New momming is so hard! First-time mothers have heard the stories. But then they actually live it. Once upon a time, you may have had a vague idea of the magic and preciousness and the endlessly challenging work that a new baby requires. But now, your pervading thoughts are: “Ohhh. NOW I get it.” So how do you get dad to help with baby?
You may even daydream (or long desperately) for just a tiny, little 2-hour window of glorious, healing, uninterrupted sleep.
It can be difficult for new dads to truly understand what you’re going through. Postpartum healing isn’t fun. Your chronic lack of sleep starts taking its toll on your body and mind. Your hormones are wreaking havoc on your emotions. Your brain is trying to frantically process the information required to respond to your baby’s need to be nourished and nurtured.
I believe that during the delicate postpartum time it’s important for mom and baby to spend a lot of time bonding. Bonding isn’t always instantaneous and may even take a little work. No worries, this is normal. It can take a few days or even a few weeks for you to feel that connection with your baby. Spending time holding, nursing and snuggling your new little one will help you adjust faster, and bond better. This is important for your mental health, and your baby’s.
But your husband can still pitch in and make the transition easier. So how do you get dad to understand what you really need and how he can help you? Here are some basic tips during this time.
Get Dad to Help With Baby
If you’re nursing, this will be so much easier, as breastfeeding releases a flood of sleep-inducing hormones. This article by The Alpha Parent talks all about the amazing effects breastfeeding has on mama’s brain. But even with nature on your side, you still may feel wildly emotional. (I cried over everything, P.S. Don’t even think of watching the discovery channel!)
On top of all the changes you are going through as a person, (mind, body and soul) you are also now put in charge of caring for a brand-new human. Your husband doesn’t understand this. If emotional overwhelm is happening to you as a new mom, try to keep a healthy perspective.
A burst of anger will probably not get the cooperation and understanding that you need from him. So maybe think about releasing your honest feelings in a healthy, gradual way, at a time when he is likely to respond with real support and encouragement.
Take time to talk
You might try explaining to your husband or partner the feelings of overwhelm that often accompany learning the ropes of motherhood. New moms feel pressured by various well-meaning parties who offer conflicting advice on everything from sleep schedules to breast vs. bottle, to vaccines, developmental stages and everything in between.
The amount of well-meaning advice can be soul crushing. It can make you feel as though you know nothing of taking care of your baby. This is not true, its just hearing 100 different ways that you are “supposed” to do something, will make anyone question what they are doing.
With postnatal emotions running high, this may at times seem both overwhelming and even a bit judgmental. And you may feel as though you owe the world a response, which can be exhausting at this time when all you want to do is bond with baby and master his cues so that you can give him just what he needs at just the right time.
With any luck, your husband will be empathetic to what you’re facing once you help him see things from your point of view. If you feel like your husband will have trouble understanding this, make sure you are keeping your own emotions in check during your conversation. (This can be super hard, but effective.) Explain things simply, and in a factual way. Right now, you just want him to understand that you are having a hard time, but that you know it’s not his fault.
When asking for task-related help, be direct and use fewer words. Men often don’t take subtle hints or pick up on vibes as women do. New moms probably all understand the frustration of having to tell hubby what to do when he should already just know.
There isn’t much to do about this other than keep reminding. For example, if you pass by an overflowing kitchen garbage can, you can say something like “Would you mind taking out the garbage?”
Or if you’re trying to keep up with laundry while he’s watching TV, and the baby starts to cry, you can ask him to throw a load in while you tend to your little one. You could even say, “I was going to do this laundry. Would you toss it in the washer while I nurse the baby? Thank you so much!” This is direct language, but not rude and it doesn’t sound like you’re giving him orders.
One of the best gifts you can give yourself is keeping your expectations low. This may sound terrible, but instead of wish and wanting your husband to just read your mind, just tell him exactly what you need him to do in the moment. He will more than likely be glad to help and feel useful, and you will feel less frustrated.
Use positive reinforcement
Your husband may not understand this weird new, mommy version of you who didn’t exist before. He may also not feel established in his role as a new dad. You’ll probably get good results from him if you remember to be thankful for any help that he does offer.
If you want him to be more hands-on with the baby, you could say things like “Jake loves it when Daddy gives him his bottle!” Or maybe “I have the best husband in the world. Thanks for doing those dishes, I’m so tired and you have no idea how much of a help you are to me right now.”
Feeling appreciated and useful is important for anyone’s wellbeing in a relationship, and usually will promote the desire to do more for you. Don’t you love helping people who show gratefulness toward your help?
Assign Specific Responsibilities
Whatever you do, resist the urge to engage in the “who does more” game. If there is an obvious imbalance just let the past go, and decide to move forward.
Sit down and talk about who’s doing what. At some point, you may be returning to work or you may have to divvy up responsibilities in order to properly manage the household and child-rearing.
Together, come up with a schedule that works for both of you. Emphasize both parental roles and compromise, as in: “It’s really important for you to get that dad-bonding in with her. So how about you give a bottle and do tummy time in the afternoons, and I’ll take the late night feeding shift so you won’t be tired for work in the morning.”
If your husband is just not receptive to any true attempt at understanding why you need help, it may be time to call on outside help. If you’re able you could ask your mom, mother-in-law or other close, trusted family member for help with the baby.
This may or may not get the results you want. Having help from family may take the load off you as a tired new mom, but will it inspire your husband to pitch in more? Possibly not. It really depends on how your situation plays out.
Your husband may not appreciate having your mother around all the time. Eventually, he may express this. When he does, you can point out that he and you can easily work out a new system so that you’re sharing responsibilities within your own family, rather than relying on an outside party for needed support.
Bring up the idea of paid help. Explain to your husband how overwhelmed you’re feeling right now, and suggest that you hire a professional cleaning person, nanny, or another type of paid professional to do whatever is not being done around the house.
Even if you’re fairly certain that he won’t agree to this, it might just spark a needed conversation. You can discuss who is currently doing what and how you can improve the functionality of your household by having him pitch in more.
Either that, or if he actually agrees to hire someone, then you’ve solved your problem of being overwhelmed and can focus on more important things… like tending to that sweet little baby!