Parenting is a team sport, whatever your family looks like, it should be one in, all in. Dr Golly, paediatrician and father of three, takes us through how families* can share the parenting load and why it’s important to find the household equilibrium.
What are some practical ways partners can support their pregnant partners during the prenatal period?
Get educated. All too often I see mothers carrying the full mental load of having children - they’re already doing the heavy lifting, literally - one of the most valuable things we can do as partners is learn about the process and prepare for the outcome alongside them.
My book, Your Baby Doesn’t Come With A Book, is a great resource here. It offers insight on all the things newborn - some common, some surprising - that you can expect to encounter in the first four weeks of your baby’s life.
The more you know before it happens, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the moment when it arrives.
In the postpartum phase, what roles can partners play to provide emotional and practical support to new mothers, and how does this support influence maternal well-being and the overall family dynamic?
I say this so often that I almost feel like a broken record BUT as a partner there is only one thing you can’t do to support a breastfeeding mother… and that’s to breastfeed. The rest can be shared. Cooking, cleaning, washing, burping (babies 😅), making beds, changing nappies; it’s all there and it all needs doing.
If partners share the load, not only will the house be a more pleasant place to spend time, the cogs of the family machine will keep turning. If everybody plays their role, each person will feel an innate sense of belonging, knowing they have contributed to looking after the baby and the family in general. The physical and mental ripple effect is ever present and ongoing.
When it comes to infant care, what are some important tasks and responsibilities that partners can actively participate in?
If you write a list of all the things a baby needs from their parents and then cross out breastfeeding you’ll have your list of things that partners can do to look after their babies.
Further to that, partners have a secret weapon when it comes to settling. Partners don’t smell of breastmilk. So when we hold a crying baby, we send them a very clear message – through our touch, through our hormones, through our energy, that they are not going to get fed. Babies – astute communicators – can sense this and are far more likely to settle down.
This is why partners can be much more successful in settling babies.
We use this concept to our benefit when we’re trying to establish a nice routine, or resettle a baby who has woken unexpectedly early.
TIP: Whenever possible, have your baby sleep on partner's side of the bed – so they’re not overly stimulated by mum’s proximity.
Partners can also take over the late evening feed if they want to be involved in the feeding process too. This can be achieved with expressed breast milk and a bottle, or with formula. Although if you’re working on establishing breastfeeding, avoid this in the first month.
Can you discuss the psychological and emotional benefits of shared parenting responsibilities?
What’s that old saying? A problem shared is a problem halved… if parents work together to create a harmonious environment, it’s far more likely that their children will thrive emotionally. An easy way to do this is setting up a system where the household and family responsibilities are shared.
Babies are phenomenally sensitive, like an animal can sense fear, so can a baby sense anxiety or worry.
You see, babies drink more than just milk.
They drink your emotions, your worries and your anxieties.