Congratulations, welcome to your new life. What a trip! This newborn parenting journey is akin to being the co-pilot of a flight, where neither you or the captain have ever stepped foot in a cockpit. Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy, beautiful, soul-thrilling ride! So, we thought we would impart some wisdom upon you, before you strap into your new seat. Here are some tips on how to be a helpful sleep deprived co-pilot and chief papa to a new little human.
Image Credit: Debora Silveira
The Baby Baking!
We know you might think that your only job is to fetch peanut butter and pickles from 7eleven at 2am for your hangry wife; but there is LOADS more you can and should be doing before your bub arrives.
Firstly, encourage and supporting your partner to take care of herself in pregnancy. Baking babies is hard work and she needs rest, good nutrition and lots of self care. Do the dishes, run the bath, rub her swollen feet, make time and space for her to meditate and enjoy some pregnancy friendly movement.
Go to appointments! Not just scans, but any prenatal appointments. Having you there for moral support and to ask questions is super helpful. We also highly recommend pre-natal classes. You’ll learn so much about both birth and what to expect in those first few crazy weeks. A baby first aid course is also a brilliant thing to do together before baby arrives. The more you know and understand before the birth of your kiddo, the more helpful and less utterly bewildered you will be.
Lastly, get enthused that nursery prep! Build the cot, set up the change table and assemble the nursing chair. Also, take note of where important items are to be stored in the nursery – like nappies, baby clothes and swaddles. It will be much easier to help with the new bub, if you don’t have to ask your partner where to find the baby wipes mid nappy change.
Image Credit: Elliana Allon
The Big Dance
Like any grand final, preparation is key, especially in the birthing suite. Having a good birthing partner is priceless.
Know the game plan! Advocating for your partner during birth is really your most important role. Talk with your partner beforehand about what she does and doesn't want during her labour. You're the one who may need to take charge when she can’t. Make a birth plan together; understand it and bring it to hospital. But also; be flexible; some birthing strategies will work and some weon’t. So be prepared to do what works and drop what doesn’t.
Be her one person pitt crew. Tuck shop runs, feet rubbing, back patting, distraction providing, joke telling, abuse wearing – whatever it is, take it on with gusto! You never know what your partner will need, but whatever it is, be willing to give it a go. But know your limits, there are professionals there who help birth babies every day, listen to their advice and ask them questions if you feel unsure.
If you’d like to take on a helpful job during the birth, find a good contractions timing app and track the time contractions occur and their length – when they get longer and the time in between gets shorter it’s generally game on! PS. Never ask ‘Is that a contraction?! Your best guess is fine!’
Once your baby has arrived and the brand new mum and baby have had a good skin-to-skin cuddle, it’s time for you to grab that little bundle for a squeeze too. Skin to skin contact is where your bub lays on your bare chest, so they can hear your heart. It has huge benefits for your baby’s development and wellbeing. And it can actually help your new ‘Dad development’ too. Holding your baby close helps to build those feelings of protectiveness and connection. Plus, skin to skin, helps both you and your bub get a big old natural hit of that super lovely relaxing hormone, oxytocin. A ripper little extra reward for being good support crew.
And lastly, take it all in! This is a big moment in your life and to your partner it might be a bit of a blur. Try to snap a couple of shots of your first minutes together, you wont regret capturing this incredible, literally life changing moment!
Image Credit: Hayley Garnett @th3littlestavenger
Now the unbelievable bit. They actually let you leave the hospital, with that baby and without a clear instruction manual? Ridiculous huh? And the co-piloting journey continues.
Those delicious first few weeks at home are where your new dad game can peak! So get stuck in; dressing, settling, playing, bathing and nappy changing – it’s the best way to build your skills and confidence. It also creates lots of one-on-one time with your bub, helping to build that Dad relationship. AND doing these jobs will give your partner a break and earn you some ripper partner points.
Learning your baby cues or signals will also be helpful to all of you. Working out what your baby needs is a special skill, not only limited to Mums. Try carrying and holding your baby as often as you can. If you hold them to your chest, they can hear your heartbeat and it will help to build that connection and again, give mum a bit of a break.
Talk to your new bub while you’re carrying or changing them. Every word baby hears helps develop their language and learning skills and they will become comforted by the sound of your voice too. One on one time with your baby seems scary, but it’s really important. It’s what the co-pilot is for, when the captain needs to rest and reset a little.
Traffic management is also part of your advocacy role. Visitors can be both delightful and not so. Helping your partner manage the plethora of visitors is a god send. From scheduling the length of their stay and entertaining them, it’s all effort for a new mum and something you can take off her hands.
Also, continue to support your partner with the bits you can’t do – breastfeeding. Simple things like fetching a glass of water and pillow seems unimportant but is actually a huge help when you have a baby stuck to you.
And lastly, look after yourself and your relationship with your partner. A new baby is exciting but can also be a massive strain. Making time to chat to and seek advice from fellow Dads can stop you from feeling isolated. Accepting help from those that offer help is a great idea – even if they only offer to grab you some milk, accept. Checking in on your partners mental health is imperative - seek help if needed, luckily in Australia it’s not only readily available, but also encouraged! Chat about each others exceptions and even though it seems impossible, try to spend a little time together to chat about something other than the newest, littlest member of your family. And lastly look after yourself with good nutrition, movement and fresh air.
Most importantly Dad, enjoy and cherish this time, believe us when we say it will be over in the blink of an eye.