As a first-time dad, I was eager to play a part in my son’s life, starting during the pregnancy.
I did my best to help out as much as I could–tying my wife’s shoes when her belly got in the way, rubbing her back, being present at all the doctor appointments and ultrasounds, running to the grocery store to pick up whatever her newest craving was, and building furniture for the nursery–just to name a few.
So when the baby arrived and I had time off from work to be home, I was happy and eager to help again in any way I could.
Whether this is your first baby or you’re a seasoned-pro, here are some ways I found that dads can play an active role in helping both with mom and baby during those transitional weeks:
She certainly won’t be up for cooking and trying to figure out what to eat each meal can just add to the stress. If you know your way around the kitchen, you can cook some simple meals. You can also be the one to coordinate ordering meals for delivery or driving to pick something up.
Wash bottles and dishes
We quickly learned just how many bottles we’d tear through each day between all the feedings. I became an expert bottle washer and also took on the sole responsibility of washing dishes and emptying the dishwasher.
Order/pick up groceries
Having fresh food in the house–even if it’s just some apples and a few fresh vegetables to throw with dinner–can make a difference. Thankfully we live in a world with online grocery shopping and delivery so it doesn’t even require a trip to the grocery store. I would add a few items from my phone and get it all scheduled without ever having to leave the house. Another simple way to help out.
Take the baby into another room overnight so mom can sleep peacefully
Sleep is so essential those first few weeks, especially as the mom is trying to recover physically, too. Since our baby was bottle fed, I’d take him into the other room overnight so she could get a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Then we’d trade off in the morning.
Offer an empathetic listening ear when she’s feeling emotional/overwhelmed
There are a lot of changes, emotions, hormones, stress, worry, and more that come with having a new baby. Tack that on to feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and maybe even physically worn out or traumatized from the labor and delivery, and it’s likely the new mom will be feeling extra sensitive and emotional. I found that a listening ear was what she needed most–I didn’t have to have all the answers or solve all her problems, sometimes she just needed a shoulder to cry on and someone to listen.
Tell visitors to wait/limit their time
People will naturally want to come see the baby but we found that having visitors only added to our stress. I took it upon myself to say no to people or tell them we just weren’t up for it yet. With the few family members we did have come over, I made sure to let them know that we could only handle a short visit and wasn’t afraid to ask them to bring something we needed (groceries, a meal, formula, etc) when they came over.
Do the heavy lifting (carseats, strollers, baby, etc)
Anytime we went somewhere, I made sure I carried the carseat, got the stroller set up, or loaded up the car–even if it meant multiple trips, just so she didn’t have to worry about lugging all that stuff. The more she could take it easy, the faster she could heal.
Coordinate help for when you go back to work
No matter how much I wished my time at home didn’t have to end, ultimately, I had to go back to work. In the days leading up to my return to work, I made sure to set things up to make it as easy of a transition as possible. We preplanned meals so she wouldn’t have to worry about dinner. We made arrangements to have grandma available to help those first few days I was back at work. We discussed who would take what feedings to ensure we could both get some solid stretches of sleep and that it didn’t all fall on her at night. Each morning, I’d even premake some bottles and formula so she was all prepped for the day ahead.
While I think many dads can feel a little lost on how to help after a baby is born, there are so many ways to pitch in and play an active role during those overwhelming first few weeks. I think as long as you’re showing a willingness to try and help out, your efforts will be appreciated more than you know.
Chris Seleen is a husband (to RAK Editor, Monique Seleen), father to their son, Carter, and an oncology nurse. He enjoys reading, watching movies, and spending time with his family and their two dogs.