Most new moms have an advantage over first time dads; they already spent some time babysitting for neighbors and family to earn pocket money during their teenage years, so they know more or less how to handle a baby. The tinyness and fragility of a newborn freaks out every new parent, but changing diapers or helping a baby to burb is pretty much the same, whether they are 4 days or 4 months old.
Combine this with the fact that a mom-to-be feels her baby grow and move inside her body, biologically connecting with her child during pregnancy. Directly after giving birth, the mother’s hormone levels change drastically; her entire body prepares for bonding with her baby, and keeping her precious little one safe.
Some moms have a hard time handing over the baby to somebody else, even for a short period of time, even it is to someone they love and trust, like their partner, also known as baby’s dad…
Whenever I work with a family, this is one of the first parenting subjects I address. Yes, the father may be a bit nervous or even clumsy to begin with, but there is absolutely no reason why he couldn’t learn the tricks of baby care in a day or two.
The earlier dad is allowed to learn how to take care of his daughter, the stronger he will bond with her.
So, if it’s up to me, the father will give his daughter her first bath, the day after she is born, while mom is still feeling a bit feeble! I prepare everything for the bath in the bedroom where the mother is recovering from labour, give mom a camera in her hand and instruct / assist the – beaming with pride and joy – dad. Success guaranteed.
Skin to skin is not only for women! When your baby is cold or unsettled, and can’t be hungry, let dad take off his T-shirt, undress his boy, and install himself on the couch with his son on top of him, covered with a nice fleece blanket. While dad is bonding with your baby, watching his favorite program on TV, you can have a hot shower, all by yourself.
During the first week, I usually have a lot of conversations with the mother, about giving her partner space to take care of their baby in his own way. As long as the safety rules aren’t compromised (the head of a newborn always needs to be supported when lifted up), it doesn’t really matter that he lovingly put green striped socks underneath blue trousers on his son’s feet, does it?
For quite a lot of moms, it is a huge struggle to let go. They correct their partners all day long.
About cuddling positions, clothing arrangements, sleeping positions, ways of throwing diapers away, talking too loud, playing too rough, and so on, and so on; you name it, they try to correct it. Some turn to me, complaining about their husband’s ‘stubborn’ behavior, expecting to be backed up by me. I just have one advice for them; learn to let go and swallow your comments!
If you don’t give your partner space to parent in his own way, he will soon lose interest in the caregiving role.
Nobody wants to be corrected all the time! How can you expect anybody to find fulfillment in taking care for a baby or toddler, when there is a constant stream of critique?
Have faith in your partner’s parenting abilities. Don’t interfere. No critique. No ‘tips’. Let him figure it out.
I promise you, it will be worth it. When you try to breastfeed your second child in years to come, your partner will still be around to help, feeding your toddler freshly cooked carrots, sharing night shifts in diaper changing…
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