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So, you have become a Dad. First off, congratulations on your new arrival! This is truly a magnificent time in your life. There’s nothing more exciting than returning home with a new life that you in part created. After all, nothing has ever seemed more in line than that first day back after all has sunk in and the reality strikes like a personal attack from Zeus.
What? You mean nothing is in line? You feel slightly lost and can’t seem to get a grasp on anything? Sometimes transition into fatherhood can be extremely daunting and quite overwhelming. There’s no worse feeling than the feeling of helplessness. It’s a common feeling among many first-time fathers. That feeling is intensified when your precious new bundle is clung to Mom and wants nothing to do with you. After all, Mom’s doing the nursing; getting a good block of bonding time and baby seems to take comfort in only Mom’s company. Fear not concerned parent! You are more useful that you think.
It’s important to know that Moms body is going through some crazy hormonal times right now. She’s exhausted. The demands of baby are taking their toll on her (and you no doubt). She’s healing in ways we can’t think of, or choose not to think of. These are rough and beautiful times for her. And you are the most important person she has, that your baby has.
It all starts with taking a grasp of the bigger picture. It is essential Mom and baby build the bond they are. Don’t worry, you’re time will come. I’ll get to that. Right now, your first major responsibility is to play gatekeeper. There will probably be a flood of people wanting to investigate the new arrival, and who can blame them? But it’s up to you to protect your new arrival while Mom and baby take care. The last thing they need is people coming in and out, disrupting the new family time while everyone is still getting settled. For us, immediate family saw Bub in the hospital the day after his birth. After that, no one was to come over till after a couple weeks until some semblance of a routine was being formed. Step one accomplished.
With Mom tied down; whether it be because of baby or healing from birthing; there’s a bit that needs attending to. There’s everyday chores that’s now up to just one to accomplish. That’s not to say Mom and baby get neglected; just that the shared duties are not so shared for a while. (Really all that I did were very essential things: dishes and laundry when needed, everything else can wait.)
The best thing you can do for Mom? That’s where things become a little more fun. Even though she’s likely not on her feet much; while she’s nursing a good foot rub could be in order (just don’t expect it to lead anywhere!) Or maybe a light shoulder rub is in order. Or how about simply being there next to her; not that you’d be running about town anyhow, right? Just your presence alone will provide strength she wouldn’t otherwise have. She needs you to be there, reassuring her when she’s feeling her most depleted.
Now what about my time with baby? Let’s face it, Mom will need reprieve. There’s no way around that. That’s when it’s your time to step in and shine. This is the best part of the deal. While Mom and baby’s bond is far more crucial at this stage, you get to partake in numerous bonding moments. So strap in, here’s a list of things you should be a scholar at within the first few days.
- Although some of these may be chore-like in nature, they serve as critical bonding moments for us dads. Newborns need their diapies changed how many times a day? Too many, right? (Don’t worry; their poo doesn’t really stink until they start solids) Swoop your little one up, singing and talking to him the whole time while changing. I like to sneak in little kisses on the forehead and stomach. Turn it into a fun, quiet moment. It’s really not the chaotic task that it’s made out to be.
- Babies need a bath a day. While the cord is still attached, they can’t really take a traditional bath; a sponge bath. Turn this into the same opportunity as changing the little guy. Look him in the eye while singing and smiling. Don’t forget the lotion afterwards! It gets better when they’re older and you can actually bath together. We do almost every day. You sir, should be a changing and washing master.
- Is baby fussy, just ate and is so tired he’s fighting sleep? Swaddling works miracles! It’s an awesome skill to learn and allows you to rock baby to sleep within minutes. Nothing is more satisfying than having the ability to put him peacefully to sleep. It also let’s baby know you’re a trusted source for the sleep he’s resisting.
- All those night time waking’s? If you’re not bed-sharing or co-sleeping, you can show that you’re there for your partner by being the one that gathers up baby and bring him to Mom. It means the world to Mom knowing that she’s not taking the full brunt of your new nighttime regimen. That not only allows Mom more comfort while nursing, it also lessens her up-time at night. You might get a chance to use your swaddling skills if he doesn’t fall asleep at the boob! It again shows baby that you’re a source of trust by responding to his nighttime needs, which strengthens your growing bond
Of course there will be numerous times that you and baby will have together. These are just the basics to get started on a routine of being there for your partner and bonding with your new child. While these may seem like a no brainer, when you’re in the heat of the battle it might not be so simple.
It’s important to know that you are the glue holding together this awesome new life. Don’t let trepidation and hesitancy stop you from being important. It’s also very important to understand that Mom and baby’s bond is going to be a completely different type of bond that you will have with baby. Don’t get discouraged and don’t sideline yourself. It’s always tough in the beginning; no matter how prepared you think you are. It’s a new start, wrought with struggles and patience. Hang in there; be there for Mom and remember, you are important and needed more than you know.