What can I do to support my partner who just gave birth?
Partners who have just given birth need a lot of support (even if they tell you they don’t need help). Patients and kindness are extremely important during the postpartum period. Your partner’s body is going through a diverse number of changes affecting her body and mind. Not only are you both now caring for your baby, but your partner’s body is going through huge hormonal changes allowing your partner to bond with your baby and begin lactation. Postpartum recovery takes time. A happy baby, equals a happy birth parent, equals a happy partner. Here are a few things partners can do to make sure the happy cycle continues.
It is both parents’ job to help care for their baby. Baby care involves a lot more than just feeding. The following are ways the non-birthing parent can help with baby care.
- Soothing baby: after a baby is fed, they need burping to bring up wind. If the baby is not sleeping after being burped they may need further soothing, including skin-to-skin, back/bottom patting, rocking, talking/singing, walking, bouncing, bicycle legs, frog legs, abdominal massage, or any combination of these. As babies get older they will have more calm awake time, this is normal. As long as the baby is not crying they do not need to be soothed. Of course, it is fine to hold and cuddle your baby whenever you want to.
- Changing diapers: you will do this a thousand times. Preventing diaper rash is an important aspect of keeping your baby happy (frequent diaper changes, apply diaper cream if needed). For your newborn baby, it is important to fold down the top of the diaper under the cord to ensure the cord is still exposed to the air and not getting irritated by the diaper. This also helps keep the cord clean, as no urine or stool can reach the cord outside the diaper. There are many videos online about how to properly change a baby’s diaper, have a look!
- Feeding: if your partner is pumping breastmilk or you are formula feeding, it can be really helpful for the non-birthing partner to help with feeds. This allows your partner to get more sleep, which is crucial to recovery after birth.
- Bathing Baby: while both parents usually want to participate in the baby’s first few baths, this is something that the non-birthing partner can continue. Ask your prenatal class instructor or your midwife for more info about baby baths.
Food and Hydration
Hopefully, you will have family and friends dropping off meals for you, but if not the non-birthing partner can be responsible for all food preparation. Serving meals to your partner while they are feeding the baby is extremely helpful. Birthing parents get very hungry and especially thirsty while breastfeeding, keep the snacks and water coming! Providing nutritious meals that are easy and quick to eat, are a good place to start. Keeping everyone fed is an essential full-time job.
Remember all those meals you were just preparing, now someone needs to clean up. Guess what, this is also the job of the non-birthing partner. Cleaning and doing laundry (on top of cooking) will keep you busy. Babies make a lot of laundry and the client who just gave birth should not be lifting heavy baskets of laundry (especially if they had a c-section). Ask your partner what they want done, most likely they will have a list of things for you to do around the house.
Mental Health Support
- Sleep and mental health go hand in hand. With you doing all you can to help care for the baby and keep the house running, this should give your partner more time to sleep, rest and recover. Non-birthing partners are essential in identifying postpartum depression early. Please reach out to your midwife or other health care provider if you have any concerns about postpartum depression (see Birthing Client Postpartum Care for symptoms) link here
- Visitors! Non-birthing partners are also the gatekeepers of the house when it comes to visitors. Not all visitors are welcome. This is the time for you both, as parents, to bond with your baby. If you don’t want anyone in your bubble, that is ok. Any visitors that do come need to make themselves useful. You remember all the cooking, cleaning, laundry and baby care you have been doing, ask your visitors for help. Every visitor that comes should be expected to pick something off the list and help. The last thing you need to be doing is trying to entertain with drinks and food for your visitors. Invite people over when you are both ready, not when they ask to come over. You can also ask visitors to leave if they have overstayed their welcome. The important thing to remember is stress reduction, visitors should not add stress.
Partner support is essential to a successful and happy postpartum period. Also remember to take a little time out of caring for your baby and partner, for self-care. A happy partner equals a happy birth parent, equals a happy baby.