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How to work together as new parents during the newborn phase

Welcoming a baby into the world is one of the most exciting experiences a parent can go through. Can it also be one of the scariest and most exhausting? Of course! The good news is that you’re not going to go through it alone. Know that any struggles you may have with a newborn are normal and that other parents have gotten through it before. From getting less sleep than you were used to, to postpartum struggles, to learning how to share the responsibilities of coparenting, it won’t be a comfortable experience to start. But you’ll keep learning as you go and things will get easier as you get into a groove.

After you give birth, you’re going to need all the help you can get. Your body has just gone through one of the most difficult things physically you can imagine, and it will take a while to physically recover. No matter your birth experience, you’ll need support afterwards, both mentally and physically. There are some things you have to do on your own — namely breastfeeding or pumping — but even some of the parts of those processes you can get help with. And make sure to ask for that help because the newborn phase is hard. If it’s your first baby, there are a lot of things to figure out. If it’s your second or third or even tenth, and you have a pretty good handle on processes, that doesn’t necessarily mean this new baby will be easier to take care of because all babies are different.

When it comes to division of coparenting responsibilities, it’s helpful to discuss ahead of time plans for who will be responsible for what. Sharing responsibilities goes a long way toward avoiding mental and physical exhaustion, especially during your postpartum period, and having one partner feel like they’re taking on too many tasks.

Split nighttime duties

This may be one of the biggest ones to discuss ahead of time — but to also be flexible with. It can be tough to get out of bed multiple times a night to feed baby — especially when they’re eating every few hours. Find a solution to split this duty how it works best for you. Are you a night owl and your partner an early riser? Use those timings to your advantage for feedings and changings and any time baby is crying. For example, you can take the first half of the night and your partner takes the second half. Or did you have a tough time at home with baby on a specific day, or your partner has an important meeting at work the next day? Take both of your needs into consideration. Sleeping in separate beds has become more common for couples. If you and your partner are each comfortable taking a full night of baby duties at any point, try sleeping in separate beds on occasions when one person really needs that good night’s sleep.

Share feeding responsibilities

While breastfeeding heavily relies on mama, split other feeding duties. If your baby is one who takes a long time to eat, it can feel like you’re alone with this responsibility. While you’re prepping for the next feeding session, can your partner help before or after? Maybe your partner can burp baby or walk them around when you’re done feeding and they can take over feeding any time there is bottle feeding.

Break down tasks into smaller pieces

Work towards accomplishing tasks together. Need to clean the house? Note the specific chores you need to do or rooms to clean and get through them together. More hands working on the same project makes the job go faster.

Decide who enjoys doing what

Do you find baby’s bath time routine long and tedious but your partner finds it relaxing and a great bonding time? Does your partner loathe doing laundry but you enjoy the solitude? Find certain tasks that you each enjoy and ones that are your least favorite and try to divide those by both of your preferences. Of course there will be tasks no one prefers to do — no one actually enjoys changing dirty diapers, right? — but discussing which you do and don’t prefer will be beneficial. And instead of trying to balance responsibilities 50/50, aim for a division of tasks that will make you both feel balanced and give you both time with the baby as well as time on your own to get other things done.

Share the mental load

Remember that there are other things that go into caring for baby that aren’t the physical tasks like feeding and changing diapers. Things like making meals and grocery lists, scheduling doctor’s appointments, making sure you’re fully stocked on diapers, diaper spray, and balm, and preparing for holidays or family get-togethers all require planning. These tasks can lead to overwhelm and stress if one person is in charge of it all. Divide these responsibilities so no one gets the full mental burden. Have a regular sit-down with your partner where you plan who will be responsible for these types of tasks each week.

Communicate and be flexible

Even when responsibilities have been discussed, make sure to be open with communication and sharing your needs. And listen when your partner communicates theirs, too. Even the most thought-out plan will come across road blocks, and flexibility is key in giving or receiving help.

Ask for help

Whether this is something you need from your partner, someone else in your family or friend group, or a paid service like cleaners or ordering a meal out, ask for help as soon as you need it. Not asking for help early enough can compound those postpartum stresses and frustrations.

Remember to be grateful for your partner and what they’re doing. It’s easy, as a mother, to get frustrated that your partner will never understand what you’ve gone through. But also remember that you may never know how helpless they feel when things like breastfeeding aren’t going smoothly. Communicate your needs as well as your appreciation for each other.

More than anything, be compassionate with your partner. If it’s your first baby, realize that you two have never been parents together before and you’re both learning as you go. There will be challenges and frustrations for both of you as you work toward a comfortable coparenting routine. Lean into the fact that this is a shared experience and it’s something you’re going though together. Your relationship will change with baby, but that’s not a bad thing. Find a new normal and be grateful that you’re going through the experience together for your sweet baby.

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