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A Letter to Non-Birthing Partners

by Jeremy Martin-Weber, Relationship and parenting coach and dad of 8

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this post is sponsored by The Leaky Boob New Baby Guide, available here and by Martin-Weber Relationship, Family, and Parenting Coaching, sign up for your free consult here.

 

A Letter to Non-Birthing Partners

 

Congratulations, you’re having a baby! Or have recently had a baby. Or maybe it was a long time ago. Whatever it is for you, congrats! Having a baby is a wonderful thing that changes you forever. Even as the non-birthing parent, there is a lot of change when you welcome a whole new entire human being into the world.

That’s a good thing! Not an easy thing but still a good thing. 

A lot of the time, energy, and focus has likely been lavished on your partner and the baby growing in their body. That’s understandable – growing babies is a big deal! You may feel unsure about your role in all this or how to best be engaged in caring for your new baby when they’re here, let alone before or even as they are being born. I’m no expert but I’ve been there myself, 8 times now. There’s always a learning curve to becoming a new parent. As the non-birthing partner expecting a new baby your role isn’t relegated to being on the side-lines, you have an active and important part to play.

In the partnered life, most responsibilities can be approached and divided between partners through a conversation based on each person’s strengths, interests, skills, talents, availability, and so on. It rarely comes down to who’s capable – most people are capable of handling most responsibilities – they may not want to, but they can. It’s completely possible to divvy up those responsibilities through conversation that leads to an agreement about who does what. 

There’s one area in particular where, for many, it simply can’t play out that way: growing, birthing, and breastfeeding babies. 

Typically, one partner does all that, and the other partner does… what? Puts the crib together? Smokes a cigar? 

Well, from one non-birthing partner to another, I can tell you that there are many ways for you to be involved that go beyond putting a crib together and maybe fertilizing an egg (or ovum, to be exact). 

For all the books and articles and even classes for the birthing parent, there’s not a lot for the non-birthing parent. So what exactly do you do? Besides wait for the kid to grow up and then you get to be the “fun parent?” (Hint: don’t do that, it won’t serve you, your partner, or your child well.)

What is the nonbirthing partner or dad role with a new baby?
The most important thing you can do is to regularly tell your partner that you want to be as involved as possible and then demonstrate that by being present, interested, curious, and active (that means taking the initiative and actually doing some stuff instead of waiting around to be invited or told what to do). Listen to your partner about what they actually need and want – don’t do something they don’t care for and expect appreciation and praise. The demands on them are massive, don’t make it even more. The biggest difference between you and your partner is that they don’t actually have a choice but to think about having a baby – their body is literally changing every day to make that possible. It serves as a constant reminder. And eventually, it’s not just their body that reminds them, it’s the little body inside their body that reminds them too! You, on the other hand, have a choice. And it comes down to the choice of being involved, or missing out, and it takes effort. Which, translated into your partner’s perspective means that they’re either going through this experience without you or together with you. Don’t wait. No matter how far along the pregnancy is or how old the baby is, it’s not too late to start demonstrating that you want to be involved – the longer you wait the harder it will be, so back to this: don’t wait. You don’t have to know everything. You don’t even have to know anything. You’ll figure it out together. Don’t expect your partner to manage you, you’re not an employee they have to work to direct, be a partner by being proactive.

Following is a list of some of the ways you can be more involved:

PREGNANCY

  • Don’t wait. Demonstrate that you want to be involved now, and every day. 
  • Tell your partner that you want to hear about what it’s like for them to be pregnant. 
  • Tell them that they’re not a nuisance for sharing about their aches and pains and the special parts. 
  • Massage them to help with the aches, but also for connection, and to help relax them. 
  • Get informed about pregnancy, birth, and babies beyond what your partner is willing to share. 
  • Don’t get cocky about what you think you know about growing a baby in your body. No matter how much you think you know, you still aren’t the one experiencing it in real time. 
  • Listen.
  • Be willing to talk about pregnancy, birth, and babies with your partner as often as they want to. It may feel like you’re talking about it all the time, and that’s all you two talk about anymore. GOOD. It won’t last forever, but your partner doesn’t get breaks from being pregnant, so you can deal too. 
  • As a matter of fact, don’t expect your partner to always be the one to bring it up. You go ahead and start that conversation too. Let your partner be the one to say that they want to talk about something else for once – they will, if they get a chance to talk about it enough. This demonstrates your invested interest in your partner, their experience, and the baby.
  • Be a more attentive partner. Offer to do more for your partner. 
  • Tell them they’re beautiful. 
  • Don’t forget romance – keep doing the stuff that reminds you of your love for each other. And it’s ok if that turns into talking about babies. It’s just the deal. 
  • As your partner gets closer to birth and things get harder for them to do, you do more of those things – unless your partner doesn’t want you to. 
  • Don’t coddle your partner, or treat them like they’re sick. Let them tell you when they need to do less. You can ask them about it, but don’t tell them what they can and can’t do. 
  • Talk about the birth. What they want. How you want to be involved. Discuss a birth plan together. 
  • Go to prenatal appointments with them whenever possible and rearrange your schedule to do so. 
  • When they start nesting, do all the things that they say need to be done in order for this baby to arrive in a safe space. It doesn’t matter if some of those things don’t make sense to you. They matter to your partner. 
  • Welcome all of your partner’s feelings. Listen and validate your partner’s experience. 
  • Pick out baby clothes together. 
  • Prepare for the birth together. 
  • Go to the birth classes. 
  • Go to the new baby classes. 
  • Talk with your partner about what you’re both looking forward to, what you fear, how you feel. 
  • Be more present. 
  • Your partner will need more time to be in their own head to sort out what they’re experiencing and how they feel about it, and just be in the moment. Do what you can to help make that happen – more responsibilities around the house, more cooking, meal planning, etc. 
  • If you smell bad to her because of what you eat, don’t eat that again until after the birth and don’t take it personally- pregnancy hormones can create the nose of a bloodhound. 

 

BIRTH

  • More than any other time in this experience of bringing a baby into the world, labor and birth needs to be all about your partner. Your job is to support your partner. 
  • Do everything you can to allow your partner to focus on the work their body is doing – in other words, minimize distractions, and don’t be a distraction. 
  • Let your partner call all the shots. 
  • Do what they say they need. 
  • Remind them of aspects of the Birth Plan as needed. 
  • Go to bat for them. If there needs to be a conversation about the Birth Plan or what your partner wants with a nurse/doctor/midwife or other birth attendant, you do it. Run interference when needed. 
  • Encourage your partner. 
  • Ask them if what you’re doing is what they need but don’t be needy about getting accolades that you’re doing the right thing.
  • Massage them when they need it. 
  • Keep your hand where they directed you to put it, and don’t move it! You’ll never put it back exactly where it was before. 
  • Tell them you love them. 
  • Say affirmations to them (you’ll want to have discussed them beforehand). 

 

NEW BABY

  • Support your birthing partner as they recover from birth. Encourage them to rest. Do everything you can for them so they feel like they can focus on their healing. 
  • Take on all of the household responsibilities, and it’s ok for the house to not be perfect. That doesn’t mean that it’s ok to just let the house go entirely. Dishes still need to be done. Laundry. Trash needs to go out. The house still needs to be clean, even if it’s messier. 
  • Spend time with your partner.
  • Bond with your baby as you change their diaper. 
  • Your partner gets to feed your baby – you get to enjoy watching them. At some point you may have more of a role in actively feeding but it usually takes WAY more work to pump than to nurse directly and you giving the baby a bottle could undermine lactation at first so just sit back and enjoy the bond your partner and the baby are developing through feeding.
  • Keep being attentive to what your partner needs – this will be a part of your bonding with the baby and your partner.
  • Go to baby well checks.
  • Hold your baby. 
  • Feel insecure about that, or other aspects of caring for a new baby? That’s normal. Ask your partner about it. You’ll become more comfortable and confident in time.
  • Talk about the birthing experience with your partner. Invite them to share what it was like for them, what they liked, didn’t like, what surprised them. 

 

As you can see, there’s plenty to do to not only demonstrate that you want to be involved, but to actually BE involved and strengthen your connection with both your partner and your new baby. Do it. Jump in. Don’t wait. You won’t regret it. Nobody ever looks back and says they regret the time they spent loving their loved ones. This time and stage may be consuming in the moment but it really is so brief. Neglecting your role in this time is something you’ll never be able to undo and could damage your relationship with your partner. You matter in all this, don’t minimize the impact you have in this time by not fully being present and participating to connect with your partner and baby.

Martin-Weber Coaching

Jeremy Martin-Weber, relationship family, and parenting coach has been married to his wife Jessica Martin-Weber for 24 years and is the father of 8 children. His background includes music performance, teaching, non-profit director, mentor, and running a non-profit coffee shop. To support as many families in their relationship goals as is possible, Jeremy co-created We’re All Human Here and helps administrate The Leaky Boob in addition to his work as a relationship and family coach. For a free coaching consult, sign up here: https://bit.ly/3akaRR7.

Father of 6 Shares: Breastfeeding, Bonding, and the Non-Breastfeeding Parent

by Jeremy Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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Six times now I have seen my babies experience the sweet bonding power of breastfeeding with their mother. Six times I have marveled at their connection. Six times, in spite of the struggles that accompany the breastfeeding journey, in spite of the pain, the latch issues, the horror of mastitis, the mystery of blebs, the touch fatigue that comes with nursing every couple hours, I have watched these nourishing moments of intimacy with a mix of appreciative awe, compassion for the struggle, and jealousy.

Even though I understand and accept the natural way of things, that women are equipped both with the ability to grow and nourish a baby inside their body and the ability to nourish that baby outside their body, and that men – how should I put this? – aren’t; even though I know this to be a fact of the human experience, I see the connection between them both before birth and after with a twinge of envy.

Especially with our first, I even wondered if I should just accept that my chance to bond with my baby would come… later. Probably months later. Hopefully no more than a year or two. It’s even harder when the baby obviously prefers their mother. We had one of those. I tried not to take it personally. I decided to be present and patiently wait for her to come around, and she did. Eventually.

We’ve all heard just how important it is for babies to bond with their mother, and we also hear how important it is for kids to have both parents involved in their lives as they grow up (for those who happen to have two parents). This implies that it’s essential for both parents to bond with their little ones. So how does the non-breastfeeding parent get started, especially when it seems that their babies only seem to need one parent: the one with the leaky boobs?

Because the breastfeeding parent naturally needs to spend more time with their baby than their non-breastfeeding partner (babies eat all day, after all), it can be very helpful for them to take deliberate steps to help the other parent connect with their baby. Even though it may be easier to just do everything yourself, and indeed, our culture still encourages moms to think that they should be able to do it all, so there is a level of responsibility and personal pride that comes along with not needing your partner to help at all (and guilt if you don’t do it all), that kind of attitude only serves to speed up your own burn-out and to hinder your partner from being an equal parent. It requires intention to share the responsibility of caring for a baby. Here are some ideas to get you started based on some of the helpful ways that Jessica encouraged me to bond with our babies:

  1. Invite your partner to join the snuggle.

I never wanted to intrude on the intimate moments when Jessica and our baby were cozied up on the couch, mouth to boob, staring into each other’s eyes. It was so magical, and I didn’t want to break the spell, or distract them from their moment. A simple invitation from the breastfeeding parent is enough to change it from an intimate moment with that parent and the baby to an intimate family moment. Your first family portrait etched into all 3 of your memories. You’ll be working on intentionally welcoming each other into all sorts of situations for years to come (like when you’re on the toilet, or when you thought you were going to have a private intimate moment with just your partner), so why not get started right away? I had heard enough about sacred motherhood and the importance of the baby bonding to its mother that I needed an invitation to be a part of it. Maybe your partner does too.

  1. Offer for your partner to burp the baby.

Inviting your partner to burp your baby after nursing is a great way to get them involved and give yourself a little break from the constant skin-to-skin contact from that cuddly hot water baby. Sure it may seem easier to do it yourself since you’re right there but if you share the experience you might have a chance to get up to pee, or just to stand up and stretch. And if your baby can’t go without that skin-to-skin, invite your partner to lose a layer or two. For your partner, burping their baby is an opportunity to unlock that natural baby-holding sway. Pretty soon they’ll be practically dancing (it happened to me, and I’m not much of a dancer). And you can enjoy the sight of them bonding together.

  1. Share the other baby care responsibilities with your partner.

Once you’ve shared the responsibility of burping the baby, you’re ready to encourage your partner to take on other baby related tasks, like bathing them, dressing them, and cleaning that umbilical cord. Of course, there’s no reason for the 3 of you not to share those special moments together too.

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  1. Share the secret of diaper changing fun.

In many ways, diaper changes represent the last stand of traditional parenting roles. Guys willing to do all sorts of things for their wives and children still draw the line at diaper changes. What those dads miss entirely is that changing a diaper doesn’t have to be about changing the diaper at all. It’s a necessary task that provides the opportunity for special parent-baby time. Most anything can be turned into a game, and any event can be a bonding moment if that is the intent. Diaper changes can either be a disgusting obligation, or play time with your baby! Pee and poop, or fun and games. It’s time to let your partner in on the secret. You may have to model it like Jessica did for me. But once I understood it, I was hooked on diaper changing fun.

  1. Encourage your partner to hang out with their baby  

There is definitely something special about mother & baby time. But the part I used to downplay in my mind is that there is also something very special about babies connecting with their other parent. Encourage your partner often to hold your baby, their baby: to babywear, to cuddle, to take a nap together, to hang out in the rocking chair, etc. Bonding happens through time spent together. Your partner needs some of that time too!

  1. Spend a little quality time with your pump

This isn’t a necessary one and it is totally possible for bonding to happen without any participation in baby feeding- until introducing solids, invite your partner in on that fun for sure! But if you’re going to be pumping anyway to return to work or to have the occasional bottle for you to go out, this could be one way to give your non-breastfeeding partner the chance to participate. I loved every opportunity I was provided to give our babies a bottle, and, for my partner who gets overstimulated by touch very easily, sometimes it was just to provide her a break from all that physical contact that could get a bit overwhelming. You determine how often it will work for you – whatever the frequency, it’s such a special opportunity for your partner to connect with your baby.

  1. Ask for help and then back off

Sometimes our greatest enemy is ourselves. This is so true when one partner claims ownership of certain responsibilities. Our natural tendency is to want to make sure that the job is executed up to our standards, even when we “allow” others to do it for us. We want to control the outcome. We micromanage. We say too much. We follow too closely. We watch incessantly. We are ready to jump in (or take over) at the first hint of hesitation. And we get stressed out, anxious, and even angry, when things don’t run  by our definition of “smoothly”. This approach to letting your partner help does the exact opposite of building up their confidence. It may discourage them from even trying to be involved. And you may end up resenting an uninvolved partner that you had a role in creating. For your partner to really bond with your baby (and by “your” I mean theirs and yours), you have to really want your partner to be involved. That means you have to get out of the way. They may not do things exactly like you do, and that’s ok. Give them space, provide information when necessary, trust that they have their own parenting instincts, that they will ask you when they can’t figure things out, and that they will find their own parenting groove.

  1. Enjoy the view and tell your partner about it

Jessica has told me through the years that she loves seeing me with our kids. She loves it when they’re babies, and continues to love it as they get older, all the way up to high school! She says that the way I interact with our kids makes her love me even more. Somehow me bonding with our children brings us closer together as a couple. And it’s sexy. Not that my interactions with my children are sexy, but that she thinks I’m sexy when I connect with our children. And hearing her say how much she appreciates the view, I mean, my efforts, boosts my confidence and encourages me to keep at it.

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View More: http://yourstreetphotography.pass.us/martinwebberfamily1

Jeremy Martin-Weber is the proud father of 6 inspiring girls, and is 20 years into a love story with his partner, Jessica Martin-Weber.

The Babywearing Bond… with a giveaway

Sleeping on daddy in the Beco

Squiggle Bug, 20 months, sleeping in the Beco on Daddy. She had insisted on wearing her helmet.

Last week I was thinking about all the ways we connect and bond with our children.  Looking at the little rituals and and space we create that give us moments to express love on a daily basis I was reminded of times of sweet connection.  For many of us, when we’re pregnant, we rub our bellies to sense our babies and demonstrate our growing love.  After birth, skin to skin cuddles, kisses, nuzzles, and breastfeeding, to name a few, help us both to connect with our child and to communicate love.  Caring for them and meeting their needs for warmth, shelter, food, and hygiene, bonds our families closer together.  Including them in our activities, having them close to be a part of what we have going on and not passively set aside, gives us the opportunity to bond through shared experiences.

 

Babywearing did not begin to be an important part of our parenting until our third child.  With our first two daughters, we relied heavily on our stroller and our arms.  We had a carrier but it was horribly uncomfortable and it never felt right.  When desperate I would use it so I could vacuum once in a while but the carrier hurt my shoulders, my back, and I couldn’t help but think probably my baby too.  They just looked so awkward with their legs and arms jutting out and I was anxious they weren’t really secure.  Through bath time, reading together, snuggling in bed, play time, and of course breastfeeding were our primary ways of developing connection.  We added baby wearing with our third daughter when we discovered the ring sling and both The Piano Man and I regularly wore her at home and while out.

 

We wore our babies because they liked it.  Not because of a parenting style, not because of a trend, and not because of a philosophical belief.  Before we’d ever heard of attachment parenting, Dr. Sears, or even the term “babywearing,” we wore our babies.  It just felt right.  They were clearly happier closer to us and our own stress levels were reduced when they were content.  Having them close facilitated a deeper connection making little kisses, conversation, and attention to their needs easier with juggling the demands of our older children, home life, and even working full time.

 

When our fourth was 8 months old we expanded our babywearing to include a soft structured carrier when some friends went in together to get us a Beco Butterfly II.  They picked a print I loved, which I found exciting, but ultimately it was the comfort, ease, and practicality of the design that made the Beco my favorite carrier.  But I wasn’t the only fan of the carrier.

 

By 10 months old Sugarbaby had become deeply attached to our Beco.  If she saw it on the closet shelf she would squeal, flap her arms, smile, and radiate excitement.  If we didn’t respond by taking the carrier out and wearing her, tears would inevitably ensue.  After wearing her, when we would take her out of the carrier, she would pitch a fit even if it was obvious she wanted down and would only settle if we gave her the carrier to play with by herself on the floor.  She was obsessed with the buckles and it wasn’t long before her verbal vocabulary was made up of “mama,” “dada,” and “Beco.”  Her 3rd word.  The Beco ranked pretty high in her life.  There were times that I wondered if she was more attached to the actual carrier than she was to me.  Reality was, as much as she loved that carrier, what made it so special was that it kept her close to her mommy and daddy and sometimes even a big sister would wear her.  It was the bonding.  For the longest time she would chatter about the Beco but nothing made her happier than being in the Beco on one of us.  “Beco” was her third word because just as mama and dada meant love, so did “Beco.”

 

beco mini

Squiggle Bug wearing her own “baby” now. (Disclaimer: it is not safe to have a real baby facing out when wearing them on your back. This particular 5 year old felt it wouldn’t be a problem for her doll.)

Today, 2 babies later, that carrier is still an important part of my ever growing wrap and carrier collection.  It has held up through 3 babies now and been loaned out a few times as well.  Some day I imagine we will enjoy carrying grandbabies and creating new intentional opportunities to express love with little ones.  I doubt I’ll ever get rid of it because it represents one of the ways we bond with our babies and holds so many memories of connection, closeness, and love.

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How do you enjoy bonding with your little ones?  

In what ways are you intentional about creating connections to express love and be close?

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I shared this story with my friends at Beco and they loved that “Beco” was Squiggle Bug’s 3rd word and meant so much to our family.  In honor of Squiggle Bug and to help more parents and babies enjoy the bonding experience of babywearing, Beco is giving away 3 Gemini carriers (perfect for breastfeeding in) and 3 Beco Minis so your little ones can care for their babies like you do.  Be sure to like Beco on Facebook so you can keep up on sales, news, and great baby wearing and parenting tips and information.  To be entered in the giveaway, use the widget below.

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