You spent months waiting for your baby, were likely struggling to contain your excitement as the birth date drew near. And then the baby came. Now you’re having a hard time remembering the last time you washed your hair (and may not even really remember your last shower). Your teeth probably never get brushed before noon. And you may even find yourself feeling envious of all the single people who get to sleep through the night.
Have no fear, new parents! It does get easier. In the meantime, you’re going to have to work together, support one another, and learn how to recognize when your partner needs a break. So, just for you, Growing Your Baby has compiled the top 10 ways you and your partner can support one another (er . . . survive) these first few months.
Bring Home the Finger Foods
When you barely have the chance to sleep, the thought of actually sitting down to enjoy a meal sounds rather preposterous. So why not embrace the crazy? Next time you’re at the store, grab muffins, pre-cut fruits and vegetables, tubed yogurts, and applesauce pouches. If you’re feeling super ambitious, consider grabbing some ingredients that you can throw into a quick and easy tortilla wrap. Maybe try some pre-cooked chicken strips, pre-cut romaine, shredded parmesan cheese, and Caesar dressing for a Caesar salad wrap.
Have the Emergency Numbers Posted
Here is the truth: your baby is probably going to get sick at some point. Odds are, it is going to be on a weekend, or in the middle of the night, when all the doctor’s offices are closed. Now, don’t panic . . . you don’t have to worry about running to the emergency room at three in the morning – as long as you have your emergency numbers posted (nurse lines, 24-hour pharmacies, emergency rooms, poison control, etc.). Not only will your baby thank you for taking the time to get them up on your fridge or easy access point, your partner will, too.
Say No . . . A LOT!
No, don’t say no to your partner. Say no to the family. Say no to the friends. Say no to your church friends. To the people at the grocery store. And, if at all possible, to your boss. Turn down requests for help. Field off requests to come over and see the baby. Avoid taking on anything extra, especially if it means someone coming to your home. Because once someone wants to come over, you’re going to feel the pressure to clean. And let’s face it, the last thing you have the energy for right now is cleaning. You should be focused on you, your partner, and your baby.
Do Homecoming the Right Way
As much as parents would love to live in their new baby bubble, most have to return to work. And that means that one of you may be spending hours with the baby. By the time the working parent comes home, the at-home parent may not have had the chance to shower or brush their teeth, and they may not have even had the chance to use the bathroom. And this trend is unlikely to change anytime soon. Newborns become crawlers who are into everything. Toddlers make messes that you just can’t keep up with, no matter how hard you try. So make a proper homecoming a habit now. Whether coming home from work or just getting back from the store, when you walk through the door, ask your spouse about their day and be prepared to give them a break. Even just 15 minutes can make all the difference to a frazzled, overwhelmed parent.
Encourage Naps and Take Turns Sleeping
Newborns have hectic sleeping schedules. They wake up often for feeding and may struggle with getting their days and nights mixed up. Unfortunately, that can make for some pretty grumpy parents. So be proactive. Encourage naps and take turns sleeping whenever you can. Try hard to be mindful of one another’s schedules (i.e. if dad has a big meeting the next day, mom might take over more of the night shift), and take extra care if one of you happens to get sick. That way, you can both get as much sleep as possible, which will, in turn, give you more energy to take care of baby (and each other).
Watch for Signs of Depression
Postpartum depression can affect moms anytime during the first year of birth. Unfortunately, many of them struggle to come to terms with it – and even when they do, they may be afraid to admit it to you or their doctor. So watch closely for the signs: withdrawing from baby or you, a lack of interest in things they used to love, excessive sadness or sleepiness, or mood swings. Moms should also be aware that dads and non-birthing partners can go through post-baby depression as well. The chemical cause is different, but they can still suffer with serious depression, nonetheless.
Give Your Partner Space to Parent in Their Own Way
Moms and dads are different. They parent differently. They bond differently. They interact and play differently. And it’s actually a good thing! In fact, countless studies have shown that combining mom’s nurturing propensity and dad’s more playful side are is highly conducive to healthy development. So give each other the space you need to parent in your way.
Be Mindful of Your Own Mess
Whether you are home with baby all day, or out at work all day, it is important that both mom and dad strive to be mindful of their own messes. Rather than simply putting your dish in the sink, rinse it and place it in the dishwasher. Only have one hand? Then at least run water over the dish so the food doesn’t sit. (Even better – invest in paper plates and plastic silverware for a little while.) Throw dirty diapers away as soon as baby is changed. Put your own laundry in the hamper. Remember: the last thing you want to do when you’re tired, overwhelmed, and exhausted is clean. So clean up after yourself and reduce the rate at which messes pile up.
Give Your Partner Free Time
As hard as it can be to step outside of your own stress and fatigue, it is important that you try to do so as much as possible. This will allow you to encourage your spouse to do things they love and enjoy – things that will relax them. Run the bath and light some candles for mom. Send dad off to go and bowl with his buddies. And remember that the giving of free time is going to have to work both ways.
Make Time for Your Relationship
It’s easy to get lost in baby, but doing so can really strain your relationship. You can lose touch with your partner, and possibly even yourself. So take time for your relationship. Can’t get away for a date night? Even just a five-minute foot rub can help you connect with one another. Just remember to keep baby out of intimate time (as much as reasonably possible, of course).