[google readers — just to clarify, this post is in the huggies/blogher series. enjoy!]
Involving dad in the early days
The first two weeks of Annabel’s life were joyous and intense. I may not have gotten much sleep, but everything was so new and exciting and adrenaline was running high, so I didn’t even care. One of the most wonderful aspects was that Josh was off on his paternity leave. I was never alone! And that in itself was amazing.
Fast forward to now, and there are weeks that go by when poor dad only gets to see glimpses of his daughter asleep during the work week. However, I am happy to say that he makes a great effort to make up for lost time when he is able to be home.
Early on, though, I think things can be difficult for fathers. Newborns still in their 4th trimester pretty much only care about one thing — or really two, if you count left and right — and dad does not come equipped. When milk seems to be the only sure-fire soother (and mom is breastfeeding), it’s easy for fathers to become intimidated or to feel helpless. This leads them to do less (just out of not wanting to mess things up or fail!), and the cycle is perpetuated.
We didn’t have too much trouble with this, but I’ve talked about it with several friends who have struggled. The truth is that most dads want to be as involved as possible, but may be unsure of what to do.
Some ideas for daddy time / sharing the load
★ Bathtime. It’s likely that breastfeeding may be an integral part of pre-bedtime soothing, so perhaps the bath can be dad’s domain.
★ Bottle. If you’re planning on going back to work, starting a nightly bottle (you can use pumped milk) at around 3-4 weeks is a good idea. Often, babies will do better with this when it’s NOT offered by mom — perhaps it’s less confusing that way.
★ Nighttime soothing: take turns. We often did this during the toughest weeks, when it seemed like it took 931 marathon rocking/shushing sessions to get annabel to sleep each night. This helped prevent either party from total burnout.
★ Leave! On a particularly tough morning, Josh kicked me out of the house to go run. It was a smart move on his behalf, as both Annabel and I were a million times calmer a mere 45 minutes later. You could also plan to get away for a bit — even a trip to the store can be therapeutic when newborn-related cabin fever strikes during those early weeks.
Other ideas? Similar experiences? I’d love to hear them.