parent opinion

"Don't call it babysitting." Dads, here are 12 things every new mum wants you to know.

When I had my first baby 10 years ago, I wasn't at all prepared for what becoming a new parent had in store for me. It was full of exceptional highs and beautiful memories that I will cherish forever, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to the excruciating lows during the postpartum journey.

Like most new mothers, I wasn't only exhausted from giving birth, but also battling sleep deprivation, adjusting to a new daily routine that had very little to do with my own needs and wants, and looking after a completely dependent little human being for the first time, all while flooded with hormones that left me feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. 

This was my first child, so I did not know what to expect, let alone communicating to my partner what help I needed from him. We were both new at parenting, and completely out of our depths. 

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Fast forward to today, and I'm a registered midwife and emergency nurse with over 14 years of experience and have delivered hundreds of bubs and worked with thousands of parents to prepare them for their best birth and early parenting journey.

Along the way, I have had countless conversations with mums about what they wished their partner knew before and after the birth of their first child, and what's always crystal clear is that having a partner that supports you emotionally and physically makes all the difference when you are navigating the ups and downs of the pregnancy and parenting journey.

Here are the 12 key things all new mums want their partners to know.

1. Don't call caring for your baby "babysitting".

You are parenting!

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Mothers constantly need to deal with their partners getting showered in compliments and praise for being 'hands on' for doing what mothers are expected to do. 

It may seem trivial to you but referring to taking care of your child as babysitting or looking after them can be extremely upsetting for new mothers (or any woman) and comes from outdated views on gender roles.  

Put simply, babysitting or looking after a child is when you care for a child that is not your own - and you are just doing what is your equal duty as a parent.

2. Relying on mum and the boob isn’t always the answer for an unsettled baby.

To give mum a break from settling the baby and getting some much-needed rest, offer to step in and take over for her, use your initiative and make suggestions, remember you are both new to this experience and relying on mum and the boob to settle can be exhausting.

Babies can be unsettled for several reasons, including dirty nappies, needing attention with cuddles, or simply to be soothed and put to sleep by going for a walk or drive. 

3. Doing anything is better than waiting to be told what to do.

Even the smallest of tasks will be greatly appreciated - clean the baby's bottles if formula feeding, keep the snacks coming for breastfeeding Mums, do the grocery shopping, decide what to cook for dinner AND get dinner ready, run the bath, wash up, put a load of washing on, hang washing out, fold washing - ANYTHING! The key is - take initiative, don’t wait to be told what to do. 

4. Build a bond with your baby.

For many partners, it feels as though bub has a stronger attachment to mum in the beginning. It can be hard not to take it personally or feel as though you aren't needed, but it's important that you persist and spend as much time with your baby as possible to form your own bond. 

Outside of feeding times, give mum some time to rest and nurture your baby - simple things like talking to your baby will help build a connection and a unique bond.

5. Remember sleep deprivation can be actual torture.

New mums are SO TIRED and for the first few months and beyond, sleeping feels like a luxury. Try to be considerate that she's barely sleeping and awake for hours on end. Simple considerate acts such as encouraging her to sleep in when your baby wakes in the middle of the night can make a world of difference to her mental and physical health. 

6. The early days of parenting can be an emotional rollercoaster.

It won't be easy, but hold on to their hand on that ride, please...

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7. We are also new to this and don't have all the answers.

Can you Google it? Call a family member? Read a book? Talk to a doctor? We don't have all the answers, so please, like any problem solving, use your initiative and help us find solutions or ease our panic - trust me, there's going to be lots of new parent panic. 

Listen to Me After You where Laura Byrne guides some very different women through their very different stories of life after birth. Post continues after podcast.


8. Prioritise prenatal education.

Unfortunately, I see far too many partners in the delivery room wide eyed and with no idea what's to come. The best way is to learn everything you need to know to prepare, get excited, and remove the fear of childbirth and caring for your newborn. Investing in some prenatal education such as BirthBeat may prove to be very valuable. 

9. Keep it simple with baby products.

Don’t worry about having to buy every single little thing that everyone tells you - just buy what your baby needs. When it comes to products, less is more. Try to find products that have don't have fragrances, synthetic dyes, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, propylene glycol and formaldehyde. 

Products like WaterWipes are an excellent choice for babies, they are great for sensitive skin, newborn and premature babies. They are the world’s purest baby wipe, simply made from 99.9 per cent water and a drop of fruit extract. They are a great product that l always recommend to new mums as they safe and suitable for your baby's super sensitive skin and contain minimal ingredients. Remember, less is more! 

10. Mums can often feel "touched out". 

This is not a reflection of the state of your relationship - mum barely has any time for herself and sometimes just needs to be alone for a while when she can catch a break. 

11. Come home when you say you are planning to come home.

A sure way to frustrate and upset a new mother who has been caring for your baby all day is to be late home. Don't go for drinks or wander the aisles of Coles, come home as soon as you can, especially in the early days.

12. Let your partner know what an amazing job she is doing, often.

Edwina Sharrock is a registered midwife, mother of two and founder of BirthBeat. 

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