The idea that the father doesn’t have much to do for a newborn is quite common. It’s said that baby in those first weeks needs only the mother to meet his/her needs. But that is not true. There are many things the dad can do in the postpartum period, in relation to the baby and also to the new mum – things that will strengthen his bond with his child and at the same time will help the mother.
• Take a little nap with the baby, preferably making skin to skin.
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact between mother or father and baby, especially (but not only) in the first hour after birth, have been proven by science: it decreases maternal/paternal stress, calms the baby, alleviates any possible physical pain and strengthens the bond, which has positive consequences even in the long run. There is no dad – or baby – who won’t enjoy this moment (which in fact can happen not only in the immediate postnatal period, but for many, many months)! (For safety reasons, do that when there’s someone else at home to keep their eyes on you!)
• Help baby burp
If there is one thing only the mother can do is breastfeeding. But when baby is finished, offer to make him/her burp. It’s one more moment for a sweet cuddle with dad!
• Trust your ability to comfort your child
You know when baby is crying a lot, he/she doesn’t want to feed, singing or swinging don’t help, that is, when nothing seems to work? Try, Dad, to hold your baby, sing to her/him, walk with her/him. You will be doing the same thing as Mum was, but it is likely that it’s going to work with you. I don’t know what it is, but it seems magical! Maybe it’s because the father is calmer at that very moment, maybe it’s because the man’s body tends to be warmer (they have a higher lean muscle mass ratio, which causes their metabolism to be faster, generating extra heat) … Fact is dads often have a reputation for soothing baby more easily!
• Go for a walk with baby in a sling or carrier
Slings – and carriers in general – are not just for mums! It’s a delight to carry baby close to you and go for a walk. Changing the scenery is enriching for babies, even if they’re not with eyes open enjoying the view. New sounds, new smells … babies feel everything! And they are absorbing the novelties in a safe space while enjoying the warmth of their dad’s chest.
• Learn how to bathe your baby
Bath time is precious! I always enjoyed bath time with my babies. And dad can learn this in the early days! For those who are a little afraid of doing something wrong or even drowning the baby (as I’ve heard before), the suggestion is to start slowly, first watching the bath, then maybe just doing the soap part … When you realise, you will be even preparing the water at the right temperature with confidence! Another shared moment that enhances the dad-child bond!
• Don’t be afraid to change nappies
There are so many nappy changes a day! It’s even important to have someone else in the house who can do this! And although I’m repeating myself, it’s one more moment for a “little talk” between dad and baby!
• Ask your partner how she is and what you can help her with
The golden question, which everyone should ask! This demonstration of love and affection will only increase your partner’s admiration for you, not to mention that a supported mother, more rested, brings so many benefits for the whole family that they wouldn’t even fit in this text.
• Praise the awesome mother she is becoming
In the midst of the postnatal roller coaster, a compliment like that has more power than you can imagine. Don’t hold back!
• See if there is water for the mother to drink when she is breastfeeding
Breastfeeding makes mums thirsty! And staying hydrated is fundamental for milk production. Stay tuned. Help take care of the one who produces the most important food for your child!
• Don’t say “it’s time to have sex” even if the first 40 days are gone
In postpartum, for most women there is little or no space to think about sex. And this period can go well beyond the famous 40 days of lying in. Don’t expect your partner to go back to what she was before pregnancy after 6 weeks. Instead, ask how she feels about it. Talking about the topic helps a lot in the new relationship the couple is establishing. Share your ideas and feelings, and be open to understanding.
• Don’t criticize or be surprised if your partner cries
You have no idea of the power of hormones (ok, maybe you do!), especially in the postnatal period, when some hormones suddenly drop and others rise to astonishing levels. Of course, hormones are only one part of postpartum, this transition period that affects the woman and the family in general. Crying is totally part of that. Understand it’s natural and don’t say “Don’t cry!” Instead, how about giving your partner a hug?
Well, these are some tips that will strengthen not only the father-child bond, but also the bond between the couple, be it hetero or homoaffective. We talk a lot about “father”, but the tips also apply to the other mother if applicable, to the mother who did not go through pregnancy and/or who is not breastfeeding, for example.
Do you have any other suggestions to give to the dads and mums on duty?
*Wirtten by Dulce Piacentini