Fortunately, neither pregnancy nor birthing lasts forever. Eventually, Baby makes his/her appearance. Of course, Baby arrives with some new needs: food, warmth, diaper changes, baths, love, and help getting to sleep. And guess what? It’s not just Mom that can help with those things.
If you were an awesome birth partner, helping take care of Baby will seem like a natural next step. If you’re like most guys, you will have less baby-care experience than Baby’s Mom does. That’s okay. Most of Baby’s needs are simple right now, and you’ll figure a lot out as you go.
Maybe you’ve never changed a diaper. If you’re smart enough to figure out that the two smaller holes are for legs, you can change a diaper. Get used to doing diaper changes. Once the meconium stage is past, diaper changes are not as bad as TV and movies would have you think.
If Baby is going to be breastfeeding, you may feel like you’re off the hook as far as feeding goes. It’s true that you won’t do most of the work. But you can still help. When Baby cries for food, check for a diaper issue (and change the diaper if that’s the problem), and snuggle Baby. If Baby keeps crying (baby-speak for “I’m still hungry!”), carry him/her over to Mom. Once Baby is done feeding, you can help with burping. Toss a burp cloth over your shoulder, and pat those air bubbles out. And if Baby is going to be bottle-fed, figure out right away how to get a bottle ready.
Finally, get good at doing Baby’s bath. Become the bath-giver. They’ll probably show you how to do Baby’s bath at the hospital. They may even have you help. Bathtime is a great time to bond with Baby, and a great time to let Baby’s Mom rest for a couple of minutes. (Pro-Dad-Tip: If you’re doing bathtime in a little baby tub in the kitchen, make sure the ceiling fan is turned off to avoid cooling Baby off too much. Oops. Actually, after just a couple of kitchen baths, I’ve preferred putting the baby tub in the big-people bathtub.)
That might sound like a lot of work, especially if you don’t have much experience caring for a baby. Like any skill, you’ll get better the more you practice. As you get better, it won’t seem like as much work. If you don’t have much experience, see if your hospital or birth center offers a “Baby Basics” or “Baby Skills” class. They’ll show you all the basic skills you need, and let you practice a bit on baby dolls. (For extra practice and insight, a “Boot Camp for New Dads” or similar class is a great idea.)
Why put yourself through all this extra work?
Simple: it’s good for her, it’s good for Baby, and that makes it good for you.
You’ve probably seen TV shows or movies where fathers are depicted as entirely incompetent at childcare. On some level, you may be expecting to get by without becoming a competent caregiver. There are a lot of reasons to become a competent caregiver, but here are a few:
- Being a competent caregiver gives both emotional and physical support to the mother.
- Being a competent caregiver helps the mother get some rest, and a rested mother is a happy mother.
- Being a competent caregiver will increase the mother’s respect for you.
- Plus, having a competent and involved father figure is good for Baby .
- Bonus: realizing your own competence increases your confidence and helps you feel better about yourself.
It’s more work to be a competent caregiver. It’s worth it. Do it.