So, you’re sitting in the delivery room watching your partner (who has just proved that she is an absolute hero) cuddle your little bundle of joy and realise your new life as a parent has officially started. You’ve both gone through one hell of a journey in the past nine months, and your partner’s body has been pushed to the limit.
It’s time for her body to heal and get back to a sense of normality. Here’s how you can best support your partner after pregnancy and take care of yourself while entering this new, sometimes scary phase of parenthood.
Embrace the new “normal”
You may be realising for the first time what it means for your life to have changed.
Everything in the first few months is all trial and error, and everything about life before the baby is different. You just need to take a step back and go with the flow. It’s time to figure out what your new routines are together. Don’t expect to hit your stride right out of the gate.
Become accustomed to lack of sleep
You will find yourself consistently up in the middle of the night. (Thankfully, the baby stays in your bedroom for the first couple of months, so you don’t need to go far.)
Your partner could be breastfeeding, and may say she doesn’t “need” your help with the night feeds, but nappy changes are always on the horizon, and some company never goes amiss. You can also help with the bottle if needed in the middle of the night to give your partner that much-needed extra few hours of sleep.
If you’re tired during the day, and if you need that extra cup of coffee, have it so you can take over whilst your partner naps.
You will both be feeling the effects of sleep deprivation but remember that your partner is also recovering physically from childbirth, and her body is still working hard to produce that amber nectar for your baby.
Keep an eye out for mood changes
During the first week after childbirth, many women get what’s often called the “baby blues”.
They experience a low mood and feel mildly depressed at a time when they expect they should feel happy after having a baby.
“Baby blues” may be due to the sudden hormonal and chemical changes that take place in your body after childbirth. Usually these feelings fade away after a few days, but if your partner feels increasingly depressed and low, and looking after themselves or your baby becomes too much then support her to seek professional help.
Postnatal depression is a serious medical condition that requires treatment. You can read about it here.
Don’t forget about yourself in all of this
The first couple of weeks after the birth will feel like a complete and utter blur. Paternity leave sounds like a semi-holiday before the birth, but it’s anything but. You will likely feel tired due to the lack of sleep, but you may also feel a little rundown.
It’s quite natural that the new sense of responsibility will start taking effect and may create some anxious thoughts, and the stress of the past nine months could take its toll.
A large percentage of new dads may also experience paternal postnatal depression, a dad’s version of postnatal depression.
Because so much is expected of you, that overwhelming feeling can take over. During this time, it’s important to keep your energy level up by eating well and resting whenever you get the chance.
If you suspect you have paternal postnatal depression, it’s important to talk. Don’t hesitate to seek professional treatment or speak to your partner for emotional support. Your family will want you to get better as soon as you can.
Be the best partner you can be
We get it; you’re already the best partner you can be but be a firm believer that there is always a little bit more you can do.
Take over the bulk of the chores for now. If you can afford some paid help, great. Otherwise, you could ask family or friends to come around and clean for free instead; that will let you both focus your energy and attention on the new baby and each other, and you will be surprised at how happy they will be to help out.
When visitors come to see the baby, they often ask if there’s anything they can do to help. This is the time to say something practical, fill the dishwasher, make the tea, you’ll know what’s needed.
It’s important to make sure they don’t overstay their welcome and they don’t detract from your partner’s and the baby’s needs as they come first.
Don’t forget about your partner, you could ask if she’d like you to bring her a snack and a drink while she breastfeeds. It’s key to find out what you can do to ease things so be sure to communicate with each other, and never assume!
Be the perfect tag team
It’s important to share the jobs fairly, trust me, there are plenty of things to do.
You’ll likely figure things out as you go, like how to swaddle or giving your baby a burp after a feed. All new parents learn on the job, one sleepless night after another while getting their hands dirty.
Divide up the daily duties and talk about the best way to do this. Straight down the middle can be a good way to go, split the jobs so you both are doing your bit. Alternating things like every other nappy change or every other bath is another good way of splitting the chores.
But remember there will be days where the workload isn’t balanced.
There will be times where your partner can only give 30%, so bear this in mind when you’re picking up the slack. And never count the brownie points – because those times may roll around where you feel the same and need the extra support from your partner too.
And don’t worry that you do things differently than your partner; there will be plenty of chances for her to correct you over the first few weeks!
Talk about everything
Talk while eating, chat while cleaning bottles, or discuss some stuff at 3 a.m. while feeding. It’s important to continue to communicate postpartum.
Important decisions need to be made every day, so being on the same page is a good idea. She’s probably feeling everything you’re feeling and will be delighted to share her thoughts with you. You can be confident that you’ll master the art of parenting in no time.
There are plenty more things you can do post-birth to make sure your partner has everything they need when your baby enters the world, but ultimately, you’re going to learn most of this stuff on the job. Not everything can be taught; you must get your hands dirty and learn it for yourself.
For more advice on fatherhood, visit www.dadology.co.uk.
For more information and support on perinatal and postnatal mental health during pregnancy, please visit: