Menu

After baby’s born, here’s how to get the help you need from your partner

Don’t underestimate the power of the little things.

After baby’s born, here’s how to get the help you need from your partner

Do you remember the movie Jerry McGuire? The one with that adorable little blonde boy, from before Tom Cruise went a little crazy. If so, you remember Jerry’s client, Rod Tidwell. Rod is very difficult to please and gets in his own way constantly, making Jerry’s life way harder than it needs to be. Jerry pleads with him:


“I am out here for you. You don't know what it's like to be ME out here for YOU. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, ok? Help me... help you. Help me, help you.”

What does this have to do with you, your partner, and the postpartum period? A lot actually.

Your partner is your number one support person, but many things—miscommunications, hormones, anxiety, overwhelm and sleep deprivation to name a few—can make it very difficult to be a true team.

Despite your partner’s best, up at dawn, pride swallowing efforts, he will not be able to truly support you without a little help from you.

Help him help you.

(Please note that although I use the male pronoun and the word “partner,” this applies to your primary support person regardless of gender or relationship.)

Don’t assume clairvoyance

Can you read your partner’s mind? Are you always able to guess, with 100% accuracy, what he wants or needs in every situation? Not a chance. The same goes for him.

No matter how obvious it may seem to you, never assume your partner can read what you want or need. Even when you’re standing in the middle of the living room holding a baby whose diaper has exploded all over your shirt and the seemingly only obvious way to help is to take the baby so you can grab some towels and get to work cleaning everyone up.

Instead of getting mad when he stands there frozen, tell him. Calmly. Clearly.

Or maybe it’s not something you need him to do, but rather something you need him to stop doing. Give him the benefit of the doubt and let’s assume that he’s not intentionally doing anything to upset you.

Example: he has asked you every morning for the past week if you’d like to go for a walk today. In his head, he’s just offering an idea of something to do together, but it makes you feel awful because what you’re hearing is, “You really need to get back to working out.” You cry and storm out of the room. He has no idea what he’s done, other than suggest a family activity. He shuts down, you shut down, and life is unpleasant.

What to do instead? Tell him. Calmly. Clearly. He’s amazing and knows you better than anyone else on earth. But he’s not a mind reader.

Yes first, details later

Sometimes when we’re asked if we need help when we’re in the middle of a million things and overwhelmed, it’s easier to just say “no thanks” than to pause and figure out what we need help with. It’s time to stop that.

Even if you have no clue what on earth he could possibly do to help, say, “Yes please” every time he asks. Capture his willingness and availability whenever it is offered. There is surely something he could do to help at any given time, even if it seems insignificant (more on that in a moment).

So next time he, or anyone else for that matter, offers help, this is your response: “Yes, please. Just give me one second to figure out what I need.” Every. Single. Time.

The little things are the big things

It’s easy to believe there isn’t much someone else can do to help right now.

If you’re nursing, no one else can do that. Even if you’re not, moms are often the only ones who can comfort the baby on any given day. And what you really need is two uninterrupted hours to take a long shower, shave your legs, blow dry your hair, and drink some coffee in peace…unfortunately that’s rarely possible with a newborn.

So what can your partner do?

Little things: take out the trash, refill your water glass, or grab the remote that’s just out of reach when you’re trapped under a sleeping baby. These may seem like small, insignificant tasks, things that we often tell people not to bother with because they aren’t a big deal. True, they aren’t monumental, but they make a difference. And when you add them up, they can make a significant difference.

Not only do they make your life easier, they give your partner a way to contribute at a time when he likely feels helpless, overlooked, and a bit in over his head. Don’t underestimate the power of the little things.

This isn’t IKEA

Let’s talk about IKEA for a moment—home of bright textiles, clean lines, delicious meatballs, and really good soft serve. You can get lost in there for hours of shopping bliss. But there’s a dark side to IKEA: the directions are awful. Seriously. There aren’t even words! I’ve always been able to assemble whatever I bought, but generally not without frustration and wasted time.

New parenthood is very similar to assembling IKEA furniture; you have a vague idea of what needs to be done, but the details on how to get there are quite foggy.

However, once you’ve mastered a certain parenting skill—diaper changes, giving a bath, swaddling, etc.—it can be hard to remember a time when you weren’t able to do it in your sleep (literally). Remember that your partner may not have reached your level of expertise yet.

So when you ask him to change a diaper, don’t be surprised when it takes him a bit longer and sometimes puts it on backwards. Rather than get frustrated and insist on doing everything yourself, take a few moments to give him real instructions. Tell him how you want things done, or better yet, show him.

Doing things together will help him learn faster and is a great way to maintain your connection during a period when typical couple bonding time is nonexistent.

Remember, he can’t read your mind. Show him. Tell him. Calmly. Clearly.

Show your appreciation

Confession time: I’m really bad at this one. My husband and I just welcomed our third child several weeks ago, so we’ve been through this postpartum period a few times and have our routine down pretty well. But this is one area I just can’t seem to get right. And, not surprisingly, it’s one of the first things my husband suggested when I asked him for some input on this topic: give your partner some praise.

This is all new for him, and he’s doing his honest best to support you.

His support will be imperfect. It won’t be enough at times. It will feel intrusive at other times. He won’t do things exactly the way you would, but he is trying, and he’s a good partner and a great dad.

Give him the recognition he deserves.Tell him he’s doing a good job. Remember, he’s unsure and scared and overwhelmed, just like you. If you want him to continue offering help, make sure he knows he’s appreciated.

You’re a team, now more than ever, and even the backwards diaper took effort.

Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this

Shop

5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play