If you gave birth in a hospital or birthing center, the transition home can be pretty weird, especially after having your first baby. It's like, "Wait, I'm going from a highly controlled environment staffed with professionals to... home? And you're just going to let us waltz out of here? We have no credentials!" There are so many questions all parents have, but I want to talk about the things dads should be told before leaving the hospital, according to their postpartum partners.
And I say "dads" and not "parents" because — elephant in the room — there's a well-documented disparity between the workloads of a new mom and a new dad. Same-sex couples, you are proven to be a bit better at this than those of us in different-gender relationships, so to you I say, "Kudos!" This can't be laid entirely at dad's feet, either: new moms are given crap family leave here in the good ole United States of America, to be sure, but dads' family leave is even worse. Dads typically take a day for every month a new mom does, so of course mom is taking on more of the childcare! Not only does she have to, she's the only one who's (kind of) being given the time to learn how to do anything!
Too often, the odds are against these dudes to begin with and social norms that basically make dads out to be hapless idiots (thanks TV) doesn't exactly help to make things better, either. So here's a little cheat sheet, from moms who have been there, to help light their path as new parents:
"Your partner needs to be cared for and tended to same as your new baby. Do everything in your power to make her feel supported."
"Learn how to install a car seat properly and what a good fit looks like. Change the baby’s diapers. Know what the fourth trimester means and how to soothe a baby. Always make sure mom has water and a snack. Ask if there’s anything she needs. Do the dishes and laundry. Make sure mom gets a shower. Remind her you love her and she’s beautiful. Make her and the baby your priority for the first year."
"This is specific to parents with more than one. Keep the older children busy. Take them places, do all duties (food, bath, homework, play). Also do household duties. Keep everything clean and stress free."
"Your partner cannot do it alone. If you split duties, your life and your partner's life will be remarkably easier in the long run."
"Teach them the signs of postpartum depression. It’s not just being tired with a little baby blues. Look for the bad signs, especially with NICU mamas. We may not say it but some of us blame ourselves for that baby being in the NICU. I kept apologizing to my little one [and[ telling her I failed her. I was a new young mom with a baby in the NICU and a low milk supply. The days got dark real soon."
"For the love of god, do something, anything that involves cleaning up [and maintaining] the house. Bottles, dishes, laundry, and keeping the other siblings entertained. Don’t become another child we have to take care of. Can you tell that my only 'break' was staying in the hospital? I’m absolutely shocked and so grateful that I never developed postpartum depression because I would have been an example for everyone on what not to do after you have a baby.
And for the love of all things holy: do not invite people to stay at our house."
"If mom is breastfeeding, get up and change the diaper and get baby ready to feed. If bottle-feeding, take turns!!"
"There should be a full glass of water next to her at all times. There should also always be some healthy and tasty snacks within arms reach, especially if she’s breastfeeding! Baby is literally sucking the life out of her, she needs to stay hydrated and well-fed. And if she asks you to bring her her phone Just. Do. It."
"Don’t stop anywhere else before you pick up the pain meds for the post-C-section mama. And clean something. And fill the water bottle. And never call caring for your own child babysitting."
"[They should know] that their man-nipples are useless and we may plot to smother them as they sleep if snoring happens while we are feeding baby."
"Let her sleep. You may be tired too, but you are not recovering from pregnancy and childbirth (or major abdominal surgery, depending on how your baby came into the world) and personally generating enough high-calorie food to sustain a newborn. If she needs to sleep, take the kid, bond with the kid, watch TV with the kid, relax yourself, but do whatever you need to do to let her rest."
"If you love her... let her sleep."
"Hormones don’t play. Be her everything for the first few weeks. Nothing will get [a new mom] more excited for that six-week, postpartum clearance than a dad who takes on middle-of-the-night feedings with us."
"I know they seem little and tiny and fragile, but you will not break your baby."
"If this is her first baby, too, she doesn't know any more than you do, so don't depend on her for all the answers. You have to figure this out together."
"Take candid pics of your wife with the baby. She will treasure them later."