Baby’s first month of life seems to be a big blur for most moms. Somehow we get through it, but it is an adjustment, to say the least. Having family members come and stay in the home to help out can be great, but sometimes it can also be an intrusion. It takes time to get used to living in the same quarters with a new person, day-in and day-out. And, as a new mom, you’re trying to assimilate to a new baby, trying to get used to living with someone that’s not part of the everyday household rhythm can make for a rough ride. That’s why the one person that is the most important helper and an integral member of the household rhythm is- the other parent!
How can a new daddy help out, when he’s not the one with the lactating breasts? When he’s not the one that provides all of the milk? Not the one that instinctively knows what baby needs or wants? No one wants to be relegated to the position of “sole diaper changer”. And, in the first three weeks, as mom and baby are trying to get used to breastfeeding, oftentimes, that is exactly what dad becomes. Here are some tips to be an involved daddy, in some feeding and non-feeding baby routines.
Take as much paternity leave as possible. If you have vacation time or FMLA available, take as much as you can off. The first week is the most difficult, true, but so are the second and the third, and the fourth. The first month of your infant’s life brings about daily changes and struggles. A new mommy will need as much help as possible during this time. Remember, she’s also trying to heal from the birth process, while not getting much rest. You can remind mommy to nap, eat, shower, etc… and offer taking the baby while she gets this accomplished.
Being the Lactation Helper - please don’t walk away to get coffee or food or take a phone call when the lactation consultant comes into the hospital room to help mom. Only 20% of what is being taught to mom will be remembered. Mom is sleepy, most likely on pain medications, and all-around feeling not so hot, therefore retention of the valuable information given to her during the lactation consult is up to you. Ask the lactation specialist if it is okay to videotape the session so that you can review the techniques later. Most importantly, don’t derail mom by making her think you’re not on board with the plan to solely breastfeed- unless there’s a medical request to supplement. Support her by reassuring her that she can do it. Be the feed log recorder. Make sure mom is set up with what she needs while breastfeeding (she’ll be there for a while) like water or some snacks or comfy pillows. Most of all, make sure she’s relaxed. This will make the milk flow better and make feeding less of a struggle.
Bath Time- This is one of the best times you can have with baby. Most babies like the warm water. They are completely engaged in eye contact with the parent bathing them. A tip for bath time: put baby’s towel in the dryer and take it out when you’re going to dry baby (never leave baby alone in the bath, though). A warm towel makes the transition out of the bath easier. And who doesn’t love a nice warm towel?
Reading to Baby - It is never too early to start reading to your baby! Plus, your baby is already enthralled with your voice. Reading to your baby is an essential way to teach your baby vocabulary and a love of reading.
Singing to Baby - Whether you are Andrea Bocelli or not, your baby will love the songs you sing to him/her. He will be cooing along with your melodies and learn to love music all the while developing right brain functions. You don’t have to know special children’s songs or lullabies, she will love all your favorite songs as long as you’re sharing that special time together.
Rocking Baby- After baby has fed and is ready to go down for the night or just for a nap, sitting in a rocker or standing and bouncing, your little angel will melt into your arms and fall asleep. Once mom and baby have gotten used to breastfeeding and are pretty proficient at it, rock-a-bye time can also be the perfect time to begin incorporating that one bottle of breast milk a day ritual.
As you all grow to know each other’s rhythm and routine the family unit will transition more easily with the addition of your new bundle. Albeit, things will be a little crazy at first, but you’ll make it through - together!