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Getting a Father to Help More with the Baby

By Drs. Rick and Jan Hanson

It's been three months since the baby was born, but my husband still holds her like she was made of nitroglycerine and gives her back to me as soon as he can. He avoids changing diapers by saying that he's no good at it because she always cries - no wonder, since he's a little rough and awkward - and heaven help us if I want him to walk her so I can get a little sleep. When I get irritated, he tries to joke it all away by saying things like, "Don't worry, I'll get more involved when she can throw a ball."

Ah, yes, we know the type! Many new fathers - not all, to be sure - love their children enormously...but from a safe distance. Studies have found that the average mother is working about twenty hours a week more than her partner is - doing one task or another - whether or not she's drawing a paycheck.

OK, so we all know that it's important for a dad to help with the baby. But how do you accomplish that, especially if his idea of childcare is putting her in a motorized swing while he watches Sportscenter?

Involve Him in the Pregnancy
Getting help from the father starts during your pregnancy. Since he's observing more from the outside, it's extra important to look for little, doable ways to strengthen his sense of connection with his child:

  • Bring him to appointments with the OB-GYN - especially if you're having a sonogram.

  • Talk about your hopes for family life. Make them concrete, imagining a typical day with a three-month-old, or when she's one or two years old.

  • Ask about any concerns he has, like not knowing what to do with a little one. Reassure him that he'll be a great dad, that just like he's learned to be successful at his work he'll learn to be skillful with a baby.

  • Discuss in advance his involvement in routine care of the baby. Walk through typical situations - like feeding, changing diapers, settling a fussy baby, or whose lap a squirmy toddler sits on in a restaurant or airplane (!) - and ask him what he plans to do.

  • Be honest and realistic about the help you expect from him and what you want your roles to be. Explain the reasons why, in terms of the benefits to his child, to himself, to you, and to your marriage. Don't be afraid to make it a matter of principle, of simple fair play: "Raising our precious child is just as important as bringing home a paycheck - maybe more so. If I'm doing dishes (or changing a diaper or reading a story or putting the baby to sleep or...) why should you be watching TV?"

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Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
Susan G. Komen

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