you and your hubby handle feeding your new baby depends on a few factors. If your baby will get breast milk exclusively, you'll obviously need to be there in person until you can begin expressing. (For most new moms, pumping isn't easy until after a nursing routine is well established — a few weeks at least.) If you are breastfeeding, Dad can become a burping expert, coaxing out baby's gas bubbles.
If you are using formula, or storing breast milk, then you and Dad can take turns handling the entire feeding routine. He'll enjoy the coziness and intimacy of giving baby a bottle. Be sure you both become experts at preparing bottles quickly.
How about those infamous 4 a.m. feedings? However you manage them, it's got to make sense for you — and it won't necessarily be what your friends are doing. Consider Gina and Mark: Gina had a three-month maternity leave while Mark had a demanding job.
"It didn't make sense for both of us to be up in the middle of the night," Gina explains. "I was breastfeeding, so I was the only one who could feed the baby anyway. Each night, I nursed her at about 8:00, handed her off to Mark and got right into bed. I knew she was in good hands, and if she fussed, Mark could handle it. So I slept soundly until midnight when Mark woke me for another feeding — and I took the night shift from there. This way, we both got some solid sleep every night."
A new baby is one of the biggest, most sudden changes you and your partner will ever experience. It's also the happiest! The bottom line is to involve Dad wherever and whenever you can. You're a team!
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