Take the opportunity if you can to rest with your partner and baby the first day or two after birth. It’s likely that you wont have slept much at all in the days leading up to the birth.
Manage visitors. Discuss with your partner who and when you want people coming to see the baby. Accept offers of help but also let visitors know when it is time to go. It is perfectly ok to say no visitors for a week or two but if you are happy to see people make sure you don’t over do it and make sure you check in with your partner when visitors are around. Newborns are easily over stimulated so try and limit passing the baby from new person to new person.
Before your baby arrives it’s helpful to have important numbers written down on your phone or somewhere accessible. A few suggestions of handy numbers to have: health visitor, GP and breastfeeding clinic or support service.
Try to make sure you get outside each day. It’s also good for babies to get natural daylight too. As they get older this can help develop their circadian rhythm (this normally develops fully around 6months of age) but fresh air and daylight will help your baby start to learn there is a difference between night and day.
Be open to your partner about your feelings and any struggles, communication is important at anytime in a relationship however even more so after you have a baby.
Be as hands on with the baby as you can from day one. Practice will make you feel more confident when handling your baby. Babies are very forgiving to any mistakes, so tackle some nappy changes, burp baby after she’s fed and get your baby dressed as much as possible. Fake it until you make it is a good strategy here, pretend to yourself that you know exactly what you’re doing and it wont take long until you are comfortable and confident caring for your baby. On the flip side don’t be afraid to ask questions; ask your health visitor, your friends with children or your own parents. People love to give their advice and opinion, however know that you do not have to take their advice if it doesn’t work for you and your baby.
Your baby is just getting to know you and she’ll use all her senses including smell, so try to avoid strong smelling shower gels and aftershave.
It might feel strange and downright silly talking to your baby, however it is really important and helps with bonding and your baby’s development. Even though he can’t respond right now he genuinely loves the sound of your voice (he will have heard it from around 18 weeks in your partners tummy). He also loves looking at your face which when you are holding him is the perfect distance for him to see you from. A newborn can’t see much beyond that distance just yet.
Crying is normal! From the baby, from your partner and even from you dads. Newborns cry on average 1-4 hours a day. In the first 24 hours after birth the levels of oestrogen and progesterone drop rapidly in a woman’s body and this can cause mums to become emotional and experience low mood in the days following birth, mix this with the lack of sleep and the rollercoaster of emotions you have all experienced in the last few days and you can probably see why you might all be a little teary.
Your partner may not want to be touched for a while and this is normal. Some mums find they are ‘touched out’ after having a baby attached to them all day feeding, soothing and sleeping on them. Understanding that this is very normal and not a rejection of your love and care can help stop you from feeling offended and unloved. She is also getting used to her body no longer carrying a baby and will probably still be sore and recovering physically and mentally from the birth. Keep telling your partner that you love her and it wont be long until she is feeling up for cuddles and closeness with you once again.
Make sure you are eating well. You’ll be busy making sure your partner is eating well and that your baby is getting enough milk but don’t forget about yourself at this time.
Familiarise yourself with the signs of postnatal depression and ways you can support your partner if you do suspect they are suffering in the coming months. Also be aware that new fathers can also experience postnatal depression so it is good to know where to seek help and support. Please don’t be afraid to reach out if you or your partner is struggling. Your health visitor, GP or a helpline like the one offered by the charity PANDAS can help.
Support your partners efforts to breastfeed. Your partner and baby are both learning a brand new skill and it is much harder than it looks but having support can be the difference between persevering and giving up (that being said it is also important to respect a new mothers wishes when it comes to how she wants to feed her baby. Discussing this before birth and then once the baby arrives can be helpful to make sure you both feel heard). A lot of new mums find breastfeeding out in public very hard the first few times, supporting and helping mum by either shielding her from prying eyes or getting her a glass of water and making sure she is comfortable can be super helpful.
Feeding a newborn can take over an hour sometimes and can also sometimes be very sore. You can support your partner during long feeds by offering her drinks and snacks, sitting with her to help prevent boredom and telling her what a great job she is doing.
Don’t panic if you are feeling a little or completely overwhelmed. You’re not supposed to know how to handle every situation your baby throws at you. So much of parenting is trial and error. Even if this is your second, third or fourth baby, each one will at some point throw a curve ball and catch you off guard. Babies are individuals and with that they each have their own needs and preferences.
Keeping your sense of humour will help you and your partner through the tougher times. The tiredness and relentlessness of parenting is hard but the good times will outweigh the tougher times and remember everything is just a phase and it will pass.
Finally do not underestimate YOUR importance in your baby’s life at this early stage. Everything you do to support your partner is so important. Every cuddle, nappy change, walk around the park helps you bond with your baby and shows your commitment to be a brilliant dad. Keep going, your baby will change and develop an incredible amount in their first few years and you are privileged enough to watch and support their growth.