Congratulations, you are going to be a father! Or maybe you are already a dad. Most men say that the birth of their child is the most fantastic thing that ever happens to them. But, especially in the first few months of parenthood, when their partner is loved-up with her baby and perhaps breastfeeding too, many men can feel a bit of a spare part.
You might feel shut out as everyone fusses over the baby and new mother. You might even wonder what happened to the sexy woman you first met. And you might worry whether you are going to be a good enough dad. But your role is absolutely crucial, both in supporting your partner and in developing a relationship with your new baby.
Finding out you were going to be a dad
Early Bonding tips for dad and newborn baby
The first few weeks
After the initial euphoria of the birth wears off, you will both probably feel absolutely shattered as sleepless nights take their toll. Your partner is experiencing huge hormonal changes and is likely to up one minute, in floods of tears the next. As for sex, unless you are very lucky, forget it! Most women will still be feeling discomfort from the birth, will be bleeding, and will be feeling pretty unsexy as they come to terms with a body that is – usually temporarily- very different.
You may also feel that if she is breastfeeding you won't be able to help with the baby. But having a supportive partner is hugely important if a woman wants to breastfeed. Remember, taking care of your partner is part of looking after your baby.
Some things you can do to support your partner in the first weeks and beyond include:
- Taking the baby for a walk specifically so your partner can sleep.
- Sharing night feeds or resettling the baby after night feeds if she's breastfeeding.
- Filtering phone calls and fending off unwelcome visitors.
- Pulling your weight with housework and cooking.
- Making her a cup of tea or getting a glass of water while she's feeding the baby - and put it within reach!
Getting to know your baby
Your partner has had nine months to bond with her baby, and you may feel worried if you don't fall in love instantly. You may even feel nervous at first about handling this floppy, fragile creature. The cure for this is getting plenty of practice. Before you know it (actually, around six weeks) your baby will be flashing big gummy grins at you and melting your heart. Things that can help build a better bond include:
- Carrying your baby in a sling. Babies love being close to their dad's warm body and will soon learn their dad's special smell.
- Bathing your baby. Many dads like to make this their special job.
- Changing nappies, and talking to your baby while you do it.
- Carrying your baby as you walk about, to comfort him if he's tired or cranky but not hungry.
You and your relationship
In theory having a baby together should bond you more closely than ever as you see each other with new eyes - and certainly for some couples that's absolutely true. But for others, having a baby can really rock their relationship. Here are some tips to help keep your relationship going strong now there are three of you.
- Before your baby is born, take some time to talk about life after birth. How will you want to share babycare? Will your partner be going back to work? How do you feel about dummies or discipline? Lots of couples never talk about these things then are amazed to find their partner has completely different ideas. Result? Lots of rows!
- Keep communicating. It's easy when you are so busy and tired for resentments to build up. Try to talk about issues before you start to feel angry.
- Don't push your partner to have sex. A woman who has just had a baby sometimes feels like the unsexiest thing on earth. Be loving, keep up the romantic, non-sexual touching such as kissing and hugging, and pay her lots of compliments.
- Make the most of the time you do have together. Have a glass of wine and a takeaway and get a DVD for a night in.
- Do things for each other. Running a bath for your partner, cooking dinner or bringing flowers home will do a lot to make her feel more loving towards you.
- If you do argue, try not to make personal comments, hurl insults or criticise her as a mother.
- Try to get some couple-time out of the house. As your baby gets more settled, book a babysitter even if it's just for a couple of hours and go for dinner.
- Remember, the first months of parenting are often the hardest, but if you are loving and patient now, you will reap the rewards in a deeper relationship in the years to come.