You know what’s harder than being a first time mum? Being a new dad who is scared sh*tless but has to lock it up and just get on.
Please don’t shoot me for being anti-mothers just because I’m pro-dad, I know just as well as the next mum how bloody hard it is to be you.
But we are lucky that the NZ health system has a bunch of support for new mothers.
Midwives, antenatal classes, breastfeeding classes, post natal consultants are all available free (and sometimes at a cost) for new mothers.
In fact even before the baby is born you get a whole team of people there as your support!! I remember thinking “I’ve got this” once I realised I’d have multiple people to help me in my early days with Mackenzie.
But no one is there in a professional (or otherwise) capacity for men and that must be so hard! You’d kinda feel left out, right?
Could this be why dads can take a little while to develop their confidence around baby? Perhaps… I had a chat with a few dads about it.
There’s a pretty good chance that as mums, we inhibit a dad’s natural growth.
Many a new mum has confessed that she hogged the baby in the early days. I mean, I know I did, it was just really important for me to have her with me and on me at all times. It was a need, not a want. And if dads are at least a little bit hesitant then I’m guessing they’d happily let mum take control of the baby.
The key is to get a good balance. For us, it worked well for me to feed then hand over baby to her dad for burping and cuddles. I’d get a chance to pop to the loo, grab a drink of water (since you’re thirsty all the time when you breastfeed) and stuff my face if need be.
We also have scheduled “dad time”. From the day we got home we decided dad would do the evening bathtime routine and the early morning “admin”. When baby wakes in the morning he gets her up, changes her nappy, gives her a cuddle and then brings her into bed to get me up. We have a little family time and I either feed in bed or get up and feed in our feeding chair. It means I stay out of his way and he has the space to parent the way he wants to. Plus, I get to lie in bed for a few extra minutes.
There would also be a little fear for new dads. Not knowing the “right” way of doing things (ie. How mum does it), feeling scared of holding a small fragile baby and also just plain not knowing what to do once you’ve got them!!
I can’t give any advice on how to overcome that other than throwing yourself into the deep end… Have a go and you’ll soon find there is no right or wrong way. And ladies, let dad have a go free from you hovering over their shoulder. Accept that he does things his own way, it might be different from your way, but that’s fine. And trust me, it is so worth it to empower him. The more confident he is, the better his relationship with baby and the more likely he’ll take baby and give you a break!
Probably the best thing that happened for us was my husband taking leave after baby was born and then later when she was a little older (around 12 weeks old). In the early days it was great to have him help me find my feet and then later on really get to know our baby and her routine, her different quirks and cries and get in some good bonding time. I know I said before that there’s not a lot of support for men but parental leave is something that NZ dads have available and if used well, it can be great for dads. Shannon got six weeks paid leave and that was the making of him as a father (by the way, 6 weeks is very generous, most dad’s only get two and it’s usually unpaid). It really was a great time for our family and he definitely mucked in, found his feet and got super confident and hands on with baby.
So on our very first Father’s Day, a shout out to the dads in our lives. Also to the uncles and grandpas in our kids lives. This day is for you too, positive male figures are so important for our children!
For any new dads out there, here are some great resources: