Adjusting to parenthood is rarely straightforward, especially when you’re not the gestational parent!
When a baby is born, you're thrown into an incredibly high stakes job with huge demands on your time, emotional intelligence, and communication skills. You're asked to function, beyond your typical capacity, as a parent and a partner despite sincere lack of experience, interrupted sleep, and ever-changing benchmarks.
At Birthsmarter we teach and support partners who want to be incredibly supportive. But, even the most well intentioned person can have a hard time knowing exactly what is helpful postpartum – when they’ve never been through it before. Here’s our list of the top five ways partners can step up:
Instead of relying on your partner to educate you along the way, do some research on your own! And not just about the baby gear. Take an interest in books, podcasts, or social media accounts that share information on the postpartum experience and newborn parenting. For example: when is it common normal to have sex after giving birth and what might influence the time line? How often do newborns wake at night, and what might influence the time line? It can be very isolating for primary parents to be the primary researcher and information filter for a family and the plethora of decision making that comes with trying to keep a baby alive! Navigating the information overload of early parenthood is often much easier when both parents are interested in and capable of looking for just the right amount of trustworthy information.
1. Research the range of normal (and not so normal).
2. Learn to comfort and care for your baby ... or at least fain confidence while trying!It’s easy to see why one parent often becomes better at some baby basics like soothing, diaper changes, packing bags, etc. It’s because they do it more. Soothing a baby, perfecting the diaper change, making sure everything is in a diaper bag - it takes time and repetition. And, it’s ok to make mistakes and struggle along the way. There’s a huge double standard for birth parents versus dad’s and partners and it takes courage and dedication to step into something you’re not going to be good at right away. (It also does require primary parents to step back and stay quiet when it’s not their turn!) There are exponential benefits to putting in the time, though. Your relationship with your baby and your partner will be improved by being able to confidently hold, soothe, and care for a little one when it’s your time to be in charge!
3. Create a resource list and learn to ask for help.In our society – raising babies outside of “the village” nuclear families often spiral in survival mode for the first few weeks or months trying to navigate feeding, sleeping, cleaning, working, childcare. You name it. It’s nearly impossible for two individuals to manage the needs of three people and a household alone. Thinking about and keeping track of who in your life you can lean on (or hire) will be enormously helpful when the time comes.
There are some “chores” or “daily grind” tasks like making breakfast, lunch, dinner, tidying the house, doing laundry, tossing the garbage etc that feel never ending. These tasks in particular must be shared equitably - which means while one parent is recovering from childbirth and/or learning to feed a baby with their body, the other parent might pick up more slack. The art of owning daily grinds is actually making sure you communicate a mutually agreed upon minimum standard of care. Clear expectations are key during the sleep deprived nature of postpartum life. If you don’t already know about Fair Play - now is the time to learn! This time-saving, anxiety-reducing, resentment-prevention system of balancing domestic load is a game changer for expecting and new parents.
4. Take ownership over some daily grinds.
Sometimes amidst the urgent nature of being thrust into survival more - doing the laundry, preparing food, tackling middle of the night diaper changes partners hit burnout levels, fast. Parenting + partnering sustainably means taking care of your physical and mental health so you can show up as your best self. We love to see partners making sure they have the time, space, and resources they need to take care of themselves. Because even though taking a bit of time “away” might feel guilt-inducing, or impossible, it’s really an investment for the longterm with a meaningful ROI. Therapy, adult friendships, exercise, art, or other extracurriculars are all important priorities for parenting well!
5. Take care of yourself!
Know someone at the beginning of parenting who could use more eduction, support, or community?
Our New Dad’s Survival Group is a 4-week series for dads of babies 2-16 weeks. We follow the specific needs and interest of each cohort and always address community building, the daily grind (sleep + eating for the whole family), infant development (stages of development, play + bonding), relationships (how to be a supportive partner and have a thriving relationship despite the demands of parenthood), and taking care of yourself (self-care, emotional well-being, parenting sustainability).
We also offer introductory webinars or consultations around Fair Play as well as resources for LGBTQ Partners.