FFHQ Pregnancy Expert and Midwife Avril Flynn reveals the best ways you can support your partner when your new baby arrives.
Nothing can quite prepare you or your family when a baby arrives. You can read every book, chat to every friend, watch every YouTube video but just how massively your life changes can only be appreciated when your own little human arrives into your life.
You then realise for yourself that things will never be the same again! This is a wonderful time of flux and change in the dynamic of a relationship, but it can be pretty scary too.
A very common question I get from birth partners is once baby arrives, how can they help support the one who has given birth when they get home? Ultimately the aim is that this marvellous new arrival enriches the relationship, as opposed to causing friction. In my work, I help support parents’ transition to parenthood and here are a few of the many tips I give my clients.
Having a new baby is stressful for both parents. Even with the strongest will in the world, you are going to be sleep-deprived, anxious and nervous around your new baby. Setting realistic expectations that things will be challenging to begin with means that you can support each other from the beginning. Communicating your feelings with each other is essential – and it's ok to say you are finding things tough.
With some of my clients, I find that everyone is trying to put on a brave face with everyone else and the result is no one is being honest about their feelings.
If you are able to take a step back and ask your partner “How are you doing?”- they will be able to reciprocate. Once everyone is being honest about how they are doing, if problems do arise, it’s much easier to address them as a unit.
Whether they are breast or bottle feeding, a birthing mother's main role is to nourish her baby and recover from the birth herself. As the partner, you can be of huge help in sorting out all the other stuff that needs to be done at home.
Making sure the shopping is done, that there is food in the fridge, that the laundry doesn’t pile up may seem like irrelevant tasks, but when a mum knows that everything else is in hand, she is allowed to just focus on herself and her baby.
It is also your job to support her by supporting yourself and asking for help when you need it. If grandparents, aunts, uncles or close friends ask can they do anything- give them a job! Ask for people to make a dinner and drop it over or ask them to run the hoover over the house or make sure other bits and bobs are done.
People are only too happy to give you a hand, if you just let them know what you need. In the same vein, if you need extra assistance then think about getting a postnatal doula or other assistance.
After Felix was born, the best thing my husband did to support me was insist we hire the most amazing Doulas whom I could not have survived without and would never have thought of myself.
When you watch your partner give birth, it is incredibly emotional. Holding your new little person together as a new family usually gives such a rush of connection and love you feel that nothing can burst your ‘love bubble’.
However, fast forward to a couple of days, weeks and months later, tensions can run high.
A great way to dissipate some of these tensions is to be hugely supportive of the decisions your partner makes as the mother. So if you know nothing about breastfeeding, but you know your partner wants to breastfeed very much, then even if things are challenging for them, tell them you support them and they are doing a great job.
Or alternatively, if they wish to bottle feed- support their choices. Telling a mother, without prompting, that they are doing really well can be such a help in making them feel comfortable in their new role.
Be an advocate.
As part of your role, being their advocate and defender is essential. People love to give their opinions about how to care for a new baby. If these opinions are unsolicited and you know they are causing upset or distress to your partner, then politely ask whoever it is offering them to stop.
This show of unity will not only make things easier on both of you but will boost your confidence as parents and show others that you are in the driving seat of this new parenting journey (even when you feel you are not).
Remember, if you support your partner, they will find it easier to support you back and once you are a team, then together with your new arrival, anything is possible.