Seattle's Child

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Staying close after baby

Staying close after the baby arrives

A doula's tips for healthy postpartum connection

A new baby, whether your first or your fourth, puts pressure on even the most stable relationship. Pure exhaustion and constant worry about parenting responsibilities take their toll, and if one (or both) parent has a day job, double that pressure. So, what can you do to buck the trend of a post-baby downward relationship spiral? Here are a few things I urge my new parent clients to consider:

Be ready to cut your parenting partner a lot of slack.

Each of you needs respect and time to develop your unique relationship with the baby—without interference from your co-parent. Don’t scratch the itch If you feel the urge to comment on or correct how your partner is holding, feeding, bouncing, or diapering the baby. Instead, walk out of the room. Allow them their own parenting trial-and-error without your nag…, er, input. 

Read

Well before the baby arrives, read books. Not just the ones on how to get the baby out but ones that offer a realistic look at the impacts of new parenting on a couple. “And Baby Makes Three” by Drs. John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman is a classic.

Take a class—about relationships.

For nearly 25 years, I’ve recommended The Gottman Institute’s evidence-based “Bringing Baby Home” workshop to my pregnant clients. This workshop has helped countless couples fortify their relationships for the challenges of new parenting. 

Make a plan with your partner

before the baby arrives about how you will deal with common concerns and pitfalls when they occur. Make agreements and write them down. When in doubt, refer to your agreements.

Surround yourself with support.

Friends and family who are willing to do real work (grocery shopping, laundry, housekeeping rather than holding the baby) can be a great first string of support if you are lucky to have them nearby. But other parents who are going through what you’re going through from birth through the first two years are another important source of information, affirmation, and support. Other parents are the ones who will help you understand that you are not the only one, you’re not alone, and you’re not crazy.  You are a new parent and every day things will feel better. Most support groups run a set number of weeks, but often, parents stay connected to support each other in an ongoing way. The three I regularly recommend are: 

A doula’s tips for a strong connection 

When parents ask me what the most important thing they can do for their relationship after a baby arrives is, I have two pieces of advice:

First, tell your partner regularly, “You are the best Mom (Dad/parent) this baby ever had.” Because they are. Your baby doesn’t know anyone better than you both, and it thinks you are both perfect.

Second, by three months after your baby arrives, make and keep a weekly date night. You read that right: weekly. Hire a sitter or ask a friend or family member to help you keep this commitment. Why is this important? Your baby’s health and wellness depend on your strong connection to each other. And that takes time alone together.

Read more:

Baby, it’s cold out there!

‘Fit to be Tied:’ New parent guide to tongue tie 

New study: Doulas’ role supporting mental health

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin, CD