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 leave her irritable or over emotional. She may also be excessively tired or feel sick, particularly in the early stages. Be patient and calm and provide a listening ear. This time, while it’s still just the two of you, is special so make sure you enjoy it.
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. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with your midwife or public health nurse (health visitor) if you feel she needs further help. 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 drinks, snacks and food are easily to hand, especially if you’re not going to be there.
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. You’ll find plenty of advice in the baby section of this site.
Make sure you are clear about your rights to paternity leave and pay 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.
One of the best ways you can support your partner is to allow her the time to bond with your baby. That may mean taking overall responsibility for all the normal everyday tasks like shopping, cooking, housework. 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. If you’re a smoker, make sure you smoke outside away from your partner and baby. Wash your hands afterwards and avoid handling the baby for around 20 minutes as the chemicals will still be on your clothing. You can still enjoy a drink (you may feel you need one!), but do be aware that you shouldn’t drink to excess – you have additional responsibilities now. Drug use should be avoided. Read our safer sleep guidelines for babies.
Having a new baby is an emotional time for both parents. If you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious, don’t be afraid to get advice. Talk to your public health nurse (health visitor) who can signpost appropriate help and support. If the birth was traumatic, this can have a lasting impact on you as well as on your partner.
Your partner will naturally be feeling tired. She may be irritable with you and weepy with all the hormones flooding her body post-birth. 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 public health nurse (health visitor) or GP as soon as you can as early intervention can make a massive difference.
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.
- Find out about your rights to paternity pay and leave
- Pregnancy birth and beyond for dads and partners – advice from NHS Choices
- Advice and support for single parent families from the charity Gingerbread
- A short but informative video on ‘Feelings, relationships and pregnancy’ (NHS Choices)
- Help and advice about drug from FRANK: 03001236600
- Turning Point – Drug and alcohol services in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland
- Stop smoking service (Leicester)
- NHS Smokefree
- The Fatherhood Institute
- Families come in all shapes and sizes. Advice and information, for example on parenting in same sex relationships, can be found on the Family Lives website
Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.
Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.
Leicester City: text 07520 615381
Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382