The arrival of your baby can bring many changes to your relationship and can bring all sorts of new emotions for you and your partner. Dads are often keen to keep their relationship strong and to support their partners through this time but it can be tough to know exactly how to do this.
Let your partner know what you think she is doing well
Mums (and dads) often feel moments of low confidence as they learn the ropes of being a parent. Try telling your partner often what she is doing well as a mum. You could ask her to do the same for you.
Look out for your partner’s physical and mental health
You can help each other to keep healthy by encouraging exercise, sleep and good nutrition. Encourage each other to schedule exercise into each day, get at least 5 hours of sleep or rest (interrupted or uninterrupted) and at least some amount of time for Self-care.
Try to minimise long hours at work
If you’re the one who’s returned to work, you may feel (or others may be telling you) that the best thing you can do is to provide financially for your family. This can lead to feelings of pressure and long hours at work. But keeping your hours at work to a minimum whenever possible means that not only do you get to be more involved in your baby’s care but your partner will feel less overwhelmed and more supported by the help you’re giving her.
Remember problems don’t always need to be fixed
With lack of sleep, hormones, too little time and the worry that can come with being a new mum, emotions are likely to be up and down during the early weeks. Sometimes your partner might not be looking for the problem to be solved or everything to be perfect, she might just be needing a shoulder to cry on or someone to let her know they understand how she’s feeling.
Find ways to maintain closeness and intimacy
A lot of men struggle with the loss of sex that coincides with the arrival of the baby. Mums often need to give their bodies at least 6 weeks of recovery time before resuming sex, but many women need much longer than that. This is sometimes because of the residual pain, breast discomfort, fatigue, mood changes or simply, getting used to having a baby to look after. For many couples, sex equates with intimacy. Therefore, it is important to talk to each other about maintaining closeness when sex is (temporarily) off the menu.
Go along to baby appointments together
Once your baby comes along, there will be a lot of appointments to attend. Try to go along to some of these together. You will get to be more involved in your baby’s health care and share the experience with your partner.
Ensure that you both have good social support
The more social support you and your partner have during the first year of parenthood, the better your relationship is likely to be. However, it is easy for social support to drop off as the baby gets older. Try being proactive with friends and family. Schedule monthly BBQs with friends, join a parent’s group, or plan for celebrations such as a naming day or Christening.
Work together with your partner to overcome obstacles
It is common to experience challenges during the first year (e.g. with breastfeeding, sleeping, crying). It can be helpful to work as a team to overcome these obstacles. For example, you might source information from friends, professionals or from the internet. You might have a go at trying different strategies. You might need to visit the GP together.
Make family and friends aware of your wishes
Social support during this time is essential. But sometimes, depending on the people around us, it can be draining, interfering or impractical. Unannounced drop-ins, unwelcome advice and criticism can be stressful at the best of times and are even more difficult to handle during this busy time. Be alert to this and calmly and firmly let your family and friends know what you expect of their behaviour.
For more tips like these, why not check out Baby Steps, a free online program that aims to enhance the wellbeing of new mums and dads.