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Being a new dad: changing relationships

Having a baby can affect your relationship. Here we look at how to resolve problems with advice for new dads on staying supportive after childbirth.

This article covers:
Becoming a parent
Shifting relationship dynamics
Stay supportive
Working things out
Further information

Learning new skills and adapting your lifestyle are part and parcel of the joys of being a dad. Knowing that you have created a new human being is a wonderful feeling, and now after nine months, you can really get involved.

From holding and changing your baby, to bathing and soothing them, dads are important. You will be amazed how quickly the baby in your arms develops. Soon you will be watching them smile, laugh, sit up, hold things and become mobile.

However, one of the issues that many people are concerned about prior to birth is the impact having a baby will have on their relationship. Due to increased stress levels, responsibilities and a lack of sleep, sometimes people experience relationship problems after having a baby. 

Becoming a parent

Some couples will have conscientiously prepared for the birth of their baby, discussing it with family and friends, reading books and attending antenatal classes. Others will have given it less attention and not thought that much about how life will change. The birth can feel like such a massive event in your mind that it is often hard to get beyond the fact that it is actually just the start of being a parent.

Now your baby is here, the hard work really starts with caring for a newborn and it can be a shock how unprepared and anxious you might feel about becoming a new dad. No matter how ready you think you are, the early weeks of parenthood can be challenging.

Both you and your partner may be surprised by how all-consuming the baby is and what impact this might have on your day-to-day lives and your relationships. All couples experience stress and can also have negative feelings about each other and about their baby.

What makes a difference is how they respond to those feelings. If you can learn to take the rough with the smooth and ride out the difficult times, you will triumph in the end and your child will benefit from having reliable and resourceful parents.

Shifting relationship dynamics

Your partner will be focusing a lot of her attention on the baby. And it’s almost inevitable that the baby will have a closer bond with mum at first, especially if she is breastfeeding. Dads can feel sidelined and slightly unsure about their role at this time. They may even feel jealous of the attention that the baby gets. Read our article 'How to support feeding'.

The changes can be hard to adjust to. Before your baby was born you might have felt really close to your partner, enjoying being part of a couple and planning for the future together. The shift to a relationship based on three people can cause relationship stress after having a baby which can affect this closeness.

  • Establish early on how you want to be involved.
  • Talk about what you can do with your baby and what you can do to help your partner.
  • If you get involved with the baby and helping your partner take care of herself, you’ll feel closer and your partner will feel supported too.

There are lots of practical things you can do, such as nappy changing, bathing, soothing the baby, fetching food and drinks. Kind words and emotional support are also crucial.

Stay supportive

You will both be grappling with a whole new set of demands as well as skills that might not come naturally. Supporting each other and getting support from family and sympathetic friends who are experienced with babies can help you both.

Compliment your partner on what a good job she is doing; although she may not always feel like talking, it’s always a boost to have your achievements acknowledged and to feel loved and appreciated.

In the first few days, your partner may experience the ‘baby blues’. Usually this passes but, in the meantime, continue to reassure her that she’s doing well. If she continues to feel low and unhappy then perhaps she may be suffering from postnatal depression.

As the main person who sees your partner, you need to be on the lookout for signs that she is struggling. If she is reluctant to seek help, it may be your responsibility to seek guidance from your GP or local health visitor on how you can help.

Working things out

You and your partner may find that you have different approaches to dealing with your baby, such as how best to soothe her when she cries, how much to aim for a regular pattern to the day, how to bath her, or even how to change a nappy.

This can make the early days particularly stressful. It is easy to become snappy with one another, especially if you’re both short of sleep.

  • Keep talking and discuss why you do things in a certain way.
  • Remember that neither of you has a monopoly on good parenting skills.
  • Bear in mind that consistency is more important than arguing over whose method is best.

Remember – and remind your partner – these are the ‘early days’. If parenthood feels like an endless round of crying, feeding and nappy changing; hang on to the fact that this is normal with a new baby.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Relate posts some advice on how to cope with a new baby.