There are a lot of tips for new moms that focus on the mother’s health, well-being and relationship with the baby – but what about if you want to help your husband or partner feel connected and involved with the new baby?
Almost every dad wants to feel close to his child. Especially with a new generation of fathers, they are not at all the stereotype of the emotionally distant dad who doesn’t want to be involved. However, even in our more egalitarian modern parenting culture, it is not always easy for a father to carve out a role in his baby’s life.
Moms often (understandably) tend to be overprotective with a newborn and unwittingly think they are the “only ones” who can take perfect care of babies. Moms of course have all those wonderful tender hormones that create patience and deep understanding. They often feel especially close to the baby, since they were the ones who were pregnant for 9 months and actually gave birth! But men have feelings and hormones too and research shows that dads also experience a hormonal shift during a partner’s pregnancy, even more so if he is present at the birth.
Perhaps without intending to or without fully realising what they are doing, many moms act in ways that causes the baby’s father to feel excluded from the day-to-day care of the infant. Patterns might form early in the baby’s life where the mom just decides to handle everything, or feels like she can’t rely on the baby’s dad to do things “the right way.” The problem is, raising a baby as a couple is a partnership – both parents need to trust each other and be prepared to work together on a bonding plan. The longer a couple waits to clarify each other’s roles and responsibilities – and the longer they wait to talk about their feelings and frustrations – the harder it is to create an effective partnership for caring for the baby. Dads may start to feel jealous or left out, helpless or incompetent, or at worst, resentful of the mom for shutting them out of the baby’s daily care.
It’s understandable that moms feel a special pride in taking good care of their babies. But in reality there is only one thing that moms can do that dads cannot, and that is breastfeeding. And even feeding the baby is not solely the domain of mothers: dads can feed and nourish their babies with breastmilk if the mom is able and prepared to pump. Dads might need a little time to feel comfortable mastering the various bottle feeding devices and processes of getting milk warmed up, but before long dads will feel confident and empowered to feed the baby and give mom a break.
Remember that parenting a baby is not a competition – it’s a team effort! Moms need to relax and accept the contributions that your partner is willing to make. Let your baby see your love for each other and for them shine through – they are new to the world too and want harmony and love – so don’t turn bonding into a competition or struggle. All three of you – both parents and the baby – are learning together and building a beautiful relationship that will last for many years to come.
Here are a few ideas on how new moms can help their husbands and partners bond with the newborn:
Throw the Idea of Perfection out the Window
Parents are under such pressure to be perfect – but especially when raising a baby, perfection just doesn’t exist! No one gets the manual on how to manage every eventuality that comes along. Sometimes the best you can do is hold on tight and try to get through the challenges – whether it’s a baby with colic or a baby that experiences breastfeeding problems. Whatever challenges you go through as parents of a new baby, it’s important to remember that you are not alone! There are a wide variety of supportive resources available to you in Canada that can help with breastfeeding, supportive groups for new parents, and other informative and helpful groups of people and online networking groups. Whether you’re a mom or a dad, the information you need and the people you want to meet are more accessible than ever before.
Start the Bonding Process Before the Baby is Born
Even before your baby is born, you and your partner will be going through a process of forming a relationship with that little person-on-the-way. And it’s important to communicate with each other and let your relationship evolve with the changes going on inside the mother’s body. Moms should let your partner know what is going on with your body, mind and spirit – how you’re feeling, what you’re excited about, what hopes and fears you might have, and how you feel about your connection with this growing baby inside of you. Talk together about the types of things that your partner could do with them before they are born – for example, by touching and patting your belly, by singing to the baby or playing music for the baby, or by reading stories to the baby in the womb.
It’s also good to keep dads involved in the process of going through pregnancy. Encourage him to attend OB appointments, ultrasound visits, and breastfeeding classes.
Leave them Alone and Don’t Interfere
It’s important to give your husbands some independence and autonomy in caring for the baby. Don’t hover around your husband at all times when he is with the baby, ready to rescue your baby if she gets fussy in his arms. If you jump in and rescue him from a fussy baby, you will reduce his self-confidence, and your baby won’t get used to being comforted by him — which will leave you without a moment’s peace.
So let them work things out on their own. Let your husband come up with his own wonderful ways to calm your baby. If he really seriously needs help, he will ask. Men are problem solvers – so given a situation, they are likely to come up with an ingenious idea! Give your husband the chance to develop the same confidence and mastery as a father that he has in other areas of life.
Don’t forget this is a brand new role for him as well, so talking with him in advance about the main points that might come up before the birth like breastfeeding, co-sleeping, travel, working, shared tasks and arranging for ‘date nights’. This will help give your partner an opportunity to think about his point of view, and offer a chance for him to say what is on his mind before the situation arises when the baby is born.
How have you tried to get your partner more involved in caring for the baby? What are some of your favourite rituals of parenting? Leave a comment and let us know, or join the discussion on the Medela Canada Facebook page.