You have had your baby. Congratulations! You have conquered the first few weeks of breastfeeding. Yippee! Everything seems to be going well. Baby is healthy and happy and your new family unit is adjusting. Then, you start realizing that you and baby have become one unit. This is awesome! Right? Well, yes it is awesome. Of course it is. But, what about the other parent? Is the non-breastfeeding parent involved enough? Does he/she feel as connected to your new bundle of joy as you? Do you have silent resentment starting to take shape since you are the primary food giver? Does your partner have "pushed down" feelings that they are the lesser parent because the baby seems to only be soothed by you? How can both parents find a way to share in the joys, work, care and memories of the new baby?
The answer to all of these questions are for you to decide and whatever the answers are, you should know that all these stirred up feelings are natural. How can you process and manage these new feelings though? How can you implement positive ways into your family so that you and your partner get to share duties and create new roles?
Many breastfeeding families need to find ways to allow both parents to become involved. It is healthy and helpful that your new baby learns different ways to be soothed, besides at the breast, as well as learns that there are two parents to form a bond with. Now, of course there are situations where there is only one parent from the very beginning. Finding ways to engage with your new baby, besides being stuck at home and on the couch, will be beneficial for you both and a few ideas are mentioned in this post that can help you.
This is probably the number one way a non-breastfeeding parent can help soothe a new baby, feel empowered by it, and bond. This is also one of the best ways a breastfeeding parent can be close to their baby and get things done! Baby wearing is not only for women. Baby wearing is unisex and baby wearing wraps come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. Many times you can try out a baby wearing wrap from a local baby wearing chapter in your area. Here in San Diego, CA Babywearing International of San Diego and Babywearing San Diego are the best local resources in town to learn about all the different baby wraps/slings out there. Baby wraps can be expensive and when you quickly purchase one you do not know if the wrap will necessarily be the most comfortable. Trying out a few wraps before making the purchase is helpful. Go to Babywearing International to find a chapter near you.
Bath time is a great way that the other parent can get involved. Maybe it is every night or a few times a week when baths are given by the other parent. Baths are supposed to be fun and soothing to babies. Bath times do not have to be in the evening. Maybe your partner works late all week and can't be there in the evening. If this is the case, a morning bath on the weekend would be another great option! Need ideas for keeping it fun? Check out these ideas from What To Expect.
Taking your baby for a stroll is a wonderful way to bond and have some fun. Babies love movement as well as new sights and sounds. This can also benefit you as you get exercise while having fun with your baby. Stroller rides after a long day at work is also a stress reducer. Maybe one parent was home all day and needs a mental break, but the other parent might have been at work all day and is stressed and tired. Taking a long walk at the end of the day, together with your partner or separate, can be beneficial for everyone involved. Get moving!
Babies love getting massages! Why wouldn't they? This is another wonderful way for either parent to bond with their baby and learn more about them. This is a great "wind down routine" before bedtime as well. You do not need to be certified in infant massage to give your baby a massage! Gentle hand movements on their arms, torso, legs, feet, and hands are incredibly soothing. Most babies turn to jello while receiving a massage. To learn more and find ways to massage your new baby go to the International Association of Infant Massage or to A Foundation for Healthy Family Living.
Music and Dance:
Holding your baby in your arms and dancing around the house is fun and healthy! Yes, you might feel a little silly doing this, but who will see you? Turn on your favorite tunes, hold baby close, and dance around the house! Your baby will love it. Not only will they love the movement; they will love the sounds they hear. They will love being close to you and seeing that you are having fun. More often than not, parents find out what music their baby likes, what music soothes them, what music makes them happy, etc. Not to mention....it beats going to the gym!
Hopefully, one of the above listed ideas will resonate with you and your family. If not, take some time to think of other alternatives that can fit into your unique home. Bonding with your baby can take many shapes and forms and does not always have to be at feeding times. Get creative, communicate, and take action! Your family will love you for it!
Written by Heather Shabestari, IBCLC
Owner at Breastfeeding Consultants of San Diego, LLC
Heather Shabestari, BS, IBCLC, CEIM, is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and a Certified Educator of Infant Massage (CEIM). Her lactation training was completed through University of California, San Diego and an 8 month internship at Kaiser Permanente's outpatient lactation department.