When it is no longer just the two of you, things naturally shift in terms of your relationship. One of the most important factors influencing moms in terms of breastfeeding is her social support network, and of course, her loving partner is the most important part of that network. These are some things to think about.
- You have spent months preparing for your baby’s arrival, but even with all the classes and reading and collecting of stuff, the reality of caring for this new person can be at the very least challenging, even overwhelming. Sleep deprivation can magnify these challenges. Be patient and gentle with mom and yourself.
- Emotions during this time are especially intense for both partners and range all over the spectrum. It is important to find space for both partners to be heard. Some may feel guilty when they don’t enjoy every second of being a parent, or partners may feel jealous while mom is so intensely involved with this little person. Experiencing the wide range is normal, expected and should be discussed honestly so you can be supportive of each other.
- Mom’s body is healing from childbirth so there will be discomfort and awe. She may also have different thoughts and feelings about her physical self that need to be honored and supported. Desire for and perspective on physical intimacy can shift for both partners. Adjusting to this shift requires patience and care with honest discussion.
- Skin-to-skin time for partners is beneficial for everyone. Baby loves it, you feel connected and mom may enjoy watching you get closer to your baby.
- Provide frequent, nutritious snacks and water for mom to eat and drink and you may need to gently remind her to do so. This is important for healing, well-being and milk supply. While you are at it, make sure that you eat frequently as well.
- Partners shouldn’t feel like they need to be out running errands and doing things all the time. You need time to rest and bond with baby and mom. Slow down and enlist the help of friends and families to run errands for you.
- Limit visitors if you can. Of course you want to introduce your baby and share your joy. It can be tiring though to feel like you have to accommodate others and takes time away from your bonding experience. Well-meaning friends and family members can unknowingly put pressure on new parents. As you are developing your own instincts, advice and stories may make it more challenging for you to feel empowered and in control. Keep visits short and remember to ask those arriving to bring items on your errand list.
- There is no one way to parent and you may find that you and your partner differ on issues regarding your baby. Differences that have generally been a challenging part of your relationship can be exacerbated by the lack of sleep and the challenge of learning about caring for a new person.
- Partners may need to push past their comfort zone in order to gain confidence in caring for the baby. It is tremendously profound to have this little life in your hands without a rulebook attached. Some may feel that maybe mom does it better. Your baby needs to know that mom and partner individually bring qualities and skills to the infant/parent relationship and that while each may do things differently, it is all done out of love. This will help build the early foundations of learning to be flexible in life.
- Try to openly see things from the your partner’s point of view. Listen carefully and don’t criticize. We may give each other signals about our views on baby care that create less than ideal situations. For example, mom giving direction to you may lead you to feel that she thinks she can do it better. In reality, she may want to empower you to feel comfortable handling and caring for your baby.
- Be open and honest with each other, but try to maintain a sense of humor. Have these discussions when you have a few moments to breathe while baby is resting. This will go a long way to helping you come into your own in your new roles as partners with children.
- If there is conflict, keep your discussions focused on the issue at hand. Try and be as clear as possible about what is bothering you. Look for solutions and be willing to compromise.
- Share when you recognize things are going “right”. Praise yourself and your partner for even the seemingly small things being done well. Verbalizing your appreciation for each other is important and strengthens your relationship and the family as a whole.
- Try and “assign” baby care duties to each other so that you both know what is expected of you.
- For even just a few minutes a day, try to connect as partners. Discuss things that aren’t necessarily baby related. Connect on a level that is unique from your partnership as parents.
- Find time each day to do individually do something enjoyable that is unrelated to baby. At first, these activities will need to be short, but are entirely necessary to remind you of your wholeness as a human being and will then allow you to bring renewed energy back into your partnering and parenting.