Being a new mom is a life-changing experience filled with joys and challenges — but what about dads? It's easy to forget that new dads are also dealing with their own struggles as they adjust to fatherhood.
One of the main struggles for dads is trying to understand what new moms are going through. Dr. Vernon Naake, OB/GYN with The Women’s Health Group and affiliated physician at North Suburban Medical Center, offers insights into what new moms and dads might experience after their baby is born and what to expect during the early stages of parenting:
1. Remember that being a new mom is a big change in women’s lives.
Dads don’t always understand the physical, mental and emotional changes women are going through during pregnancy.
“When new parents bring their new baby home, new dads often may not realize the new emotional and physical challenges that will be experienced with their partner,” says Dr. Naake.
Due to hormonal fluctuations and the actual physical labor of delivering a child, new moms may experience postpartum depression, changes in their body, and have to adjust to breastfeeding.
While new moms are recovering physically, dads can be good partners by offering emotional support as well as partnering with the new and old responsibilities around the home. Giving your partner a massage, back rub, or drawing a bath for her can brighten a new moms’ day and make her feel better.
2. It can take new dads more time to connect with their baby.
It might take new dads more time to connect to their newborn. While new moms often feel an instant connection to their baby, dads may not experience this same type of bonding right away. Sometimes, men might initially be inadequately prepared to take on these new challenges and feel that they are seen as an outsider,” says Dr. Naake.
For dads who are trying to bond with their newborn, the key thing is patience and reassured that they are a big part of the bonding process. With time, dads will be able to establish a stronger relationship with their child as well.
3. Sex and intimacy might not be the same after you become a parent.
Usually, it is safe to engage in sexual intercourse while a woman is pregnant, as long as she feels comfortable and her OBGYN gives the okay.
Post-delivery, it’s normal for a couple’s sex life to change. You may not have sex as often or might have to re-establish intimacy in a new way as parents. Most health experts suggest that new moms wait four-to-six weeks after delivery to have sex to prevent the risk of infection or bleeding.
New dads should have a conversation with their significant other about how both of you are feeling in your post-baby sex life. Creating better intimacy and having a healthy sex life might be something you need to schedule or prioritize as you juggle the challenges of being new parents.
4. Balancing work and family life isn’t always easy.
First-time dads should be prepared for upheavals in their schedule after their child is born. Get ready to have your life revolve around your baby’s eating, sleeping and yes, even pooping schedule.
As you and your partner adapt to being parents, new dads will have to figure out a schedule that works for your family. It’s important for dads to talk about these issues with their partner so that both mom and dad don’t feel resentful about chores or how much of the baby-raising responsibilities they are taking on.
5. Understand that being a new mom is a full-time job.
First-time dads should know that being a new mom is a full-time job. If your wife or girlfriend is staying at home taking care of the baby every day, dads need to understand that a lot goes on when they are away at work.
“Dads can have a hard time understanding how much time it takes to breastfeed, burp, change a diaper and put a newborn down to sleep,” Dr. Naake says. “After doing all this, the baby wakes up and moms have to do it all over again. Taking care of a newborn is all-encompassing.” In an effort to support their partner, dads should ask mom how they can help or what needs to be done when they get home from work. If you don’t know how to help with the baby, just ask!
6. Dads can also experience mood swings and depression after having a child.
According to Dr. Naake, parental postpartum depression (PPD) is a real mental health issue and can affect fathers as well. Signs of PPD can include low mood, irritability, feelings of helplessness and common symptoms of depression, like sleep problems, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed and feeling worthless, guilty, unhappy or sad. If you or your partner is experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to ask for help. New parents can talk to an OBGYN or a counselor if they are experiencing signs of PPD.
“An OBGYN can help dads too,” says Dr. Naake. “Sometimes, dad might need help understanding their feelings and how to deal with the stress and pressures of fatherhood.”
7. Don’t take things personally or always try to ‘fix’ things.
When dealing with a problem, men often feel the urge to “fix” everything right away. However, new moms might need more encouragement and support (instead of a problem-solver) in the first few weeks and months after the baby arrives.
“Sometimes the best thing for dads to do is listen,” says Dr. Naake.
If mom is stressed or having trouble adjusting to life with a baby, new dads need to try and be patient and not take things personally. Do your best to be in tune with mom’s needs and feelings and remember that things will get better. For new parents, know that nothing quite prepares you for the blissful moments — and unexpected hurdles — that welcoming a newborn into the world will bring.