Today Dr. Alicia and Dr. Pip Houghton, founder of Making Mama Well, discuss a topic that is near and dear to their hearts - how to babyproof your relationship. The arrival of a newborn will undoubtedly create a new dynamic within your family unit, and while it brings great joy, we also run the risk of being blindsided by the challenges of this shift while also experiencing heightened stress due to increased responsibilities and lack of sleep. The best remedy is to have a discussion with your partner and lay out a plan before the arrival of baby - but it’s never too late! We offer the following four tips below on how to go about it and what to address!
If you or your partner are struggling approaching this subject or there is some hesitancy around its value, we encourage you to listen to this episode together. We hope that it will provide the right motivation and clarity as to why taking these steps is important and how it can help in those moments when stress and emotions are heightened. It may seem easy - because it is!
There is often a misconception that the person who stays home with the baby is able to catch-up on their sleep while baby sleeps. While newborns do sleep a lot, they often do so in short spurts that do now allow the caretaker to luxuriate in a longer, necessary sleep. In those early stages, your baby is probably on or being carried by you approximately 22 hours per day, and there is only so much you can do while having a human being attached to you! Likewise, it is important to discuss who will be taking on night waking duties, so it is not assumed. Often the person who stays home with baby ends up feeling really depleted. And then they end up feeling resentful. If you haven't created a narrative or a space where you can have open conversations with their partner about these issues, that resentment will fester, linger and then explode. There is no one solution that fits all, so discuss with your partner what works best for you - and when that doesn’t work - take the time to reevaluate and come up with a Plan B (and Plan C when that fails).
It’s really important that both partners feel supported in accessing self-care time. Make a list of what each of you consider basic needs to function. It may include a certain amount of sleep per week, physical exercise, or quiet time to name a few examples. Once that list is established, figure out what is equitable and balanced between the two of you so that you both feel those needs are being met. If that balance is lost - where one spouse seems to be able to hold-on to their needs while the other doesn’t - that can create a huge rift in your relationship and can cause problems down the road. One the plus side, following this strategy allows your baby to have a one-on-one connection with both of their parents, and grows trust in the “primary” or at-home caretaker that the other parent is able to look after them - an important trust building practice for both baby to feel that connection, and the parent to let go of some of the control.
Once again, every family is different - what may look like an equitable share of responsibilities to one family may not for another. But again the most important thing is for both partners to feel like they are being heard and the division of labour is fair. Two tips we have for having and maintaining this dialogue is having
We recommend actually keeping the above two conversations separate as we want to avoid muddling emotions and feeling in with more logistical issues - both require your attention in their own, different ways.
We hope these few tips above help start this important conversation with your partner, preferably before baby comes - but hey if you’re listening to this with your little one in your arms - it’s never too late to implement the above strategies.
Linking some great resources below and wishing you good mental health!
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