When we first brought our son home from the hospital, neither my husband nor I had slept for the past four days while I was admitted. And when we came home, well, let's just say we didn't sleep for two more weeks after that. Bringing home a baby for the first time was such a mixed bag of emotions, our emotions ranged from elated to scared sh*tless. I don't know what I would've done without my husband those first few weeks and I'm sure every new mom will have her own list of what can dads do with newborns in order to be helpful and to bond with them.
It takes a team, y'all. Or a village. And a lot of dads unfortunately feel like they can be left in the dark when it comes to bonding with their newborn — especially if mom is breastfeeding since dads have useless nipples. There, I said it. But in all seriousness, you both have to be there for each other during this special, albeit stressful, time in your lives — whether it's the first baby or not. Granted, you may not be as scared when you bring home the second child, but you'll still need support and dad still needs to bond with the new baby. I asked moms what was helpful for them during this time, and what their partners found helpful when it came to bonding with their newborns, and their answers did not disappoint.
1. Take Turns Getting Up With The Baby
My husband and I would tap in and out to get some sleep. When the other one started to feel overwhelmed and needed to take a cat nap, the other would step in. This definitely saved our sanity.
2. Take Care Of Mom While She's Breastfeeding
Whether it's getting her a glass of water or a snack during a 2 a.m. nursing session, or just getting up with her for moral support so she doesn't feel like everything is falling to her, taking care of mom while she's nursing helps mom and your newborn. A happy mom means a happier newborn.
3. If Bottle Feeding, Take Turns Feeding The Baby
If mom is pumping, offer to feed the baby while mom is pumping. She will feel solidarity in having to get up twice in the middle of the night to be hooked up to a machine that hurts your nipples. If formula feeding, great! Just feed the baby and warm up the bottle while mom gets some needed rest. She'll get the next round.
4. Go To Pediatrician Appointments If Possible
If my husband wasn't at that first appointment — which was the day after we brought him home from the hospital, per our pediatrician's recommendation — I don't think I would've retained anything the doctor said. Thankfully, between the two of us, we maybe had one functional brain and we were able to remember some of what she said.
It's also helpful if your partner remembers to ask something and you don't, and vice versa.
5. Dads Should Do Skin-to-Skin Time, Too
A previous Romper article cited a study conducted by researchers from the University of Notre Dame that proves skin-to-skin is also super important to dads. Dads who have skin-to-skin with their newborns had elevated cortisol levels, among many other hormonal benefits, which in turn made them "more likely to be involved with caring for and playing with their newborns," the article noted.
6. Try Baby Wearing
Baby wearing saved my butt many a work shift in the beginning. I'd type out articles on my laptop while standing at the kitchen counter and bouncing my baby in the wrap while I worked. I felt like I really bonded with him and we both enjoyed the baby-wearing experience. I know dads will, too. In fact, my husband was better than me at doing the Moby Wrap at the beginning, and he said he really enjoyed the closeness he felt toward our son when he wore him.
7. Make Sure You & Mom Are Both Fed & Hydrated
When I was exclusively pumping, especially the first few weeks, I had never been hungrier or thirstier in my entire life. I know one of my mom friends said she was so exhausted she'd forget to eat and drink, so her husband would feed her and give her water while she pumped and nursed. She also would make sure her husband was eating and drinking, too. It's weird the things you forget to do when you have a newborn in the house. Both mom and dad need to be charged and have some fuel to take care of a brand new baby.
8. Be There For Your Partner At 3 a.m.
This was the witching hour for me. I never felt more alone, isolated, scared, and desperate than I did at those 3 a.m. feedings and cries. I'm not sure what it was about that particular hour, but I told my husband my feelings and he made sure to be in the nursery with me — even if he laid on the floor — while I nursed, changed, or rocked the baby when it was my turn. We both did this for each other and I think it helped our sanity and made each of us feel less alone and vulnerable so late at night.
9. Offer For Mom To Get Out Of The House For An Hour
Not only is this great one-on-one bonding time between you and the baby, but mom will appreciate this more than anything. She'll feel almost like herself again if she can get in the car and listen to music, maybe stroll through Barnes & Noble or Target, and sip on a latte. I'd do little outings during the first few weeks, though I cannot remember what I did. Everything is kind of a blur from that time. But I do remember coming home with my husband holding our baby and talking to him while they bonded. It was definitely a win-win.
10. Fend Off Overly Eager Family Members, Friends, Neighbors, Etc.
Have pushy family members or friends who want to visit even though you haven't slept in a week? Dads, please be the bad guy and talk to them. Mom has suffered enough through labor to have to deal with BS right now. You can also be bad cop when they've overstayed their welcome by coming up with excuses or just simply asking people to leave.
11. Do All Of The Googling For Mom
When it came to my postpartum health and our newborn's health, this was my husband's number one goal for us. Hell, he did this when I was pregnant, too. I am a serial Googler, and with my anxiety, it's not a good combination. I always seem to find the website that says I have cancer, or your baby has a disease or something awful, and I need my husband to talk me off the ledge. He does all the Googling to weed out the bad and wrong information and to help ease my mind. This was so important when I had a newborn because everything was new and scary and I just knew something bad was going to happen. My PPA and PPD didn't help with that either.
12. Talk & Sing To Your Baby Regularly
It doesn't matter if you have an awful singing voice. Your baby loves to hear your voice and loves it when you sing. Even if you feel weird talking to your baby, you'll get used to it. And you're bonding with them while eventually building up their vocabulary.
13. Clean Mom's Pump Parts For Her
This. Oh my god this. My husband did this for me even after the newborn stage while I exclusively pumped for 13 months. I hated pumping. I hated it. And my husband knew this and since he couldn't share the burden of pumping, he made sure to do my least favorite activity when it came to pumping — washing the freaking parts after every session. God bless you, Greg. I feel like it was worth it to exclusively pump the first year, but boy was it hard.
14. Take Baby On Walks
This will be great for you and your baby. Y'all both need vitamin D during the newborn stage and the fresh air will do you both good. Talk to them about the trees, the birds, the squirrels, whatever you see. It will be such a nice bonding experience. Plus, you'll get some rad, much-needed endorphins when you walk your newborn. That will help with the newborn slump, even just a little bit.
15. Play With Baby Every Day
Mimic your baby's coos, play peek-a-boo, read them a book while snuggling them close: these are all great playtime activities to promote bonding with your newborn. Plus it will help mom out to give her time to do something else, whether it's pee or take a shower.
16. Create a "Dad-ur-day"
One couple tells me that they started "Dad-urday" by week two. Dad had one-on-one time and gave their baby a bottle while she slept two full sleep cycles on Saturday mornings. "It was my only five-hour stretch of sleep for months. And I could look forward to it every Saturday," the mom says.
"He ended up loving it more than me. He looked just as forward to having time with her all to himself. It was really great for their bonding."
17. Make A List Of Self-Care Items With Your Partner
One mom and her partner made a list of self-care things that dad could enable once she came home. "Draw a bath (my doc allowed it), make me a fresh cup of coffee and let me drink it alone, get out of the house for a few minutes. Little simple things when I was having a rough time," the mom says.
This definitely helps mom to feel refreshed and present when dealing with a newborn. And this will make for a happier baby. They're not lying when they say when mama's happy, everyone's happy.