What comes next after the whirlwind of preparing for birth and a new baby? We’ve put together a guide for the non-birthing partner with tips on how to support a new mom and how you can take care of each other while entering a new phase of life.
Before you head home, a healthcare provider will give new mom aftercare instructions, and a pediatrician will likely give you some information and schedule your first well-baby checks. Be sure to listen to the instructions and take notes as needed. New moms may not be in the right physical or mental condition to take in the information, and being able to rely on you to help gather information and schedule follow-up visits is invaluable.
How you split babycare may look very different for each family, depending on work schedules and support systems. What’s important is that you share in the care—and new moms may need a lot of extra support in the first few weeks as she physically recovers from childbirth. This is a time to settle into new routines and learn your new parenthood roles.
New mothers may put a lot of pressure on themselves to recover quickly, lose weight, learn to breastfeed, and more. Encourage her to be gentle with herself and not put any pressure on herself. You can take over the bulk of diapering and dishes in the first few weeks, and even if you can’t do much more than sitting by her if she chooses to breastfeed, that’s enough (and preparing snacks doesn’t hurt, either!).
You may be running on little sleep, so splitting care and allowing the other to fit in some naps will go a long way to recovery.
If you’re taking care of other children, be sure to give mom and baby some necessary alone time (and be sure to get in your alone time with the baby too!)
The baby blues are the feelings of sadness and anxiety that many moms experience after birth (both first-time and veteran moms). Her hormones will be dropping dramatically, coupled with physical recovery and the emotional rollercoaster that birth can be, and it’s no surprise that approximately 70% of moms experience some form of baby blues.
But when the baby blues stretch out past two weeks, it can be a sign of postpartum depression or anxiety. It’s scary to think about your partner experiencing any of it, but it is really important to understand the warning signs. Encourage the new mother’s family, friends and support system to familiarize themselves with the signs: anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, isolating herself, putting extreme pressure on herself to meet certain goals, being afraid to be alone with the baby or herself, avoiding normal activities, crying, and more. This is a serious medical condition, but it can be treated with help. It’s also common—one in eight mothers report experiencing some form of postpartum depression or anxiety, and it’s likely that many more experience it and never report it.
Be sure to keep an eye on the new mother and encourage her to reach out for help (and if she can’t, do it for her). She may feel it’s her fault she’s feeling down, or feel guilty that she can’t be excited about your new baby. It’s the condition talking, and there is help!
The non-birthing partner can also experience the same letdown, and dads can get paternal postnatal depression. Don’t hesitate to seek professional treatment—your healthcare provider is your partner in your healthcare journey.
Okay, unfortunately, some housework just won’t go away. But you can make your lives easier by planning ahead. Stock up on healthy snacks before birth, and consider preparing and freezing meals in advance so your first few weeks are filled with baby snuggles, not cooking. Keep an eye on the new mom’s food intake—it can be so easy to get caught up in the baby that she forgets to stay hydrated and take in healthy calories. If she’s nursing, hydration and eating enough are important to maintain milk supply, so we recommend keeping her water bottle and the fridge full.
This one we do mean. It’s very common that everyone wants to stop by to hold your new little one. Manage visitors and be firm when you need to say, “sorry, not today.” Be sure the new mom has a say in anyone coming through the front door—if she’s not up for visitors, it’s okay to say no. And it’s important for the health of the new mom and baby that visitors meet your health expectations like having appropriate vaccines and washing their hands before they get to hold your bundle of joy.
You may have done your research before the baby is born, but now is a great time to read up on anything your partner or your baby is experiencing. Find trustworthy resources and learn how to properly fit breast pump parts, the signs of infant reflux, proper household temperatures and clothing for the baby—anything and everything that can help you support your family and understand what your significant other is going through. Having a partner take an active interest in what’s happening to your body goes a long way to making a new mom feel supported and loved.
New moms often take pictures—a LOT of pictures. But very often, she’s not IN any of them. Make it a point to take photos of the mom with the baby, so she has a record of the experience. As much as you think you’ll never forget these precious early moments, time flies, and things may blur together with added sleeplessness and physical recovery. Be sure to take photos with your new family and of mom and the little one.
Most importantly, enjoy your time together. Newborns may not be the best conversationalists, but they’re drinking in everything and love to see you, be held by you, and hear you. Enjoy your bonding time as a family.