In the weeks following childbirth, mothers must adapt to plunging hormones, recover from birth and learn how to feed and care for a new infant. In the middle of all these challenges, moms receive minimal support from the healthcare system. Specialist Postpartum visits to a healthcare provider are typically scheduled four to six weeks after birth, leaving moms to cope on their own for more than a month
While new parents prepare in many ways for the baby they are about to meet, they often find themselves feeling surprised by how disorienting and overwhelming caring for a newborn actually is. Although there is certainly joy, the first few months can feel fragmented, unbearably exhausting—and the relentless needs of a newborn can make parents feel like they never get a break.
You can blame much of this on a little phenomenon called the fourth trimester. The idea is that the first three months of a baby’s life are like another "trimester" of pregnancy because in many ways newborns are still gestating, even after they are born.
Most people focus on what is happening with babies during the fourth trimester, but moms are experiencing a birthing on their own, and in many ways are orientating themselves to their brand new life and identity.
This process can be difficult for many women who often need just as much TLC as their babies do.
Dad, here's what you can do in those early days of birth recovery to both support mom + bond with baby.
- Help her recover from birth
Do skin-to-skin. Research shows that dads who stepped in to provide skin-to-skin carewhile their partners recovered from birth were able to help their babies keep calm and comfortable.
Take paternity leave if you have it. Don't leave it on the table if it's offered to you.
Respect her physical limits. She needs several weeks to heal after a C-section, and may need support lifting baby or doing housework.
Arrange additional support. A night nurse, a mother-in-law and friends all can help her recover from this major surgery, especially if you need to return to work.
Make sure your partner is comfortable when she goes to the bathroom. Encourage her to take pain medication as recommended by her doctor.
Respect her physical limits and need to heal after birth. Don't pressure her for sex. Be gentle and understanding when you do restart intimacy.
Encourage your partner to talk to her doctor if she experiences ongoing pain.
2. Support her motherhood goals
Dads make a difference. Research shows that supportive dads can help mom and baby to meet their breastfeeding goals. Your support matters!
Bring your partner a fresh glass of water every time she nurses. (Bonus points for adding a straw, which helps her consume more fluid.)
Gift her thoughtful small things that make her feel seen/heard. A new nursing bra
An appointment with a lactation consultants near you for extra help and support.
Make her Mother's Milk tea to help boost her supply.
Bake lactation cookies. They may or may not help, but they are a tasty treat.
Encourage her and remind her what an incredible mom she is—especially at 3 am.
“I love you" goes a long way.
Bring her the baby in bed to nurse and set a post-feed timer on your phone to make sure she brings the baby back to his crib for safe sleep. Research the right formula for your baby's needs.
Offer to take over all the feeds when you're home.
Clean all the bottles.
Burp baby after mama is done feeding.
Affirm and respect her baby feeding choices.
Remind her she's doing amazing work for your baby.
All these small things show her how much you really care and how much your invested in your lives together! It makes her feel that she isn’t alone in this very difficult journey she found herself in!
- Jump into bonding with baby.
Talk, read and sing to baby—the sound of your voice is key to promoting literacy. Why not start a bedtime story routine on day 1 of baby's life?
Start a baby-and-daddy ritual. Are you the bath time guru? King of the diaper change? Baby walker extraordinaire? Own it.
Take a night shift. Whether offering baby a bottle, helping to soothe a crying newborn or just changing a diaper—your wife needs rest, and this is an important time for you to step up.
Baby-wearing looks great on dads, too.
- Understand what mom + baby need in the '4th trimester.'
The “baby blues" are normal—but postpartum depression and anxiety, while common, require additional support and medical intervention.
Be on the lookout for signs. Postpartum Progress provides a really helpful overview of the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety.
Remind her that she is an amazing woman.
“You look amazing," is always the right thing to say.
Support her as she attempts to reach her health goals postpartum—even if that means spending the money to join a new gym or subscribe to a meal plan.
Don't judge when she needs to buy new clothes to fit her new shape.
Encourage her as she goes back to work from maternity leave or becomes a new stay-at-home mom.
She needs alone time, even if she doesn't ask for it. Encourage her to spend some time away from baby. You've got this.
Communication is key when trying to help someone out! So even though all these tips are great make sure your partner’s needs are met!
Just because baby and mom share a special bond doesn't mean there isn't a ton you can do to support your growing family.
Dads who get consciously involved with baby care early and often reap lifelong rewards—from a close partnership or marriage to a deeper relationship with your child.