Being a Good Partner to a new Mom

I was at a Mom Group last week and the topic being presented to us for discussion by the public health nurse was “Sex After Birth”. It’s a great topic as it generates A LOT of discussion, venting of frustrations, and dispels myths. But what became most evident to me was that I’d heard most of it before, and what is really missing from these talks are the partners. I know how difficult it is to wrap your head around being intimate after pushing a baby out of your vagina. Sorry to be graphic, but that’s the reality for a birth mother. And it’s no less difficult if you’ve had your baby via major abdominal surgery (C-section). I find mothers, for obvious reasons, are always being instructed about every aspect of their experience with a new child while their partners are being left out of this discussion.
So this is for all you partners out there. Here is how you can be good to the woman who has just given birth to your child.
Firstly, let me make clear just how much this event has affected her life. You just became a parent and that is huge and life changing. She, on the other hand has spent 9 months growing this being inside her, giving up most of her nutrient stores to it, and generally having her body completely reorganized to make room for this giant parasite. She has given up her body entirely – it will never be the same again and that is extremely difficult to wrap your head around. ‎
Post birth you now have a woman whose hormones are shifting, whose nutrients stores are ravaged, who is sleep deprived, who is overwhelmed by the stress of caring for a new life: how can you support her?
Firstly – feed her, give her water (a constant parade of snacks and water are the greatest gift to a new mother), let her sleep when she is able, do the chores so she can focus on being a caregiver, and YES do take the baby away sometimes.
The baby definitely needs her and it is important that they have lots of bonding time, but she doesn’t need a baby on her 24 hours a day. So take the baby away. My suggestion is to take the child for a walk in a carrier or stroller. This gives you time with your child with nobody hovering over your every move (yes, new mum’s are often guilty of being overly critical of other people’s methods of taking care of their child!). It also means that if they are crying mum won’t hear and get stressed and feel the need to intervene.
A new mother often expresses that she is hungry, thirsty, tired, or stressed. DO NOT under any circumstances say you are too. Again get her food, water, sleep, a break from the child. Be proactive and sympathetic. If she doesn’t realize how amazingly wonderful you are for doing all this, she will eventually talk to other moms and understand that you are the single greatest partner in the world. ‎Act as the gatekeeper for visitors. Some visitors are helpful and bring a calm to the room (they show up with food, offer to do chores, hold the baby as long as the parents feel comfortable). Then there are others who seem to just create chaos (these are the ones that come in questioning and doubting your parenting choices, commandeer the baby, and assume that everyone will then wait on them). All visitors need to understand that visits should be short unless the parents request that person stay longer. Now is the birth partner’s chance to step up and be firm about expectations from guests- when do you want your first visit? It doesn’t have to be immediately. You’re allowed to have time with your child alone to bond. How long is too long? I suggest a half hour limit. How many people can come at once? Families often like to come en mass which also leads to very long visits because everyone wants a turn with baby. This can even cause baby to be over stimulated and cranky for many hours after. Don’t let anyone dictate to you their expectations. You as new parents are the bosses.
Next role is that of being the voice of reason. I hate when people assume that pregnant and post partum women are crazy and so every decision they try and make is “just hormones”. You are her partner and in her current raw emotional and physical state she may make choices that seem out of character. Be that voice of reason and discuss what has led her to that choice. Evaluate if she is making an unsound or out of character decision and if necessary be insistent about changing her mind, in particular if it’s something that she will regret later. Overall respect her views and make choices together.
To be a great partner is to take care of a new mother’s mental, physical, and emotional health. Each time you feel drained in one of these areas remind yourself that she is just as threadbare plus she has been through pregnancy and birth. Enjoy each moment as new parents, as a team. ‎



Ya, I’m going to go there~ right into giving my two cents on the whole breastfeeding in public debate and while I’m at it I may as well throw my hat in the “should everyone breastfeed” ring too. Let’s just hit that old nest of rattlers with a big stick.
I don’t actually think my opinions are terribly biased or anger inducing but then both issues come with some strong feelings, so I’m sure I can offend someone all the same. So be it.

Should every mother breastfeed? The simple answer is yes. I firmly believe all mother’s should breastfeed and avoid the dreaded formula. Why would all mammal produce their own milk if not to most effectively feed their own young? Formula is advertised as providing the essential nutrients for a baby; however, there is no lab that can recreate the complexity of breast milk. Not to mention with mother’s milk you can avoid all these formula scares where Chinese factories are accidentally dumping arsenic into the mix.

What’s the more complex answer though? I also believe that not every mother can breastfeed. And there can be both physical, emotional, or medical reasons for this.
Medical seems the most clear-cut of reasons: if you are taking medication that can be
passed through breast milk to your baby and there are not enough long-term studies supporting the safety of that transfer then you simply cannot take that path for feeding.

Emotional and physical problems are a bit trickier. On the emotional side, women who have suffered abuse may have problems with this activity and closeness. It is an action that can bring up a lot of feelings and past memories. Perhaps these can be worked through with counselling; however, asking a woman to expose herself to this vulnerability at an already emotionally heightened point in her life seems cruel.

Then there is the physical. Purely, “I cannot breastfeed my child”. And I’ve heard this and other reasons from many mothers, so let’s take a look at each complaint:
“it hurts too much”: while feeding isn’t immediately comfortable, the fact that it hurts is most often a sign of something being wrong. A poor latch is likely.
“i didn’t want my nipples to get tough” or “i didn’t want to ruin my breasts”: this one is just selfish. You decided to bring a new life into the world but refuse to give them the life-sustaining milk your body produces because you’re too concerned about your tits?
“i tried everything, even the nurse couldn’t get the baby to feed”: I find these parents, though well-meaning, give up too soon. Even women for whom feeding is going pretty smoothly have a 2 week adjustment period before they really feel they’ve “got it”. If things aren’t going so well you need to visit a lactation consultant. Start with your hospital but then move on to a real clinic if you’re not getting the help necessary (this of course is if you have the $ for private consult~ I know not all people do. I sure don’t!) Also, something that new mother’s don’t always know is that a baby may refuse the breast for a few weeks, and then magically come around. It happens all the time!
“we had to start using bottles for XXX reason, and I’ve heard they won’t take the breast after (nipple confusion)”: Try. Babies love to eat and will often learn to take food from whatever source they can get it. Also, research your bottle choice. There are some new ones on the market that are trying to emulate the breast more, making switching possibly less of an issue.
“I wanted Dad to be able to have a part in bonding with baby through feeding”: I can see both sides to this one, but at the very least have him feed the baby pumped milk. I get the desire to share the care and bonding time (and giving mum a break on a late night feeding sometimes too!); however, feeding is a motherly task. It is naturally and inherently for the woman, the mother to perform. I don’t see a reason to force this in another direction. Dad will find his bonding niche with baby, but to give up your time for skin to skin feeding contact so he can stick a plastic bottle in your baby’s mouth seems silly to me.

Now, on to the Breastfeeding in PUBLIC~ Aaaahhh!
Really my position is a simple one: be discrete and use your judgement. All of the women who have taken the stance that they have the right to, not only breastfeed in public, but also to flaunt that they are doing so and make a point of exposing their bare breast in inappropriate environments have done more to harm this cause than help it.

I find it unfair of women to promote the sexualization of the breast, but then as soon as they have a child to demand that everyone see them as a food source. The same women can one day dress up for a night out in a low-cut, revealing top, enticing others to imagine the sexual beauty of her breasts, and the next expose herself on a park bench feeding her child?

I just don’t think it takes much effort to bring along a towel/small blanket to drape over while feeding. I don’t expect women to be breast hiding ninjas, a flash of inadvertent exposure doesn’t irk me.

And then there’s the using your discretion about location. Are you sitting in an area that has people of other culture and would they culturally/religiously be offended? Just because it’s breastfeeding doesn’t make it okay to be racially and culturally insensitive. Are you sitting with coworkers or other acquaintances who perhaps, though supportive of your feeding, are going to be forever uncomfortable with the knowledge that they have seen you exposed? Are you in an environment that requires a dress code? Ok, this one is a bit odd, I know. But I feel that places where you would be asked to wear a suit or meet a standard of dress are just not great places to perform this kind of personal bonding moment right out in the open. Generally you can find a quiet corner or space off to the side for a bit of privacy.
And lastly are restaurants, which seem to be the hot topic. I’m on the fence, quite frankly. With discretion I don’t think it should be an issue. And I know, a mother just wants to get out for a meal sometimes and there’s no sitter, and your baby has to eat. It is what it is and to expect that woman to sit in a bathroom is just plain rude.

The overall point being, when you breastfeed try to think if your simply feeding your child or are you making a stand? Because if you’re making a stand you’re probably also making it worse for future mothers to feed their child in public.

Those are my thoughts on the issues and I think many are in agreement. Feeding your baby in public should not bring scorn from others, but those people will never be won over by further pushing it into their faces. We need to all meet half way on grounds of respect for other’s needs and comfort levels.