Both pregnancy and the first weeks after birth are an emotional rollercoaster for both parents, especially with hormones and sleepless nights thrown in for good measure. Here are some tips on how to be a supportive partner.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body is flooded with hormones which may affect her emotions. She may also experience tiredness or sickness, particularly in the early stages. Be patient, calm and provide a listening ear.
Feeding your baby
If, as a couple, you’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby, bear in mind that the first few weeks can be physically demanding for mums as breastfeeding is established, and your partner will really need your support. Your midwife or health visitor are there to help and support you both if you need it. You’ll find their contact details in your baby’s red book.
Breastfeeding is thirsty work, and sometimes with a new baby it can be difficult for mums to have the time to drink and eat enough. You can help by ensuring food and drinks are easily accessible.
Sometimes partners can feel a bit left out given that they’re not the ones breastfeeding, but you also need to make sure you have a chance to bond physically with your baby. Take the opportunity after your baby’s been fed to have skin-to-skin contact and burp them. Make the most of other opportunities to build the relationship, such as bathtime or nappy changes.
If you’re formula feeding, think ahead and make sure the equipment is sterilised and milk is ready when needed.
Make sure you are clear about your rights to parental leave and pay/benefits well in advance of your baby’s due date. You will need to discuss flexibility with work as babies don’t always arrive at the expected time.
You can support your partner by taking responsibility for everyday tasks like shopping, cooking and housework in the early days or weeks. Depending on your family and friends, you may need to act as a ‘gatekeeper’ and manage the amount of visitors. This time is precious for you as a new family and you need to make sure you protect your time together.
There’s no question that a new baby means a complete lifestyle change, this includes drugs, alcohol and smoking. If you’re a smoker, now is a great time to give up. Read our safer sleep guidelines for babies.
Having a new baby is an emotional time for parents. If you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious, don’t be afraid to get advice. If the birth was traumatic, this can have a lasting impact on you as well as on your partner. Talk to your health visitor who can signpost you to appropriate help and support.
Your partner will naturally be feeling tired and may experience ‘baby blues’ in the first few days after your baby is born. However, if you feel what your partner is going through is more than just ‘baby blues’, it may be that she is suffering from post-natal depression. Contact your health visitor or GP as soon as you can as early intervention is important.
Depending on the nature of the birth, there will be a period of adjustment afterwards for both of you. Talk to your partner about how you’re feeling, and make sure you’re both comfortable before you start having sex again. If grandparents or reliable family friends can babysit, do take them up on this offer so that the two of you can have time together to feel close again.
Remember, even if your partner is breastfeeding and her periods have not yet resumed, she can still fall pregnant again, so ensure you continue to use appropriate contraception. You can discuss the options with your GP.