A new Mom has been through an awful lot. Her body was used to grow an entire human being. Then she had to perform the seemingly impossible task of getting said human out into the real world. For these things alone, all Moms should be celebrated.
Motherhood in general is tough but the immediate postpartum phase can be particularly challenging. First there is much to sort out when it comes to caring for a newborn baby. In addition, Mom is trying to heal herself while also dealing with extreme sleep deprivation.
And of course, we can’t forget that wonderful phenomenon known as mommy brain making new moms feel like they exist in a brain fog. Suddenly everything becomes more challenging.
The truth is Moms need help. They need the support of their loved ones and the #1 person to fill that role is Dad. Not only is he a primary caregiver to the baby but he also needs to play a strong role for Mom in the days, weeks, and months that follow childbirth.
It might be tough for Dads to know exactly what to do to support their partners, especially if they haven’t been through it before. It’s also sometimes tough for Moms to know what they need themselves given baby is their first priority now. Further, Moms are often used to doing it all so even asking for help can be tough.
As a result, we’ve put together a list of 15 things that Dads can, and should, do to help Mom out in the immediate postpartum phase. If a Dad can tick all of these boxes, Mom will be in a much better place, and of course Dad will too.
No doubt there will be a long line-up of visitors wanting to make the acquaintance of the newest family member. Truth-be-told, mom may not feel up to a slew of visitors. Of course, there will be some folks like grandparents and aunts/uncles that will be welcomed and probably wouldn’t take “no” for an answer anyhow but they are the exception We aren’t talking about those folks.
We are referring to the more distant friends, neighbors and co-workers who might want to visit but will take “no” for an answer. The challenge is that mom might have a hard time saying no. She also may not have the energy to field all the calls and emails. Enter Dad.
We are suggesting that Dad be the gatekeeper for visitors and take the pressure off his partner by letting people know they can visit in a few weeks or months when things settle down a little. Insert huge sigh of relief on Mom's part.
Older siblings still have all the needs they had before new baby arrived, and then some. In addition to what they had going on before, they now also need to be reassured of their place and priority in the family. Mom is often the go-to person for everything under the sun from pouring juice to taxiing to activities to chasing bad dreams away.
Moms of newborns need Dads to take more of a lead on big brothers and sisters, at least for a little while. Mom isn’t going to disappear of course, but she’ll have her hands full with the new baby so Dad can certainly fill this gap.
Pick out their outfits, pack their lunches, drive them around, and have some Dad/big sibling bonding time. Mom will feel more at ease knowing her other babies are in Dad’s capable hands.
In the immediate days and weeks following birth, Mom and baby with each have a number of appointments. It’s fabulous if Dad can drive everyone to these appointments. This means there is one less thing for Mom to think about.
For each of these appointments, Mom will get herself and baby ready which will sometimes feels like a monumental effort in and of itself. If Dad can drive, it takes the stress of figuring out what time to leave and where exactly to go away from Mom. Plus there isn't any reason Dad shouldn’t attend these appointments too.
Aside from navigation and timing, Mom might be physically uncomfortable for a host of reasons post-birth so it’s a great help for Dad to play chauffeur and attendant for a little while.
An amazing way to make sure Mom gets a little break or extra rest is for Dad to give baby a bottle at times. This is sometimes easier said than done but Dad is a great person to work the kinks out of bottle-feeding. Babies might refuse bottles for a host of reasons which is just another thing for Mom to worry about. This is something Dad can take the lead on.
It’s also a great way for Dad and baby to more wholly bond. Feeding time means lots of eye contact, skin-to-skin time, and amazing baby cuddles. How could anyone say no to that opportunity? Further, it’s a fabulous way for Dad to feel more involved in baby care. For many (and obvious) reasons, the bulk of baby care likely falls on Mom. If baby will easily accept a bottle from Dad, then it’s a win-win.
Obviously the division of labor when it comes to keeping up a house is different in every situation. Hopefully most couples have some sort of amenable arrangement that involves Mom doing some stuff and Dad doing some. What Mom really needs immediately post-birth is for Dad to do everything. Yep - everything.
This means tidy up, pay the bills, clean, take the garbage out, and DO THE LAUNDRY, just to name a few things. There will be a lot of laundry. Junior will likely spit up a lot and may have several diaper explosions a day so laundry is a daily task now - and basically for all of eternity. Mom will be very grateful if Dad takes the lead on laundry, if nothing else.
Let’s not forget she’ll be sore, tired, overwhelmed, cranky at times, and anxious as a new mom so if household stuff is one less thing she needs to worry about, she’ll be in a happier place.
If this is the first baby, mom will be learning the ropes. Everything is new and she might not feel like she’s getting it right all the time. Dad can be her biggest supporter. She’ll need to know that Dad has her back.
She’ll need to hear she’s a good Mom and that Dad has faith in her. She’s likely already done more than he could have imagined just getting that baby out! Prop her up when she’s feeling down.
Although encouraging words are important, Dad can also help Mom figure things out too. If Mom is stumped or perplexed, Dad can jump in and try to get stuff on track. Every baby apparatus comes with instructions so Dad can be the one to follow them. And if something Mom is doing isn’t working, Dad can offer suggestions. But they definitely need to be well-thought out!
For moms, especially new ones, the word “break” takes on a whole new meaning. Doing almost anything alone becomes a break so we really aren’t expecting a whole lot here!
Most activities become enjoyable if we can do them alone. Previously mundane errands are thrilling. Going to the hairdresser solo rises to a whole new level once a baby is in the picture. Sometimes, we will just drive aimlessly to extend an outing for some quiet time. Most moms accept the fact that going to the bathroom is now a group activity, but we really appreciate the opportunity to do anything ALONE.
Dads who can facilitate this definitely score brownie points. All moms, but especially new moms, need a break every once in awhile. And if that break, is truly a break – meaning mom and baby are happy and alive but not together – then Dad is doing Mom right.
Mom likely feels like a truck just drove out of her lady parts. She is sore in places she didn’t even know existed. She might have stitches too. And if she had a C-section, she’ll be truly out of commission for a while. We can assure you, she does not feel like herself.
Dad can make her feel a little better with a little pampering. We are by no means suggesting that Mom wants to be sent to a spa. In fact, we guarantee she doesn’t. She just wants to be comfortable nesting in her own home. But that doesn’t mean Dad can’t take matters into his own hands.
This can mean simple things like a back or foot massage. Drawing a hot bath for her or even painting her toenails. We know Dads have it in them to do a little pampering!
One of the greatest gifts a new Dad can give his wife and new baby are to be present. This is particularly important in those first few weeks following the arrival of the baby. If at all possible, Dads should try to take some time off work – even if it’s only for a few days.
When Mom is alone with her baby for the first time, it can be particularly daunting. It’s so much more manageable if Mom and Dad are in it together. Not only is Dad taking time off work helpful for Mom, but it also allows for the new family to bond and thoroughly enjoy each other.
Parents will love spending time studying their newborn baby. It’s so much more enjoyable when parents can do this together. So after the rush of visitors has passed, Dads should try to take a little time off work if they can. Mom will love it.
After all her body has been through, Mom won't feel much like herself. She'll likely feel a little beaten up. As we've discussed already, she'll need to spend some time healing. She might have stitches, swelling, urinary problems, hemorrhoids, phantom twinges... you name it. Plus she'll be super tired.
When she looks in the mirror, she may not recognize the body she sees. That can be scary! Overtime she'll get her body back or learn to love her new shape but Dad can help here too. Tell her she's beautiful. And often.
She'll want to know that you love her and how she looks regardless of how she feels and regardless of what you saw in the delivery room! Dad will be her biggest champion in this department. Don't let her down.
Most things on this list are "Dos" but this one is a "Don't". For many moms, especially new ones, sex is not on the radar. Any new mom still loves her husband as much as ever, but she doesn’t want to get it on much right away. She will want to again, just not right now.
Her body needs to recover and become her own again. The baby needs to get into a bit more of a routine. She needs to start experiencing sleep rather than imagining it. It’s not because she isn’t attracted to you or loves you any less, she just has a bigger priority right now.
Feeling pressured to do the deed is only going to make matters worse. She’ll appreciate the time and space to start feeling like herself again. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Our point is only to let her be the guide.
There are so many reasons why cooking for a new Mom is important. First, your wife or partner won’t have time to do much meal prep this since she’ll be consumed with the baby and with her own healing. Second, she must eat a healthy and balanced diet to produce quality milk for the baby, as well as to promote her own healing. Third, it’s a fabulous way for Dad to feel super involved and helpful when the bulk of baby care will fall on mom’s shoulders.
Meals don’t have to be fancy or gourmet, they just need to be healthy and tasty. One big issue for new moms is forgetting to eat or not being able to find the time to do it. One of Dad’s jobs is to make sure these things do not happen. You’ll both be grateful for this.
One great suggestion is for Dad to spend some time over the weekend prepping meals that can be frozen. This will be a godsend during the week.
After baby arrives there will be disagreements. There will be the same disagreements that existed before plus some new ones. Some of these will be exacerbated due to the surging hormones in Mom and her sheer exhausted state. So we say pick your battles.
If the argument is inconsequential, then let it go. The outcome may matter more to her than you realize so let her have it her way. She probably won’t appreciate this much at the time but a peaceful house will be good for her.
The expression “happy wife, happy life” lives strong after children arrive. This doesn’t mean bowing down to her every whim and desire but certainly let her be the authority for at least a little while - within reason of course. You’ll thank us for it later.
Dads often have a very different vantage point of the birth process than Moms do. Unless Mom opts to have a mirror placed between her legs, she won’t see the same things that doctors, nurses, or Dads do.
The reality is Mom won’t necessarily be aware of everything that went on down there particularly if she opted for an epidural. We say spare her the details. If she pooped on the table, she doesn’t need to know. Same thing goes for the gory details about tearing, episiotomies, or passing the placenta. We think Dads can do Moms a big service by keeping these things to themselves.
The truth is, this might be an easy request since we suspect many Dads don’t want to relive the experience! If she insists, Dad can use his best judgment but we say at least gloss over the finer details.
Becoming a Mom is the most amazing experience many women have the privilege to go through, but it brings about a crazy array of emotions and feelings. New moms will experience joy, pride, elation and overwhelming love right alongside stress, anxiety, exhaustion, sadness and confusion.
There is no doubt that at times your wife or partner will feel overwhelmed by it all.
Dad has been by her side through thick and thin… the joy of pregnancy, the rollercoaster of labor and delivery, and now the wonderful adventure of raising a child together. Mom needs you like never before. Be there for her as she experiences the ups and downs of motherhood, forging her way in brand new territory, and sorting out who she is again.
She relies on you more than you know. This might be a Dad's most important job of all.