How Dads Can Help New Mumsby Jasmine Gurney
With all the self-help articles and how-to guides out there for mum, letting her know what to expect, what to buy and what to do, we don’t see many instructions out there for dads - are they just supposed to wing it? Whether you’re a new dad or a dad-to-be, here’s how you can help out the mother of your child and earn yourself lots of brownie points, as well as getting to bond with your new baby and strengthen your relationship with your other half.
The most important things, of course, go without saying. The mother of your child has just spent the last nine uncomfortable months carrying another human being inside her, then spent hours in labour, only to now likely struggle with getting everything done around the house, get a handle on breastfeeding and question everything she ever knew about motherhood. There is a lot of pressure on new mums to do everything, to master everything the first time and be the perfect mother. Sometimes, that’s just impossible, they’ll often need extra support from their family, friends and most importantly from their other half, to comfort her, help her with things and tell her how much of a good job she’s doing.
New mothers will spend the first few months with your new baby waking up countless times throughout the night and will be very, very tired. It would be the best help for a dad to share this burden and help mum get some more sleep. Rest is essential for every new mum if breastfeeding as lack of sleep can affect milk production and quality and to ensure baby gets the best milk and stays well-fed, new mums will need at least 7 hours of sleep. With dad taking the night feeds using bottled expressed milk and mum having the long day shift, both mum and baby will be well taken care of and have more chances to catch up on sleep. Changing nappies, burping and bathing baby can also be a great way to help mum get a little time to herself to do other things, even if it’s as simple as shaving her legs or doing her hair, those 20 minutes of free time can be a godsend.
With lack of sleep also comes a lack of time to do much else. Babies need feeding every 2-3 hours, sometimes even more frequently, which doesn’t leave mum much time to feed or bathe herself, let alone tackle the housework! Making sure mum is comfortable when breastfeeding, ensuring her arms are supported (babies get quite heavy!) and she’s sitting or lying comfortably, is essential. Making mum some food while she’s breastfeeding to keep up her strength, or taking the baby out for a stroll in the pram while mum has some ‘me’ time to take a long bath would be great. Helping around the house doing things like the laundry, keeping it tidy and keeping the kitchen clean and sterile can allow mum to feel less stressed and put less pressure on her to try and keep on top of everything. Just because she may be off work on maternity leave, does not mean she has all the time in the world to get everything done. If you can afford a cleaner, get them to pop round every other day or every week to just keep the place tidy and clean and take the pressure off you both. After all, you’ll not be having much sleep either and after your short paternity leave, you won’t have much time to pitch in either.
Looking after a newborn can also be quite isolating. Staying at home all day with a baby attached to her 24/7 really restricts mum’s ability to leave the house. Relatives and friends may pop round but it’s important that mum is also able to leave the house and spend time with people, make new mummy friends and attend classes, groups and take the baby out exploring in the fresh air. Encouraging new mums to join postnatal and baby groups enable them to meet new people, aid the development of your new baby by introducing them to other babies, people, toys, surroundings and experiences and make them feel more social and less alone. There are tonnes of classes out there such as baby yoga, little swimmers, playtime groups and meet-ups, there are loads to choose from and not hard to find something in your local area. Why not do the research and find a group for her, it’s one less thing she has to do after all!
There are loads of ways in which dads can help a new mum, even if they’re just little things here and there, the most important thing is to make sure they feel supported, loved and that you’re there for when she needs help, even if she doesn’t ask for it. Good luck!