I'm curious about how other two-mom families with one nursing mom have balanced things during the early newborn days. From what I'm reading and hearing, it seems like many little ones need to breastfeed very frequently in the first few weeks (or months?), and that many newborns spend most of their awake time nursing. Was that your experience? If so, how did you balance that with time for the non-nursing mom to get to know the babe? Was it possible to feel like equal parents during the early days, or was it important to accept that at first it really isn't equal? Was this hard or not a big deal? What worked for you? Are there other questions I should be asking?
S & Y (Vermont Civil Union 7/8/03) DS1 Holden (4/25/07) and two in heaven 1/10 & 5/10 our is here DS2 Keegan(5/23/11)
Nursing is a very time intensive and sometimes hard activity. I think if you explain now to your partner that will be the case and figure out other ways for bonding time it will help a lot before babe arrives. Both partners have to be 100% behind nursing for it to work for your family.
I will say that although our sons love us both ds1 prefers me when he doesn't feel good and ds2 prefers dp. I think that is just natural and we don't feel upset about it.
Dp is sleeping right now - first trimester tiredness - so ds2 is happily sitting on my lap reading.
When my kids were small, things weren't completely equal. Their mom slung Osha quite a bit in the beginning. She could do things like bath time, potty time, first thing in the morning, get up with the baby, post-nursing and have that first awake time of the day alone with him. It was also nice for me, since I had been up a lot through the night. (of course by the time Ari came along we switched to a sort of man to man defense and she did all things toddler. Still at ages 8 and 5 he is in love with her and Ari prefers me. Ok, no, they both love us both. And Ari loves her mama, but they get on each other's ever lovin' nerves sometimes. Might have something to do with their star signs. (I tease Osha that I'm going to wait to have this baby because I really want another fire sign in the house.)
Yeah, I let their mama sling sometimes when it was really hard to have them out of my arms. I never cared about the recognition, but the hormones saying, "hold on to that baby" are pretty intense. As hard as she had it, I never cared if someone recognized her and not me (I remember someone skeptically asked, "He's yours? Did you put lenses in his eyes to make them blue?")
About the first few days, I don't even remember the first month of my kids' lives (I wrote a lot of stuff down, so did their mama.). Sleep deprivation, trauma and hormones make the beginning pretty forgetable. Supporting the nursing relationship is truly a job in itself. The long term benefits are immeasurable, and while the first few days feels like forever there is so much more time in a child's life to get to know her. Some of my nicest memories were all of us just hanging out on the couch.
I seem to be rambling. Main points:
1. There is non-nursing bonding. It's not as glamerous as nursing, but it's important.
2. There is a huge amount of support work to be done.
3. Time flies. Try to just enjoy the moment.
4. The non-nursing mom can do lots of record keeping. Pictures, notes, baby book entries keep everything right at the front of her mind.
5. There is so much time to bond.
If we come up with any graceful way to handle it, I'll be the first to pass it on.
There are some things that are hard to know in advance-will you have an easy time nursing or a hard time, will your baby be efficient or pokey, but it terms of stuff you can plan for I think two important issues are:
1) Do you want/need to pump. If you're pumping then your DP can do some feeds with bottle or supplemental system.
2) How are you going to work nursing/pumping into your division of labor.
For me and my partner, some decisions were made for us because baby was in the nicu for a few months so when she came home I was already pumping and we knew she could switch between breast and bottle without problems. We divide each night into two shifts and each person is responsible for everything baby during her shift (DP bottle feeds on hers). For the first few months after our baby came home she basically wanted to be held 24/7, so even with nursing there was plenty of baby time to go around, and frankly I was fine with handing her off. We also each took half time maternity leave, so we are each home with her a couple days a week. I think splitting things up that way helped ensure that we didn't have one person who was the expert while the other person was the helper. And frankly, even though I gave birth to our baby, DP was the one who bonded with her first and they are very in tune with each other.
One point of tension has come from me feeling overwhelmed with tasks because I can't get home from work, nurse, cook dinner, and walk dogs all at the same time, while DP feels like she gets stuck with the bad jobs. So we have just had to figure out how to balance my breastfeeding, which is very pleasant and can be done while reading or watching tv-but also has to be done and has to be done on a baby's schedule, with all our other household work.
Our other issue is my ability to magically soothe with nursing, while DP can't. And I have no answer for that it just is what it is.
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As others have already said, nursing is a full time job...and a very amazing, important one! There are lots of other bonding times such as bathtime, massage, napping, baby wearing....DP was so amazing at caring for both DD and I during the first few months that I felt like she was 'mothering' both of us! It's important to remember that supporting you as you nurse really is caring for your baby too. I actually think the newborn phase is easier for cuddling between baby and non-nursing mom because newborns will often sleep/cuddle with anyone if they aren't hungry ;) We were really lucky because we were able to afford both of us being home for the first 5 months. It may be different if DP had been out at work all day.
I don't think it's a "being equal" question...it's really a "being different" in terms of your relationship with your child and your DP's relationship with your child. They will both be amazing and unique :)
Also, time does indeed FLY so try really hard to not get caught up in post partum hormones...it is a very intense time.
When our first was born (my wife gave birth) I was all over the babywearing, diapering, EC, you name it. Babywearing in particular was huge for me. I was really nervous that I wasn't going to have as much of a bond, or that I was going to become a sort of "back-up" mom, nice to have around, but not key in my kid's life. That didn't happen. My wife and I pretty quickly developed a great balance (and my wife did nurse), but a lot of what made it work was (a) that I really got in there and WANTED to do everything and that (b) my wife made room. She could have easily thrown me off course, or pushed me to a back seat, if she hadn't been so open and absolutely supportive of our relationship (and extremely non-competitive).
As far as logistics I'd also encourage you to NOT think of chores as job 1 for the non-birthing parent. Job 1 for them is the baby, even if the baby doesn't "need" them for food. The chores and can feel overwhelming, particularly if you don't have much local support, so it needs to be OK for them to set down the dishes and snuggle if the moment arises.
Also, a lot depends on what your long term care plans are. No matter what they are, I STRONGLY encourage you to consider having the non-bio mom take substantial parental leave. FMLA allows for this, though likely unpaid. Take it if there is any way at all to make it work, possibly stretched out over time a few days a week if that's a way to make cash flow work. Preferably some portion solo (if both of you will ultimately be going back to work). You can't build a bond without time. It's a real challenge to connect with your new baby with all the upheaval, mountains of chores and a recovering partner. Throw in work pressure early on and it gets so much harder. Obviously if one of you will be home, that needs to be modified, but the recommendation for substantial leave remains. I didn't *really* come into my own as mom until I was 1-on-1 with my daughter for long stretches (we juggled leaves to be home with her the first year). That obviously won't apply in every family, but a little one-on-one time, even very early on, can go a long way towards family balance, security for the non-bio mom as she finds her footing as a parent, sanity for the birthing mom, and a great bond for the non-birthing parent.
Also, this might be obvious, but do ask your partner how she envisions things going, or if she has any particular fears. My wife knew I was deeply afraid of being outside the family, sort of orbiting around her and the baby at the core. She knew it, and went the extra mile to make sure that wasn't how it played out. But your partner may not have the same fears, or may envision a different place for herself in your family. Good luck!
Yes to everything everyone already said! In addition, one of the things that was most helpful for me was taking a "mommy and me" class with Esther just the two of us. Our local mom place had a new baby class that was mainly for mom support, and I signed up and took Esther. Yes, it was a little weird when everyone went around and talking about their birth stories, but I quickly realized that I had a birth story too, not just my wife! Everyone was welcoming and it was wonderful to be seen as the primary parent, even just for that 90 minutes a week. I won't belittle the difficulty, however. It was HARD for H. She really didn't want me taking Esther away, not because she didn't trust me, or because she didn't want us to bond or anything like that, but because it was very early into Esther's existence and she wanted to have her close. It was a really substantial thing that I took this class, but we decided together that it was important for our family.
Not sure how much I have to add here, but I do think that, for me, it was important to keep in mind that those early days aren't necessarily supposed to be "balanced" or "equal." In fact, your whole life will likely feel unbalanced! So, I'd say it's important to try hard not to quantify things -- how long the baby is nursing with the nursing mom, how important one aspect of baby care is over another, etc. That will only drive you crazy and is likely to lead to one mom feeling like she's gotten short shrift. I think it's important to look at an enlarged notion or definition of care, and to think about how caring for a nursing mom is, then, caring for a nursing baby. And changing a diaper is actually caring for a baby, even if said baby screams the whole time! ;) But also feel it out and see what seems to "click." One great thing for us was taking baths together. We learned early on not to use the baby tub, as DS only got freezing in it. We'd sometimes take baths all three of us, but I really cherished those times, with both DD and DS, when I was the mom in the bath with the babe and then DW did the toweling off (often not as fun). So look for what works and feels good, and also just try to think long-term about balance, instead of in the day-to-day. Good luck!
DP and I talked about how she could support me and the newborn in those early days while at the same time creating her own bond with the baby. I 'warned' her that because I was the breastfeeding parent, that she might feel a little handless or left out. I also told her that everything would change as the baby got older, and that times would come when the baby would want her instead of me. I was bang on.
I remember joking with her and saying, "You just wait, when dd is 18 months you are going to be the centre of her universe!" And that was a fact. For sure.
In the very beginning (that fourth trimester that I'm always going on about), it was mostly about her supporting me. Slowly, as we got the hang of things, she took on more of the fun stuff, the babywearing, rocking and shushing the baby, and then playing, etc. Now, we're about as equal as it gets, even though dd still comes to me for comfort with nursing when she's anxious or scared or hurt. DP and DD have an incredible bond. It's awesome, and being so hormonally pregnant, just thinking about how close they are makes me cry.
I agree with everyone ! For me, as the gestational parent (and nursing mama), the best gift that DW gave us all was to take the baby for snuggling/bonding/walking after the 5amish nursing and wake up. They got some serious time together (this was in the fourth trimester when DW was home for 6 weeks and then cut down to 4 days a week for work) and I got some sleep without anyone touching me! I still lie about in bed for a bit after the boychild gets up so that mommy can spend time with him before work w/o me.
All of that said, the magical soothing boobies...not much to be done about when he JUST wants to nurse and he has started being pretty mama clingy the past little bit (he's 13 months). But, we try to put our ego's aside and as we anticipate some life changes we are going to be VERY intentional about DW and DS having time as just the two of them. I've also been intentional about DW being the first to soothe whenever possible--so when he falls over or gets a bump, she swoops in for snuggles and cuddles. Only then, if he really is inconsolable do I step in with nursies. Usually he's happy to have DW snuggle and then wants to play some more!
Two moms and two boys enjoying the truth that love always wins!!!
We still struggle for balance. DS loves his mama but he and I have an intense, sometimes annoying, connection. His relationship with DW is so much smoother. Interestingly, now that DD has arrived and DW birthed her, I can see that they have a lot more friction between them than DD and I have. I would also say that DS never switched his allegiance from me to DW. This morning he told me that it would be nice if I were only his parent and DW was only DD's parent. Twerp.
It's also not easy to be the boob. It was very intense for me at times to have that much pressure and responsibility. I still sometimes just want a break. And DW also struggles with what we call The Suffocating Love of a Baby. It's not like BFing is all rainbows and butterflies - it's a great thing but there are a lot of consequences. I'm still BFing DS and have been feeling quite resentful lately because of his demands when I'm not really in the mood to snuggle up and have Mommy Milk.
My last thing, I agree that there is a lot of time to bond past the newborn stage. And now being on the non-bio side of things, I have to confess that there is a lot I like about not being the birth parent. DD is pretty damn awesome and she and I have our special things. She loves me and I'm perfectly happy to foster the bfing bond between her and DW. It's lovely in itself.
Queer Parenting since 2007