We have a guest post today to help new dads from Sarah Norris, who has just published a new book; The Baby Detective; very much designed to help us try to work out what the hec is going on in those first few months of our little one’s lives. Play detective to your babies’ needs; from winding to working out their personalities, the books gives you a toolkit for new dads, mums and beyond!
The traditional idea of babies being woman’s work, and new dad being there just to support her is a thing of the past. News dads thees days, quite rightly, should, and want, to be actively involved in all aspects of childcare.
Sometimes, though they want to be involved, they are not always sure about where to begin so here are a few tips to help.
- Start as soon as possible. The focus on parenting today has swung unfairly towards the mum as being the most important parent, partly, I think, to do with the intense drive in hospitals for exclusive breastfeeding. Not only does this put pressure on mums, it also sometimes has the effect of side-lining dads. Many women love the ‘golden hour’ where baby is placed on her chest directly after birth, but don’t forget the dads. Make sure they also get their own uninterrupted time to hold their new baby as soon as practically possible.
- Don’t hog the baby. Again, the focus on breastfeeding encourages mums to do skin to skin and hold the baby as much as possible, however, you don’t have to hold baby continuously. Make sure that dad also gets plenty of time to hold and cuddle baby as often as possible because this will help build his confidence in handling them.
- Don’t assume. Even the most traditionally minded dads can be surprised by their own feelings when they see their new baby. Even if you would not normally expect them to be hands on dads always encourage them and give them the opportunity to hold and cuddle their baby, they may surprise you (and themselves)
- Don’t expect them to ‘be strong’. Men get a raw deal where emotions are concerned, being taught from an early age not to cry or get emotional. This is bad enough under normal circumstances, but particularly harsh for a new dad. The sudden weight of responsibility can affect them unexpectedly and they can experience huge swells of emotion, including overwhelming love, confusion, fear and even numbness. Their feelings are just as important as yours, and just as valid so give them time and space to deal with them. Talk about your own feelings and encourage them to talk about theirs and support each other.
- Don’t criticise. Though new parents may start off equally inexperienced, the mother quickly becomes more competent simply because the dad is sent home from the hospital at night so she is forced to cope on her own. As this experience divide widens over the next few days and the mum gets used to doing things a certain way it is easy for to her to become a little critical of the dad when he does things differently. This can be very annoying and off-putting so try to catch yourself when you do this. Let him learn at his own speed and in his own way. Everybody parents differently and it really doesn’t matter if he uses more wet-wipes than you, or doesn’t swaddle, hold or wind in exactly the same way, or do things as quickly as you.
- Make it easy. If you are more experienced with babies you may find it easier than your partner to feel confident handling a newborn, especially if your baby is small or premature. If you think this might be the case, and that your partner is avoiding holding baby because they are afraid of hurting them there are ways you can make things a bit easier for them. Try swaddling baby firmly because this creates a more solid bundle, with fewer fragile limbs exposed so they just need to concentrate on holding the head when they hold them. Also, to start with, try timing their cuddles at times when baby is calm, well fed and winded. As their confidence grows they can progress to winding and soothing. If you suspect they are lacking in confidence try not to put them under pressure by asking them to hold baby when there are visitors who may be critical or laugh at them.
- Ask for help. Some dads may be uncertain about what you expect of them. They may think you have everything under control and don’t need help, so they don’t offer. If you want help, or need a break make it clear, ask for help and let them step up and get involved.
Adjusting to a new baby, especially your first, can be a confusing time for parents but if you take the time to respect each other’s needs, and make the effort to communicate effectively you will make things much easier for you both to enjoy your baby.
© Sarah Norris
The Baby Detective by Sarah Norris, published by Orion Spring, is out now. www.babydetective.co.uk