Your Baby has Arrived! Tips for Partners
You have been an amazing partner during the birth – now what happens?
It’s a very intense time of learning and adjusting when a new baby lands, particularly for the birthing mother. Not only does her body need to heal from the birth and return to a non-pregnant state, it is also getting ready to feed the baby. A new baby’s feeding cycle is very constant. Their little tummies metabolise the milk very quickly. Her breasts become hard and sensitive, and latching for the baby in those early weeks is tricky, so the birthing mother needs the time and space to focus.
A new baby has no sense of time and chances are you will be up a lot at night. Your partner will become immersed in your baby and this may feel a bit like being on the outer. You may not get as much of her attention but fear not; if you get in there with her, using great teamwork, she will eventually look at you with more love than even she can imagine. Your relationship is about to be upgraded, this is fertile ground for the growth and the maturity that comes from sharing such a huge experience together.
Teamwork is key, so let me help you in knowing your role in supporting a new mum:
Protect her and be the gatekeeper of visitors:
She might feel so proud that she is ready to show off the new baby to anyone. Avoid the open-door policy and be very clear with your visitor policy. This next phase of establishing feeding is huge. It requires focus and space, and she is likely to have her breasts exposed more often than clothed. You need this time to learn to read your baby’s cues, to learn from your baby and not be distracted. Rather than entertain visitors, ask people to help out, bring food, go to the shops or even do a load of washing.
Support her to breastfeed:
The key ingredient to help women overcome breastfeeding challenges is a supportive partner. What does this look like?
- Help her get comfortable and get her water when she sits down to feed.
- Call the Australian Breastfeeding Association or get help from a private lactation consultant if your hospital midwives have given conflicting advice and left you both confused (see our resources page for some great local lactation consultants).
- Encourage her and remind her that this is a stage and it will pass. Never say “Just put baby on the bottle, it doesn’t really matter” or let other people say that to her. To a new mum, this is a message that she is a failure. If bottle feeding becomes a better option for her circumstances, she needs to make that call and come to that decision in her own time.
Understand that babies cry – a lot:
Your baby is communicating to you all the time. Your job is to learn their language. It doesn’t mean you have a ‘bad’ baby or you are getting it wrong. Sometimes there is no obvious reason why your baby is crying, and you just need to do the distance. Over time, you will get better at reading your baby and working things out quicker. Sometimes babies just need to cry – and that’s okay too.
Learn to handle and settle your baby:
The more you get involved in handling and learning to settle the baby, the more confident you will feel and the more you will enjoy them. Since the feeding regime for the new mum is so constant, get in there and change nappies, wear bub, bath them and take them for walks to give her a break.
Help her catch up on sleep:
Her hormones and brain have changed the quality of her sleep and she is hyper-alert to the needs of the baby (mother nature’s design is to protect the baby) so when you can, remind her to get some sleep. Catching up on sleep during the day can just keep the sleep deprivation at bay. Sometimes new mums need to go to bed at 6pm, or at strange times in order to get a few hours of sleep in a row, depending on what your baby’s current patterns are. She may need reminding to go and have a rest.
Give her lots of love:
This may sound strange, but she is hormonal, sleep deprived and vulnerable. She is likely questioning whether she is doing a good job and needs reassurance from you to remind her that you are both learning together, and that the baby is also learning. Tell her you think she is amazing and such a beautiful mother. Tell her she is even more beautiful to you now that she is a mother, because she may not feel it with all the changes in her body. She will eventually gaze at you through the haze with a beautiful smile and recognise what a great partner she has.
Never comment on the state of the house:
If you have been at work, come home and see that she is still on the couch where you left her this morning, you might be tempted to ask “What have you been doing all day?”. Big mistake! She probably hasn’t even been able to have a shower or something to eat, let alone house chores. Newborn babies take a lot of work and the attention of the mother. This attention is how mum learns to read her baby, so it is more important than anything else. This is hard to understand if you haven’t lived with the brain and hormones of a new mother. Instead ask “How can I help?”. She will probably want you to give her a break from holding bub. Just ask and get in and help.
Physical touch may not be welcomed:
Holding a baby and breastfeeding continuously can leave a woman feeling ‘touched out.’ She may not be able to verbalise this, as she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. Check in first – ask her what it feels like to feed and hold the baby all day. This is not an indication that she has lost interest in you or is no longer attracted to you. Some women can feel very sexy after having a baby, but many don’t. Mother nature typically does not put a woman straight back on heat after having a demanding, constantly feeding newborn. She is protecting the needs of the newborn by hijacking the mother’s attention. It’s a stage and it will pass. This is fertile ground for creating greater transparency about sex, and when and how you are both ready to resume that side of your relationship (it can take months). In the meantime, find new ways of enjoying each other and this beautiful baby you have.
Protect her against other people’s opinions about what the baby needs:
You will both need time to work things out, and having people around making comments or giving advice gets in the way of your learning. This noise can cause you to lose confidence, right at the time when the learning curve is huge. Let people know (kindly) that if you want advice, you will ask for it.
Make sure she is getting plenty of attention too:
When a new baby arrives, people focus a lot on the baby and ignore the new mum. She has worked incredibly hard to grow this baby, birth this baby and is now feeding this baby around the clock. She (and you) deserves some credit. Remind your family and friends that she was and is amazing.
Hang in there:
When you are going through something so new and intense, it can feel like it will be this way forever. It is just a stage and it will pass. You will be amazed at how quickly your baby will grow and transform before your eyes, and with that growth comes change. The problems of today will be different tomorrow. Babies change the rules all the time in that first year, which keeps you learning and being creative when finding answers for your baby.
Look after yourself so you can look after your family:
Not only have you now discovered that you are absolute gold in the labour room, your role as a new parent sharing the experience with your partner is also significant. In order to get through this intense time, it is important you look after yourself and encourage her to do the same. Protect your sleep, eat well and exercise all sound pretty basic – they are now essential. Be careful of getting distracted with devices or things that cause you to zone out and lose hours of time that could be spent with your new family. Time and sleep are precious – protect both. This is such a magical and intense time, a time of growth and maturity. Your own needs are now integrated into the needs of a family, and require some renegotiation. Teamwork is key.
I hope these tips help and make you very shiny in the eyes of your beloved.
Sending you much love and admiration to you for the work of being a parent.