Motherhood can be a surprisingly lonely experience, but it's a shared one. Parenthood can be one of the toughest journeys to navigate. And unfortunately, parents can't read each other's minds. This is especially true for fathers.
Understandably, it’s an incredibly frustrating and confusing experience when you’re suddenly expected to know exactly how to be supportive with a new baby, especially if there are certain things only mama can do. And it can be completely disheartening to be told that you’re not doing enough. Dads are often left wondering about how they can be more involved and support their partners in ways that truly help.
Let’s talk about the top 10 most useful tips for new dads and how they can provide support during this delicate period.
And this begins with understanding why new moms need a little more TLC in postpartum than either parent could ever anticipate.
Why New Moms Need Support
Mothers meticulously (and excitedly) prepare for the arrival of their baby but too often forget their physical and emotional needs in postpartum.
And the effects are staggering. In California alone, 72% of women with perinatal depression or anxiety never receive counseling or treatment. Across the United States, 10-20% of new mothers actually report or have been diagnosed with some type of clinical Postpartum Depression (PPD). And in another study, it was reported that 1 in 7 women may experience postpartum depression in the year after giving birth. With an average of 4 million live births in the U.S. per year, this equates to almost 600,000 diagnoses of a postnatal mood disorder.
These numbers are likely higher considering how many women remain quiet about their mental health out of fear of judgment and stigma.
Mothers need time to heal and replenish after birth, whether that is physically, emotionally, or spiritually. In some cultures, this is done by giving a new mom a carefully prepared period of recovery and support. For example, in Latin America, there is a cultural practice for new mothers called la cuarentena or “quarantine” where moms focus on healing and bonding with the baby for 40 days. Their support system handles everything outside of this including chores and meal preparations. And China's cultural practice of zuo yue zi or “sitting month” focuses solely on mom’s rest, hygiene, and dietary needs.
In the U.S., most mothers are not given this extended amount of time dedicated to their physical and emotional recovery. In fact, they often return to work weeks after childbirth or don’t have sufficient support systems at home. Childcare support in these last two years has been especially challenging given the limitations of the pandemic.
10 Ways Dads Or Dads-To-Be Can Be Involved
It’s important for a new mom’s mental health to have the help they need to keep up with the demands of nurturing a newborn 24/7. And while there are some things that only mama herself can do, dads can help in other meaningful ways.
1. Arrange for a regular time to rest
Time to reset and recharge is crucial for new moms. A dedicated period where mama can read a book, watch TV, or even take a walk will help alleviate some of the overwhelm she may be feeling. Anything that gives back some of her own time. While this may look different for everyone, it’s important to remember that time away from the baby, even in short intervals, shouldn’t be used to do chores. That is not a break.
2. Feed the baby
This will depend largely on whether mama is exclusively breastfeeding. But when your baby takes a bottle, offer to feed the baby in the mornings or at night. Moms find this particularly helpful, especially when they’re already sleep-deprived and exhausted.
3. Take the baby if mom appears frustrated
If you notice your partner looking visibly frustrated or overwhelmed, it’s a good sign to give her a small break and care for the baby for a while. This encourages mama to reset so she can approach triggering situations calmly.
4. If there are older children, help look after them while mama bonds
Another way to help a mama out is to take care of the older kids in the house while she takes much-needed time to focus on bonding with the newborn. It takes some time to adjust to newborn life again, and older children tend to have more emotional needs, rather than physical ones depending on the age of the child. Giving her this time to bond with the baby and still have someone give just as much attention to the other children will help immensely.
5. Be prepared to have specific “jobs”
One of the most useful, and most straightforward, methods of helping a new mom is getting to do specific jobs that only dad can do! For instance, you can be the one that changes the diapers when you get back from work. Or, you’re the one that sets up bath time. This creates a clear delineation of duties that will feel natural after some repetition.
6. Essential chores without prompts
If you see the laundry piling up or the dishes need washing, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do them. Mama will certainly appreciate your proactiveness and willingness to help her out at home, especially if there wasn’t much prompting involved. And in some cases, mamas won’t be able to vocalize their needs, even when it comes to basic things. So staying on top of simple household chores will help make her feel more comfortable.
7. Hire help
It’s always a good idea to look into a house cleaner, nanny, mother’s helper, or doula to support mama’s mental health in postpartum. A little extra help goes a long way. We always say it takes a village to care for a newborn. It also takes that same village to support a new mom. You can check out a variety of options here at Newmom.me.
8. No pressure for sex
Yes, this is a tough one. But sex may be the last thing on mama’s mind. She’s struggling with her exhaustion, the lack of time to herself, and her body image. These are all incredibly sensitive subjects that require time for her to feel passionate again. But it will happen.
9. Take the lead with meals
If you’re able to grab the groceries, prepare and cook meals, or even just be the one to order and pick up take-out, she will certainly appreciate it as that’s one less thing she needs to worry about.
10. Be emotionally supportive and empathetic
Just remember, she’s not looking for you to “fix” her problems. More than likely, she just wants you to actively listen to what she’s going through - that you understand what she’s saying, her emotions are valid, and she’s not alone in this journey. She has you and all the love and supports you offer, which makes her feel less overwhelmed. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
Here at Newmom.me, we’re here to transform the motherhood narrative and make this process of finding support so much easier on you. We have a carefully curated, easy-to-use, and customizable platform where you can search by the type of service you need, location, and availability.
You were not meant to do this alone.
This is entirely for you. Because when you take care of your needs, you take care of the whole family.
Help is here.