When I requested that my own hubs do all this stuff, both after the birth of our first baby a few years ago and after our second was born recently, I thought he was simply being the supportive partner that he always was. It was what I expected, and I really do think what he expected, too.
Husbands know, too, what their wives (or girlfriends, or baby mamas) have just been through. A new mom has just been through pregnancy, which likely involved anywhere from a few annoyances to some intense discomfort or even problems and complications. Then there’s labor and childbirth.
By the time the happy family makes it home from the hospital, a new mom is probably more exhausted than she’s ever been before already, navigating how to care for a newborn and breastfeed, and recovering from everything she’s just been through, both physically and emotionally.
It’s just something that can’t really be done alone – or I certainly can’t imagine how it could.
It’s the postpartum days, and here are 15 things dads have to do once the baby’s home.
15 Scrub Out Stains
This one is my favorite.
I didn’t imagine really that anyone would be doing this task, either myself or my lovin’ husband.
But we did this dirty deed, at all hours of the night and day, many times over.
We (and it often fell on him if it was in the middle of the night and I was breastfeeding a hungry newborn) had to scrub the liquid-y poop out of soooo many pajamas (and onesies, and pants, and shirts…).
It’s just the way it goes.
You only have so many little clothes in the size the baby is currently wearing, and so you don’t want to just throw them all out when they (inevitably?) get poop on them.
You may be wondering, if you haven’t yet had a baby, how all this poop is getting everywhere. Well there’s something called a diaper blowout that is quite common in the early days, when a newborn’s #2s are very runny. The yellowish stuff shoots out the back, front, or leg holes of the diaper, leaving you to either get scrubbing in the sink or immediately do laundry (if you have that luxury in your home).
14 Tell MIL To Take A Hike
I realize that it is quite common, maybe even traditional, to have relatives and even close friends come to visit the baby very early on after birth. Many couples even receive visitors during the first 24 to 48 hours while they are still in the hospital.
Then, once the news has spread that the baby has been born, excited relatives are bound to want to come meet the tiny baby.
For some, this is just fine – especially if they can receive some assistance from these visitors, such as cooking, cleaning, or bringing in food and other supplies.
However, the newborn times can be exhausting and overwhelming – and an important time for a new mom to recover and rest and for a mom and dad to both spend quality time bonding as a family with their new child.
That’s why it just might fall upon pops to find a way to delicately tell friends and relatives when it’s time to leave.
You only get one chance to cherish the first days with your newborn yourself, in comfort and privacy.
13 Load After Load
Let us continue the laundry theme. A new dad may very well get stuck doing it — all of it.
This one will look different for everyone, to be certain, but here’s how my household situation went:
We still have to use nearby coin-operated washers and dryers where I live (I know — I can’t believe it either).
Before we had babies, my husband or I would sort of each do our own laundry, I believe. I’d pack up my dirty clothes in a bag and haul it over, change it to the dryer, hang dry my delicates, and so on when it needed to be done. He’d do the same for his.
Once I almost always had a baby in my arms (and, in the early weeks, was often sore and exhausted and beyond busy), I think it went something like this: The laundry would pile up somewhat, or we’d simply run out of baby clothes (see the above item about poo-splosions), and my hubs would be the only one who could carry all the laundry over and get it done.
And this continued, because with two little ones now, I rarely have the hands (or strength) to carry over two giant bags of laundry while holding / wrangling them.
12 Milk The Mama
Maybe you won’t believe me, but it is true: My husband had to pump milk from my body by hand after my first baby was born. I am not even joking.
This (hopefully) will not be the case for everyone, but it is one of the more unbelievable things that happened in my experience, to be certain.
An insurance company / medical supply company blunder made it so that I did not have my electric breast pump by the time my baby was born. I didn’t even have it for those first weeks, in fact.
And before I was able to borrow one from a friend, all we had were the tubing and other components and a small hand pump that had been provided at the hospital – thank goodness.
We were both exhausted, and there was far too much pumping to do (to relieve my engorgement as the milk came in) for one person to tackle it alone, so we had to work in shifts.
11 Always Be On Call For Room Service
It was 2 o’clock in the morning. I was up — again — feeding my first newborn baby. Feeling like I just might cry, I told my husband completely seriously that I needed wheat toast — lots of it — with butter and strawberry jam, and a glass of milk, right then, or as fast as he could go downstairs, make it, and bring it back up to me, anyway.
Although I knew I’d be doing hard work and getting very little sleep – and that it would likely be somewhat the same for my husband, at least in those early days at home – I did not really anticipate being quite so ravenous at all hours of the day and night.
Both my hubs and I remember this point more clearly than any other about the newborn days: that the dad may have to bring the mama food at strange times.
I instinctively knew what my body needed and when, and I luckily had an awesome partner who provided whatever it was that my new-mom tummy desperately needed — even if it was 2 o’clock in the morning.
10 SO Many Store Runs
In some cases, parents to a new baby may find themselves making new shopping lists on the way home from the grocery store – in my experience, that’s just sort of the way it goes. It seems like almost every single day my hubs had to run out to the store for something we urgently needed.
I’ve given this one some thought, and I believe there to be many factors involved.
First of all, new parents are sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation can lead to forgetfulness and just not quite thinking clearly. So even while you’re at the store, it might be tough to remember what exactly you need, or to plan ahead for what you’ll need in a day or two.
Then there’s the fact that new parents can find themselves quite ravenous. It takes energy to be up at all odd hours around the clock. You need rations! You need supplies.
And finally, there’s the fact that babies – and new parenthood – can be so unpredictable. You might realize, for example, that you really need to switch to less leaky diapers, that you better try five more different types of bottle to see if the baby likes one of those, and so on and so forth… right after he just got home from going to the store — again.
9 Purchase Pads
For some couples, sending the guy out to purchase pads, tampons, and what not becomes standard – or at least acceptable – once they’ve been married or been together for a certain amount of time.
It’s life, and that’s part of it.
But if that’s something that still sounds shocking or somehow taboo to you, the newborn days might be a good time to rethink and get used to it.
What, are you going to send him to the store to get diapers, bananas, and milk, but then have your own secret shopping list that you will somehow find the time and energy to go collect? Nuh-uh.
As we all know, that aisle can be pretty complicated and overwhelming – even if you’ve been shopping in it since you were 13. Be prepared to explain about sizes, lengths, brands, absorbency, thickness, and wings.
Better yet, just take a picture of the package you prefer and send it to him.
8 Facing The Flow
The postpartum flow of what’s known as lochia is not your ordinary period.
In fact, I’ve heard some nurses joke that it’s nature’s revenge for those 10 months without any period.
And believe it or not, coping with this postpartum flow in those early days and weeks with a new baby may really sort of need to be a team effort.
What in the world do we mean? I’ll tell you.
At first, someone may need to assist a new mom, right after labor, with getting to the bathroom, having all the supplies (very large and absorbent diaper-like pads, a perineal squirt bottle for cleansing, medicated hemorrhoid pads, a new ice pack…) handy – especially considering that she is simultaneously having to, like, take care of a newborn baby.
Although a nurse will help with this in the hospital as needed, hubs may have to step in at home.
He may also need to get the water from the sink warm to fill up the peri bottle for cleansing after she goes to the bathroom. He could very well also find himself changing out soiled bedding or soaking her clothes to prevent stains, as well as, of course, running out to the store for sanitary pads (see above).
7 Down And Dirty With Diapers
Now, again, I do not personally find it at all shocking or unbelievable that a new dad would be required to change a lot of the early diapers – but I guess I do understand why some might, if I think about it.
I live in a progressive place, and I live very much in our modern era, in which gender is considered fluid, partnerships are considered equal, and so on and so forth…
But if I look back not so long ago to my parents’ generation, I guess it was still somewhat novel for dads to do things like be in the delivery room and maybe, just maybe, even change diapers.
But, assuming that both partners will be working together in those early days with a baby at home, dad may be the perfect guy for the diapering job.
Mom will already be breastfeeding, recovering form childbirth, and so on – and it may be physically necessary for someone else to step in and do the changing.
6 A Manly Maid
Some dads may find that this trend continues long past the early weeks with a baby at home, say, until they decide to hire a house cleaner.
It’s that the man of the house may have to step in to do all of the house cleaning.
I’m talking the dishes, the toilets, the vacuuming, and more.
And I don’t personally think that anyone should really find this little point to be in any way unbelievable or shocking, as the various tasks that a couple completes certainly shouldn’t need to have anything to do with their gender, right?
My husband and I, personally, have switched off who does what in our household many times over the years as life changes in various ways. He used to tend to do the cleaning, then I took over more of it when we moved, and then he took on more again once we had kids. It’s a partnership!
5 Stop Her From Straining
Hopefully, a brand-new mother will be able to sort of listen to her body. Although, when I think back to those postpartum days following the birth of my first, I realize that I didn’t always have the choice to do what my body told me to do.
What do I mean? Well, my mid-back was incredibly sore from labor and pushing – and there was just no practical way for me to give it a good rest. Heck, I didn’t even really take the time to stretch it out or apply some heat… I was all consumed by the task at hand: feeding and snuggling and caring for my newborn.
A dad may very well need to be there – at least for a few days, or better yet, weeks – to make sure a mom is able to avoid overdoing it or straining. Her body is recovering from some intense stuff, especially if she delivered via C-section, but no matter how she delivered.
When a papa is there to aid with some of the physical work and give mom the nudge to take it easy, it can really help.
4 Be The One To Get Up All Night
I really had myself convinced that I would do as much of the hard work as possible once the baby was actually born. And I guess I did do just that – as much as possible.
But every person has a limit, and it was absolutely necessary, as I suspect it is for many new moms, to have my husband be the one to get up sometimes (or most of the time) in the middle of the night and change the diaper before bringing the baby to me to nurse.
First of all, a new mom is already devoting so much energy to breastfeeding and caring for a newborn. On top of this, I and other new moms that I know tend to have a much harder time falling back asleep after getting out of bed or leaving the bedroom in the middle of the night, as compared to our male counterparts.
So if dad can be the one to get up and get the baby when it’s newborn feeding time, it can mean a world of difference for the new and exhausted mom.
3 Play Chef
I knew that food would be important, but didn’t believe how hungry I found myself in the early weeks — and at all hours of the day and night.
Happily, my instincts kicked in when it came to eating nutritious food whenever my body told me that I needed to. I knew that, for me, this wasn’t the time to be extra careful about what I consumed or didn’t. It was a time to survive, if you know what I mean: a time to just give my system the nutrients it needed to have enough energy to breastfeed, be awake so many hours each day, and more.
And whenever my husband was home, he was most certainly the one doing the cooking.
Or at least what I would call the “meal making.”
Happily, we both like to keep food simple much of the time, assembling sandwiches and salads and things like that. Still, don’t be surprised if dad has to put in many hours in the kitchen.
2 Go Fetch For Squirting Sundries
How many toilets do you have in your abode?
If you answered more than one, you will probably find yourself in this predicament as a new mother having just brought your baby home: Every time you use the bathroom, you’ll likely need to cleanse with a perineal bottle, which will likely have been provided at the hospital.
About 90 percent of women experience tearing down there during childbirth, and cleansing the area with a gentle stream of clean, warm water from one of these little squirt bottles is usually instructed, both for after peeing and pooping and for cleansing in the shower.
The problem, you see, is that they may only give you one for use while at the hospital that you will then take home with you.
Therefore, dear old dad may have to run and retrieve the peri bottle for you when you find yourself on the porcelain throne that you didn’t last use, with your bottle far away in the other bathroom.
I even sent my hubs out to the store to ask around and try to buy a second one.
1 Be Her Hands
We came home from the hospital after the birth of my second baby. We were all sitting on the couch together for the first time as a family. My newborn settled in to nurse, of course, and all was well with the world.
Then, I had an incredibly urgent itch on my face. It may sound silly, but you know that thing where you always seem to get a terrible itch the minute you don’t have any hands to scratch it?
Well the first days and weeks with a newborn include a new mom learning how to breastfeed, and a rather floppy newborn needs to be held close and supported, and carefully positioned so that both mom and baby are comfortable for long nursing sessions.
My hubs had to be my hands for me in that case, scratching the itch on my face, pushing up my glasses as they slid down, and more.
Yours might need to feed you sandwiches, offer you drinks of water, or change the TV channel.
References: Community.BabyCenter.com, RCOG.org.uk