A lot of planning happens during pregnancy, whether it’s your first baby or your sixth. Where are we going to put the baby? What are we going to feed the baby? What are we going to name the baby? How in the hell are we going to survive another baby?
But in the midst of all these plans that are being made, some key details are too often overlooked, like: Who exactly is going to do what exactly when it comes to taking care of the new baby?
I’ve known several moms who didn’t realize they were in a 1950s marriage until after they brought their baby home from the hospital. Their husbands assumed that pretty much all of the baby duties fell on the shoulders of their wives (I’ll let you guess how well that assumption worked out for those husbands). If something like this happened in your family, please, I beg of you, take this opportunity to more fairly divide the household and childcare duties before the new baby arrives. Because no matter how crazy things are now, they’re only going to get crazier once you bring a new little bundle of joy and chaos into your lives.
If your husband already helps a lot, then that is awesome. But you still might implement some ideas from the list below. Because honestly, you carried a baby for nine months. The least he can do is bathe it.
On that encouraging note, here are a few reasons why all parents need a post-baby game plan, along with some strategies that worked for me and some other moms I know.
1. Sibling love.
Older child(ren) are going to need lots of love and attention as they acclimate to life with a new family member. It’s important to take time away from the new baby to shower big brothers and sisters with attention, but nearly impossible to find the time to do that. Here’s where your partner comes in. Make a plan for at least one “date” a week for you and your older child, while your partner watches the baby. (Maybe the grown-ups can go on an actual date once the youngest is in preschool.)
In our house, my partner was in charge of bathing each of our babies when they were brand new. It was a nice time for them to bond and for me to have a moment where the child wasn’t connected to my boob. When we got to Baby #2, it was also a great time for me to give Baby #1 some extra TLC. (Because there is no rest for the weary: See Reason #1.) You can try bathing both kids together but in my house that usually leads to the Battle of the Bath, wherein those normally peaceful, loving children turn into violently splashing, rubber-duck throwing little crazy people. I don’t recommend it.
Need I even point out that if the baby is drinking formula, there’s no earthly reason why Mom should have to do all of the middle-of-the-night feedings? Negotiate at least one night off a week, or agree to equally split up the feedings, or assign one parent middle-of-the-night duties and the other parent early-morning-with-the-other-child(ren)-we-created duties. Whatever works for you. But do it now, before the baby comes. This conversation will go a lot smoother if it’s not happening at 3 a.m. when you and your partner are both sleep-deprived and cranky.
4. Breastfeeding support, if applicable.
Honestly, there’s not much partners can do to alleviate the lack of sleep breastfeeding mothers get. But they can at least try to minimize the suffering. In our house, my partner would get up each time the baby needed to feed during the night, get the baby out of its crib, change its diaper, get it re-dressed and present it to me for feeding. I appreciated that I got an extra five minutes to stay horizontal per feeding, and we both felt a greater solidarity in the morning. Trust me, if you are the partner to a nursing mom, the last thing you want is to look well-rested in the morning.
Despite these modern times we’re allegedly living in, many couples have issues when it comes to dividing up the various duties of the house where they both reside. If you’re a part of one of those couples, the addition of a new baby is the perfect time to fix the imbalance. More dishes, more laundry and more messes create lots of opportunity for the other partner to get more involved. The distribution of house duties can get especially tricky if one parent is working less or staying home full-time with the kids. If you are the partner who is working more, it is in your best interest to come home with the assumption that your second shift of the day is starting. How can you help? Can you make dinner? Can you clean up the kitchen? Can you take the baby so that your partner can lock themselves in the bathroom for a half hour and decompress from a day spent with an infant? If I were you, I would assume the answer is always: All of the above.
6. Friends and family.
Bringing a new baby home is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. It’s also the time when everyone wants to come over and visit. Which family and friends do you want to come see you in the baby’s first weeks? Make a list. That’s right, write it down. Then hand it to your partner. It will be the partner’s job to enforce that list. You carried the baby for nine months—your partner can endure the nine seconds it takes to keep an overeager well-wisher away.
Every working mom knows that there are not enough hours in the day to give your job and your child as much time and attention as you’d like. Soon you’ll have another child, but the day will not have any more hours. Can your partner do the dishes so that you can snuggle with the baby for a few minutes? Can he hold the baby while you read bedtime stories with the older kid(s)? Yes, he can! And he’s much more likely to do it if you’ve made a plan ahead of time.
Ready to set your own family’s game plan? Good. Grab your partner and huddle up. When the newest member joins your team, you’ll be glad you did.
Written by Dawn Dais for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.