This post by Real Life Mama may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking any of these links, I’ll earn some extra coffee money, which will keep me fueled to keep creating helpful content like this! Thanks for supporting me in this way!
When a baby is born, so is a Mother. A mother who is worthy and deserving of support.
In an instant your world is upturned.
Along with the amazing beauty that is parenthood, it is also filled with what can seem like relentless nursing sessions or bottle feeds, frequent soothing of a baby who wants nothing more than to be back in the cozy womb, very little sleep, and the seemingly impossible tasks of caring for yourself by making food, showering, and using the restroom.
A lot falls on the shoulders of the new mother.
But, you know what?
Besides the birthing woman’s tremendous shift into a Mom, her partner goes through a shift of their own as well.
Husband or Wife, they also become a parent. They too have to figure out what this new baby means for their own role in the family. They have to identify how they can best support the newly postpartum mama.
Often, it can be hard to navigate what this co-pilot seat looks like.
“How can I help Mom if the baby is constantly nursing?”
“The baby seems to only want her mom, not me, so what can I do?”
“I am not able to soothe the baby, so I feel useless.”
“I’ve never changed a baby before, so I’ll let Mom handle that.”
“I have my 9-5 job to keep up, so I can’t be awoken during the night.”
“I feel left out that my wife is so occupied by the baby.”
“I want to help, but I just can’t figure out how to.”
So to solve this dilemma, I decided to get some group feedback!
I asked some pretty spectacular mamas two questions:
- What was most helpful to you that your partner did in the newborn stage of parenthood? (Or what do you wish they had done?)
- What does your partner say that they did that made them feel most useful and helpful?
But first, I asked them to myself and my husband!
The things that my husband did that I found to be the most helpful to me when our daughter was a newborn and I was experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety were: showing our daughter so much love, especially at a time when I was going through the motions but not feeling it inside; giving me the space to vent and complain and cry; and cutting up my food and feeding it to me while I held our daughter who pretty much only wanted me and could not be put down.
My husband agreed with everything I listed, but what came to him first when I asked him what support he gave that helped him feel the most useful and helpful, he said it was with the housework. He felt good to “take a load off of you by keeping the house up, getting the baby’s bottles ready, cleaning dishes, etc. Really anything that made your job easier.”
What a star, right?!
How your partner can best support you — a perspective of mothers and partners
And here are the answers!
Veronika Veale of WifeMumWorkPlay.com said, “Hubby took 4 weeks leave off work when our son Jaxon was born. He brought me water, a cuppa [tea], snacks, etc when I was cooped up in the nursery cluster-feeding for hours each day. He was constantly chasing me around with my water bottle making sure I was hydrated and fed. He says the best thing he did was learn everything to be able to help me: bathing, nappy changes, and feeding when our son took a bottle. He also made sure I had time on my own out of the house, and he got to learn how to look after our son on his own and become more confident.“
Taryn Sutherland Gross, a special friend of mine who is an amazing artist who creates custom and one-of-a-kind wedding invitations and paper goods with her business Twinkle & Toast shared that her husband “has always been committed to not “keeping score”. He would never say “well I stayed up late with the baby last night so you have to tonight.” He’s the epitome of a team player and is so selfless. He also doesn’t subscribe to standard gender norms and never made me feel like something was the “woman’s work”; we were both working at home and work equally.“
Jetty Ly from Jettily.com shared that “Without a doubt, the most useful thing my partner did was LET ME SLEEP. He never made me feel like it was my responsibility to do all the night shifts. He was the sole income earner at that point since I was on maternity leave but I was so beyond tired, especially in the earlier days, that I would sometimes not even hear my newborn boy cry whom was sleeping right beside me in his bassinet. That’s a new mommy running on empty. Dad would grab him and move him into the nursery and feed him the pumped milk in the fridge. Pumping has its downfalls but the positive side is sharing that feeding responsibility. It also really helped them both bond as well. We took the responsibility on together and reminded each other that this was only a moment and that it would get easier in time.
Samantha Welker, an inspirational friend and the business manager at Glitter Guide, and her husband were on the same page about what he did that was most helpful. She shared that “when our son was born, he wasn’t gaining weight as quickly as the doctor would have liked him to, so we had to wake him up to feed him every 4 hours. My night owl husband offered to stay up and take the 2am shift each night. So I would breastfeed the baby at 10pm, and then he would sleep in the den with my husband until it was time to feed him again at 2am. It gave me the chance to actually get a decent amount of sleep in those early days. We did that for the first couple of months and it was actually really great for both of us. Not only was I getting some rest, but my husband felt included and helpful, which wan’t always easy when I was breastfeeding.”
Paige Anderson from PonderosaCreative.com shared several ideas on how a partner could be most helpful. She said to “be a regular 50/50 parent and partner, and don’t expect even any acknowledgement for it, even though so many dads just scrape by and call it parenting. Give mama some time alone. Don’t ask for help. Figure it out. Do the dishes. Meal prep for the daytime — new moms often skip meals because we’re too busy and overwhelmed.”
Megan Rudden, a super sweet new Mom friend who runs her own business Pint Size Party, said, “The most helpful thing my husband did for me was take charge of daily household chores like dishes, and step up to cook or take our son to ensure I could take a nap or shower.” Megan’s husband shared that he felt most useful when he would wake up in the middle of the night to do the diaper changes.
Melinda Ashley of UnfrazzledMama.com said, “I appreciated it the most when he would just jump in when he got home from work and do stuff to take care of the baby without being asked. Even something as simple as noticing she needed a diaper change and just doing it rather than me having to ask him to do it made a huge difference.” Melinda’s husband had this to say: “He always felt like a hero whenever he was able to take over baby duty so I could get out of the house when I was stressed (or take the baby out so I could have some alone time at home).
Tracy Kunkel from MamasManyLoves.com shared, “The most helpful thing my husband did was to reassure me that I was doing a good job as a Mom. I had such self-doubt and was terrified that I was doing everything wrong. Tracy’s husband gave his two cents as well! He said “the thing that made him feel most helpful/useful was waking up to give a bottle in the middle of the night. He also said any break he could give me would always make him feel helpful.”
Alicia Schuhart said, “I think what would have been the most helpful for me would have been for him to take over making dinner for a while.”
Candace Mantle of Buckets of Tea spoke about having a partner that was not there for her how she needed. In fact, she would’ve rather he got out of her way! “He did nothing, so the best thing he could have done and did was go to the pub and get out of my sight. My tip would be don’t behave like him!” Sometimes the best option is a break from each other. Early days of parenting can be SUPER stressful, and if your partner is not stepping up to the plate, it’s okay to let them know the best way they can help is by giving you some space for the time being.
Elise Hamilton of HamiltonChiros.com said, “My husband was very helpful for me in giving me adjustments (he’s a chiropractor) after birth. New postures in nursing, sleeping and carrying new baby caused my back to be so sore and painful that it was so helpful to get regular chiropractic adjustments to bring me back to feeling semi normal and have more energy or sleep “better” than I was.” Elise’s husband shared that he felt most “helpful in helping [their baby girl] sleep. He was great at getting her to sleep, which gave me the extra time to rest and relax.“
Jen Kohorst from MNMomma.com said, “My husband would let me sleep-in in the mornings and he would get up with the kids, since he knew I was up with the baby during the night. It helped me feel so much better to be well rested!” Jen’s husband agreed that this made him feel helpful. Dads or partners can underestimate how helpful these seemingly small things can be. Jen’s husband thought “waking up with the kids in the morning was a small way he could help”, but Jen affirmed that “it felt like a big way to me though!”
Brenda Burrows from TheBurrowsWay.com shared that “My husband was great at getting home and taking over everything. Dishes, dinner, baby feedings, anything, you name it and he took care of it so I could nap or die or whatever I wanted for a bit.” Brenda’s husband said that “he felt the most useful when he helped me feed the baby and reassured me I was a good mom even though I couldn’t breast feed.”
Kathryn said, “My hubby googled and baked lactation cookies for me when my milk dropped – all on his own! He changed tons of diapers, and at first our baby was not able to nurse and so we did his feedings in shifts so we each got 4 hrs uninterrupted sleep every night. My hubby also did not pressure me to have sex after the midwife gave me the all clear – he realized I was adjusting and needed to feel comfortable. That helped me be ready a lot sooner bc I felt in control. He is still incredibly helpful – our son is 1 now and whenever my husband comes home from work he doesn’t zone out in front of the tv or computer, he gives me a kiss and then takes our son to the nursery to play together for 1 hour so I can have some alone time too! He is so selfless and kind.” Kathryn’s husband agreed that “doing some of the night feedings made me feel very useful.”
Courtney Renee Patterson from TheUnplannedTinyHand.com (coming soon!) shared that “my husband took on the role of being an equal parent as soon as our little girl was born. Just having him take care of her without having to ask him was an amazing way for me to get some extra sleep. He also had researched postpartum depression and was constantly checking in with me to see any warning signs. (I have a family history of postpartum depression!) He says he felt the most helpful when he was pushing me out of my “baby bubble” to get back to normal. One of my fears when becoming a new mom was that I would lose myself and become “Carter’s mom” with nothing else going for me. He was so attentive and made me feel just as important as our new baby. “
Blake Eynon said, “I had a c section so he literally did everything the first few days. I didn’t change a diaper for the first 4 days, I just nursed her and rested. He took care of the rest. In the hospital, he even helped me pee and clean up.. with all the blood. He was a saint.“
Noëlle Boyer, a spunky Mom friend who helps others find fitness and well-being and can be found at Fit Curly Mama, shared that her husband “was a great swaddler. He was always there to take the baby from me so that I could shower and rest after feedings. My husband did the bedtime routine mostly or gave the baths when he was home in order to give me a break. I could have used more empathy for my emotional needs, and I would’ve loved if he’d been better at cleaning up after himself. He’s very calm and not easily frazzled, so when our son was upset or just too much, my husband was very confident in figuring out what was wrong. He sleep trained our son as well!”
Iva Hoop shared that “with baby #1, it was very helpful that he would look after the baby, even for a few hours so I can get some sleep. Also helping with bath time, changing diapers so I can rest and recover.” Iva’s husband said that “he felt most helpful when he did something I needed him to do, whether it was a house chore or looking after the baby, as long as I felt rested and happy.”
Kristin Menath, a new friend who runs Becoming a Badass Mom and aims to help us all raise exceptional kids in a mediocre world, had a traumatic birth experience. She said that her husband was “cool, calm, and collected. He was just a good presence to be around, and helped me take everything moment by moment, and day by day. Because of that I was able to face each day. He was doing his best even though he was in the thick of it too. He showed up strong and positive, and was just there with me through it all.”
Hillarie Martorell, a super cool friend of mine, shared that what was most helpful to her in the early days was her husband recognizing that “I had this gravitational pull to my kids once they were born that I was not expecting. I found it hard to do anything without them! The first time he said “You should go take some time for yourself today, I’ll watch the baby”, I looked at him, very confused, and bursted into tears. The next time he asked, he had already made me a mani-pedi appointment.” Hillarie also shared how their first baby needed a tongue-tie revision which included supplementing with formula for a few weeks. Her husband said to the doctor, “You’re putting me in the game coach?! Let’s DO this!” He was so happy to contribute in a way he couldn’t when their baby was exclusively breastfed!
Jenna Leao, a new Mom friend and San Diegan who is the Co-Founder of The Karma Mamas (you’re going to want to check them out!!) had this to share: “The consistent thing my husband did in the early days was mostly all of the diaper changes in the middle of the night. We had an agreement that I was doing the waking up to feed, and he would wake up to change the baby when needed. This really helped us feel like a team, feel equally supported, and “share” one of the most challenging parts. Another single thing that I’ll never forget was the most amazing massage, 2 or 3 days postpartum. We had the lavender essential oil diffusing, lotion, and music, and I slept so hard and so good for that stretch of sleep. I recommend it to all new dads.” Jenna’s husband agreed that he felt the most useful due to their “set deal” of him taking charge of nighttime diaper changes.
And now, THE KEY TAKEAWAYS!
(You might want to print this out for your partner, or share it with a friend!)
If you are the partner and your goal is…
- To relieve the new Mama of duties, you can:
- Take charge of as many duties as you can. Remember, your wife just carried a baby for 10 months and birthed said baby! — She needs your teamwork now more than ever.
- Jump in without being asked to do things like diaper changes, dinner, feedings, etc
- Learn how to be a super swaddler!
- Be in charge of some feedings, either with expressed milk or formula, even in the middle of the night
- Rock the baby to sleep occasionally, or take on the task of bedtime routine altogether
- Let Mama get some sleep — take care of baby by feeding, soothing, taking the baby to another room!
- Handle all nighttime diaper changes
- Keep the household in order — do dishes, clean, do laundry
- Meal-plan and make meals
- Let Mama sleep-in by taking care of the baby and/or the kids in the morning
- To emotionally support the new Mama, you can:
- Use whatever leave your work provides so that you can spend those early weeks at home with your wife and the baby
- Allow her the space to feel all the emotions — and believe me, she will feel them ALL
- Bring Mom water and snacks during marathon nursing sessions! (Sometimes we get settled to nurse and forget to have key things by our side…and man, nursing can make you thirsty and hungry!)
- Encourage her that these struggles of the early days are temporary
- Remind her that you guys are in it together
- Give her some alone time to regroup and rest
- Reassure her that she is doing a great job!
- If she would like, give her some space for you if you two are not getting along or working well together
- Although it seems indirect, making sure Mama’s basic needs of food and sleep are met help immensely with her emotional health!
- Check in with your wife about her mental health; look for the warning signs of Postpartum Depression (and if you aren’t sure what they are, CLICK HERE).
- Show your wife her importance and give her attention. Being a new mom can feel like you’re losing yourself; remind her that she’s more than a mom and that she’s just as important as the baby.
- Be a strong and positive presence to help your wife who is newly postpartum, wildly hormonal, and very overwhelmed take each day as it comes.
- To physically support the new Mama, you can:
- Physically feed her during nursing sessions or even if she’s holding the baby during meal times
- Make sure she has appointments lined up, especially with a chiropractor or massage therapist. (Or if you are one, give her some treatments!)
- Mom may appreciate some pampering! Make a mani-pedi appointment for her while you watch the baby! (Bonus is you get extra bonding time with the baby while Mom gets a much needed break!)
- Aid in getting or making lactation-supporting foods and drinks so that Mama can destress about making enough milk
- Do not pressure mama to have sex, even if she has had the “all clear” from the doctors. She is scared and her body is still healing. She will tell you when she’s ready. That said, let her know you find her attractive, because she most likely does not feel that way and she’ll be glad to know you still think she’s got it.
- If your wife has gone through a C-Section, she may have a hard time attending to her own hygiene needs. Check in with her to see if she wants/needs help!
So as you can see, there is a WHOLE LOT that a partner can do to support a newly postpartum mama. And what’s pretty cool is that the majority of mamas that I spoke with had super supportive and nurturing partners!!
Best of luck in your parenthood journey!
Another post you may be interested in is What I Wish I Had Known When Expecting a Baby for the First Time
Christina is the writer behind the blog Real Life Mama. She is a mom two littles, a 4-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Christina and her family live in San Diego, where she is a full-time mama, part-time mental health therapist (LPCC), and round-the-clock blogger, writer, and author. If she ever gets a moment to herself, she can be found singing at the top of her lungs, cooking, and crafting. Thanks for reading!