Your beautiful new baby brings a period of significant change for both you and your partner. Here’s how you can navigate some of the key challenges.
A quick online search reveals that most parenting advice is either aimed at new mothers, or explains how new fathers and partners can help new mothers.
If you’re feeling apprehensive towards the changing times ahead, you’re not alone. Research has shown both expectant and experienced fathers crave advice, support and recognition of their emotions as well.
It’s important for both you and your partner to recognise that, as your baby’s other caregiver, you’ll also be experiencing a significant upheaval of life as you knew it. Here are some tips to help you cope and maintain harmony in the house.
- Enjoy some time with your friends and family before the baby comes – when your baby is born, you’ll likely have less time and freedom to spend with your mates and on your hobbies. It’s temporary, but may come as a shock if you’re not geared up to handle this.
- Be prepared to go without intimacy – it could take a while for your relationship to get back on track, and new mothers often can’t or don’t feel like being intimate with their partners. Be patient and know that it’s only a short-term issue.
- Be prepared to do some cooking – your partner may not have the time or energy to cook every night. Be prepared to take on more of the cooking duties. You may want to make sure the fridge and cupboards are stocked before baby arrives, as it can be difficult to find time to do groceries. Eating fresh, healthy meals will help both of you to cope better with sleep deprivation and give you more energy, too.
- Attend your hospital’s prenatal training – learning from your medical team about what to expect during and immediately after the birth of your baby helps to prepare you and relieve anxious thoughts in the lead-up to the birth. Be open about any concerns you have and willing to ask lots of questions.
- Practice the art of patience – both you and your partner will be sleep deprived and emotional, you may find yourself easily frustrated. Be patient and remember that you have the power to manage how you respond to any frustrations.
- Work as a team – help each other in your new life together. This can mean doing things together such as bath time, feeding and sharing both positive and negative experiences. It can also mean coordinating so that each of you can have much needed breaks for sleep, me-time etc. Work to each other’s strengths, this will help you to cope better as individuals and as a team.
- Talk to each other – talk about your feelings, frustrations, worries, joys – talking can be a great support for both partners as they navigate parenthood. It’s only by talking openly and honestly that you can truly understand and appreciate how the other person is feeling.
- Give each other space – even if you’re used to doing everything together, you might find that you need more space than usual from one another. Having space, or alone time, is a need. Be open about your individual needs and compassionate toward each other. Don’t be offended if your partner wants time alone. Discuss and express the need for space early on and in the moment reassure your partner if they have any concerns about why you need space (eg. that you aren’t angry with your partner). Aim to maintain an equal balance of ‘me time’ so there’s no resentment or one-sidedness.
- Relish your baby – for all the challenges that this time brings, this can be a time of overwhelming love and joy. Take time to be present with your baby, savour the moments. The days will fly and little ones change quickly.
Resources for new dads and parents
- Pregnancy, Birth and Baby hotline – phone 1800 882 436, 24 hours 7 days
- National Breastfeeding Helpline –phone 1800 MUM 2 MUM(or 1800 686 268), 24 hours 7 days
- National Poisons Information Centre– phone 131 126, 24 hours 7 days
- MensLine Australia – a professional telephone and online support and information service for Australian men – visit mensline.org.au
- Beyond Blue – national depression support network – visit beyondblue.org.au
- Lifeline– crisis support and suicide prevention – for 24/7 crisis support call 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au
- Dads in Distress – focused mainly on supporting men through separation from their partner and/or children – visit dadsindistress.asn.au