You’re home with the baby – the hard part is over…right? Well, yes and no. Welcome now to the world of feeding schedules, night waking, and finding your way through this jungle called parenthood. But the good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. If you have a partner, they are there alongside you, and if you’re lucky, you have friends or family who are part of your parenting team. As with so many other daunting tasks, it helps if, right from the start, you have a plan and work together with your “teammate,” i.e., your partner.
Communication is key, especially in the early weeks or months, when both of you are a bit shell-shocked, sleep deprived, and finding your way. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, unsure, upset, concerned, tired, sad – tell your partner so they can support you or ease your load for a bit. Even if they’re normally very observant and attentive, new parenthood has a way of blurring everything, so don’t assume they know how you’re feeling. Along those same lines, letting your partner know they’re doing a great job can really make a difference.
Talk about parenting philosophies and how you want to interact with and raise your child. Do you have to have all the answers now? Definitely not. But it never hurts to discuss how you want to handle sleep training, feeding, introducing solids, screen time, and so forth. If there are differing views, open communication can foster respect for each other and aid with compromises. Knowing what’s expected when certain situations arise can help reduce pressure and help you feel more prepared.
If you or your partner are breastfeeding, the non-lactating parent can still take an active role in feeding the baby and supporting the breastfeeding parent. If you’re not the one breastfeeding, your support is so valuable. Read up on nursing and its benefits and challenges; bring your partner fluids or pillows or snacks while nursing; and provide encouragement and support on the breastfeeding journey. If milk is also being pumped, the non-lactating parent can share nighttime feedings.
Most people know that the sleep deprivation associated with new parenthood is to be expected – but until you’re in it, you can’t really understand it. Sleep deprivation is no joke – it can interfere with mood, cognition, metabolism, reaction time, productivity, and more. Sleep is crucial for health, which is why it’s important to work together to ensure that both of you are getting enough. If possible, work out a system – switch off night duty (you have M/W/F, your partner has the other days), break up the shifts (one partner has early evening, the other has late evening), and so forth. If you decide to sleep train (which should not start until 4 months or so), it’s especially important that both of you are on the same page and are consistent.
Being a new parent can be challenging – but also fun and rewarding. By working together as a team, it’s that much easier to handle what comes your way, and to feel more at ease with your little one.
What are some ways you and your partner worked together as new parents?
Interested in a deeper dive on creating your parenting team? Check out Baby+Company’s Partners in Parenting class.