Welcoming a newborn is one of the most exciting things in life. However, the months following a baby's birth can take a new mother through a roller-coaster ride of emotions. On top of the emotional turmoil, a mother’s body also goes through numerous changes.
Pregnancy and childbirth can be challenging, but there are things the family, especially fathers, can do to cope with any anxiety or stress.
Practical tips for dads navigating the newborn phase
The transformation from life as a couple to being parents isn't easy. Supporting your partner physically as well as emotionally can help ease out the stress associated with pregnancy. Here are some ways dads can play an active role in helping mum.
Help with everyday tasks – Dads can contribute to routine household chores. You can help your partner by cooking meals, taking up the cleaning responsibilities and doing the laundry. These little efforts can help give your partner more time to rest, and attend to the needs of the baby.
Help feed the baby – Breast milk is essential for your baby's growth and development, especially during the initial 6 months of age. However, for new mums, breastfeeding can be emotionally and physically exhausting.
There are ways dads can support their partner with breastfeeding. You can attend to the baby when they wake up, help the baby latch, burp the baby after feeding, swaddle the baby, and lull the baby back to sleep.
Consider handling the midnight wake-ups – It's not easy to care for a baby when sleep deprived. Insufficient sleep can lead to mood changes, which may cause serious problems such as postpartum depression in new mothers.
Fathers can help prevent this by rising to the occasion, at night. Consider taking on one of the night feeds, or helping to soothe the baby and lull them back to sleep at night.
Arrange for nutritious meals – Your partner has gone through a lot in the last one year, and her body needs a reset. By providing nutritious meals, you can help your partner recover and nourish her body. It's also a good idea to keep healthy snacks such as nuts, fruits and even yoghurt on hand.
Bonding with baby
Bonding with your baby is important to their development. Babies use body language to show when they want to connect with you.
You can improve the bond with your baby by singing, talking, and reading to your baby. Singing to your baby can help calm and soothe the newborn.
Have snuggle sessions with your baby. Closeness and touch are crucial to a baby's brain development. The feeling of security that closeness provides is also important.
You can also play with your baby by mimicking your baby's cooing and other vocalisations.
Throughout all this, it gives your partner the much needed me-time for rest and relaxation.
Build a support system with help from family and friends
It's easier to transition the post-pregnancy phase with support, so it is important to surround yourself with people who can help you develop confidence in your parenting abilities.
Ask family members and friends for help after you bring your baby home. You can ask them to drop off meals, look after elder siblings or help with errands.
Emotional support for your partner
Having a baby is exciting, but considering the new responsibilities and the physical exhaustion, many mums may feel moody and overwhelmed.
Experiencing "baby blues" in the first couple of weeks following delivery is normal. "Baby blues" include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.
Dads can support their partners by listening to them and reassuring them that things will get better. Be an active listener and share in the emotional ups and downs. Encourage your partner to take breaks – like naps, long baths, reading a book, catch up on their favourite television programmes, go for a walk, or chat with a friend. Better yet, pamper them with a postnatal massage or enjoy a meal at your favourite restaurants.
Encourage a positive body image. Your partner's body may have changed post-pregnancy, and they may find it challenging to accept their new body image. Reassure her by celebrating the changes, compliment her and share how much you love her.
While the "baby blues" in the first couple of weeks following delivery is normal, some new mums experience a more severe, longer-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is marked by deeper and longer-lasting feelings of sadness and agitation. These feelings can get worse and may become chronic depression without medical help.
The typical symptoms of postpartum depression include depressed mood or severe mood swings, excessive crying, difficulty bonding with your baby, social withdrawal, eating too little or eating much more than usual, sleeping problems, loss of energy, intense irritability and anger.
Postpartum depression: When to see the doctor
To enjoy your parenthood and have a smooth transition, discuss childcare and post-pregnancy issues before the baby arrives.
Consult your doctor if you notice feelings of depression in your partner after childbirth, especially if they persist beyond a couple of weeks, or if the condition worsens with time.
Article reviewed by Dr Watt Wing Fong, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital
10 Tips to Improve Sleep for New Moms. Sleep deprivation and motherhood don’t have to go hand-in-hand. Retrieved on 10 February 2021 from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/sleep-deprived-new-baby
Postpartum depression. Retrieved on 10 February 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20376617
Bonding and attachment: newborns. raisingchildren.net.au. Retrieved on 10 February 2021 from https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/connecting-communicating/bonding/bonding-newborns