Asking Dads to do more after Baby Without Feeling Guilty

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
For mothers, it seems very natural to bond with your new baby. After all, you have been waiting for nine months to meet the life that has been growing inside of you. Now that he or she is finally here, your maternal instincts have made it possible to spend time feeding, rocking, holding, changing and bathing the baby.
Even if your husband or partner was a great supporter in the delivery room, this is no guarantee that he will share the same feelings or effort as you do. Some “modern” men find it easy to step up to the plate, while other men have a difficult time pitching in. There are still men out there who feel that raising a newborn is designed for the mom, whereas the dad feels more like a passenger than the driver when it comes to his role doing baby duties.

Communication is Key; Even Before the Baby is Born

The best way to avoid fighting over the roles and responsibilities of parenthood is to share your expectations with one another even before the baby arrives. You and your partner should have a conversation about “whose” job it is to care for the baby, and at what times. Failure to communicate can be problematic, because both parents can become overwhelmed by the countless tasks involved in caring for a baby.

Aside from feeding, burping, changing diapers, bathing, dressing, and many other “baby-related” duties, you will still have the regular chores of the household to maintain. These chores become even more difficult when there is a baby at home, because the workload often doubles. More laundry, more dishes, more errands to run and other unknown chores can take over your life. Even for a stay-at-home mother, these things can be tough to manage. That is why having two parents is essential, especially within those first few critical years of a baby’s life.

If you have a spouse that seems to sit back and let you do most of the work, you should not be afraid to ask for more help. Even if he never had to cook or do the dishes before the baby came along, it is only fair to pitch in and lend a hand in the caring for the baby. Some men get “shy” about a newborn, either because they are afraid of hurting the infant or because they simply do not feel comfortable. Men usually step up more as the child grows and is able to play with him, but new babies can scare some men away, especially men who have never been around babies much to begin with.

Especially during the first month of a baby’s life, their necks are not strong enough to hold up their heads. Some men worry that the baby is too fragile. Others do not know what to do with a baby and have difficulty connecting. You can suggest things to your spouse to ease their comfort. Suggest a few things like these, for starters:

  • Changing a diaper
  • Taking a shift for a midnight feeding
  • Watching the baby for an hour so that you can run an errand
  • Helping with a few baby-related chores or household chores that he would not normally do
  • Playing with the baby, either with a rattle, ball or musical toy
  • Reading a story to the baby
  • Holding and rocking the baby
  • Taking a bath with the baby in shallow water
Although some of these things might make him nervous or push the boundaries, they are necessary for Dads to learn and bond with their new son or daughter. If nothing else, encourage him to be silly with the child. Babies do love their daddies for this reason, because mothers are more of the nurturers, while fathers often take on the role of disciplinary, or provider. When the baby gets older, Dad will become more and more comfortable and will enjoy taking his child to the playground or to other fun activities. It is when the babies are infants that father sometimes have a tougher time adapting, mainly because they have never been around babies as much.

Once again, it would be wise to discuss these things with your mate even before the baby is born; or in some cases, even before the baby is conceived. This can save many problems or failed expectations, which leads to marital problems, resentment or disappointments.

 

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