Once other halves go back to work, it’s hardly surprising that mums end up doing most of the baby care. No matter how equally we hoped to share the parenting load, being at home with the baby means you’re the one doing most of the caring and, if you’re breastfeeding, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal they can do to help (apart from start lactating, is that so much to ask? Really?).
With limited options, most partners end up being the official poonami officer – and it’s only fair, obvs, that hosing down duties go to the person in the relationship who did NOT get up sixty million times in the night.
It’s not uncommon for partners to feel a little shut out in the early weeks and months, which can sometimes lead to an uneven parenting balance in the long run. Here are a few ideas for getting them involved.
Suggest your partner gives the baby a bottle feed of formula or expressed breast milk at 10-11pm. If you’re bottle feeding you can start as soon as you like, if you’re breastfeeding, NHS advice is to wait six weeks before introducing a bottle. It’s a great way for partners and babies to experience the bonding magic of a late night feed together as you snore elegantly in bed, catching up on some much-needed sleep before the next feed.
Getting those burps up is a skill and there are many techniques – the pat, the bicycle, the lie-down and pick up… As the windy crying always seems to be more intense at night – partly because you’re wanting the baby to lie down again after feeding and partly because everything’s more intense at night – why not task your partner with working out some ninja winding moves of their own so they can help out.
It’s best to learn baby massage properly as babies are delicate little things and require a very gentle touch. But if your partner has time to get to a course, it’s a really lovely way for them to bond with your little one and can help soothe them when babies are fractious, too.
Play is really important for bonding and helping babies develop vision and motor skills. Task your other half with choosing some toys that are bang on target for your baby’s age – colourful rattles are great – and put them in charge of playtime.
Babies love being read to – the cuddles and undivided attention are important but also, the more words they hear in their early months and years, the better language skills they’re likely to have when they’re older. Choosing a few books from childhood to share is a lovely way for partners to get involved, and also to have a nice sit down.
If your partner can get home in time for bedtime, the bath, cuddle and song ritual is one that they can take responsibility for. Yes, ‘bedtime’ is a bit of a joke when the baby’s up two hours (or two minutes) later but the ritual will morph into a real bedtime one day. In the meantime, use the breathing space to cook, have a glass of wine, go to the loo without a baby attached to you, whatever you need to feel a bit more like yourself again, while they bond.