How You Can Help

You are the most important support person for your partner. You will most likely prepare the items for going to the hospital, and you may be doing the driving! If you have not indulged in cooking before, you may need to learn how to prepare some meals, and even master some massage techniques. Of all the ways you can be supportive to your partner, however, listening comes first. Enjoy this short journey as the person to be leaned upon, and take this opportunity to build a stronger bond with your partner.

Labor and Delivery

As a labor companion, know that your supportive, loving presence alone will be a tremendous help to your partner. Feel reassured knowing that labor nurses and her health care provider will guide you and offer ideas for how to best help your partner once you're at the hospital. While you are still at home, just help your partner relax. You know how to do this better than anyone else does because you know her best.

Throughout each stage of labor, there is much you can do to help your partner.

Remember that your love, support and encouragement are extremely important. Stage one includes three phases:

Stage 1

Early Phase

  • Keep her calm and relaxed.
  • Reassure her that she has learned to cope with contractions.
  • Help her stay comfortable in or out of bed.
  • Massage tense areas, or do an overall body massage.
  • Encourage her to keep her entire body relaxed.
  • Try to sleep or rest yourself, if it's your normal sleeping time.
  • Encourage her to eat lightly and drink fluids.

Active Phase

  • Help her change positions often and get comfortable.
  • Remind her to go to the bathroom often.
  • Talk her through contractions.
  • Help her visualize relaxing situations.
  • Praise her on how well she's dealing with labor.
  • Keep her lips and mouth moist with sips of water or ice chips.
  • Give her encouragement and moral support.
  • Keep talking and listening to her.
  • Adjust the bed for better positions to maximize comfort.

Transitional Phase

  • Talk her through the contractions. Breathe with her if it helps her.
  • Be prepared for contractions with multiple peaks or ones that don't seem to go away.
  • Watch for signs of pushing. She has so much to concentrate on that you may notice her moaning or hear her holding her breath and figure out before she does that it's an urge to push.
  • Use a firm but loving and positive approach.
  • Help her relax between contractions.
  • Be understanding if she feels frustrated, short-tempered, or upset.
  • Help her anticipate the next contraction and begin breathing before it starts.
  • Stay with her and hold her hand.

Stage 2: Pushing

  • Let her push in the way that feels most comfortable and effective for her.
  • Ask her how you can help or try something yourself hold her legs, support her back, talk her through the push.
  • Be careful not to pull back too far on her legs.
  • Remind her to keep her chin down and not to arch her back.
  • Help her get comfortable.
  • Remind her to relax below and to relax her face.
  • Encourage her to rest between contractions.
  • When you start to see your baby's head, tell her!

Stage 3: After Delivery

  • Ask the doctor or nurse-midwife if you can cut the umbilical cord.
  • Hold baby skin-to-skin to your skin & help hold baby to Mom's.
  • Communicate her wishes to the nurses for immediate breastfeeding, time alone, or whatever she's told you she wants.
  • Ask about your baby's Apgar score. This assessment of your baby's well-being is performed right after birth and repeated again 5 minutes later. The health care provider will assign your baby a number that reflects your baby's color, heart rate, muscle tone, cry and reflexes. It is common for the first Apgar score to be lower than the second. It takes most babies a few minutes to start to cry vigorously, turn pink, and move actively.

After Baby Arrives


When a new mother is breastfeeding, you might feel like you have little or no role to play in infant feeding. A supportive partner is very important and much appreciated by a breastfeeding mother. Your baby and your partner need you, and there are specific ways you can help.

Learn about breastfeeding. During her pregnancy, listen when she wants to discuss what she's learned about infant feeding methods. Spend time here, as well as any additional materials provided by your doctor or nurse-midwife. Go with her to her prenatal visits and ask your own questions. Attend prenatal and breastfeeding preparation classes with her to learn even more about breastfeeding and formula feeding.

Pro-Breastfeeding Information

  • The Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend that babies receive breast milk in the first year.
  • Breastfed babies have significantly fewer respiratory and ear infections than formula-fed babies and are less likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Breastfeeding reduces an infant's risk of developing food allergies, and initial research suggests that breastfeeding may have a long-term positive effect on a baby's immune system.
  • Breastfeeding helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy state more quickly and helps postpartum bleeding stop more quickly.
  • Breastfeeding can help protect the mother against cancer of the breast and ovary.
  • Breastfeeding releases hormones that help the mother relax and enjoy her baby.
  • Breastfeeding is free, and there are no bottles to wash.
  • Breast milk is all the food a baby needs for the first 6 months.
  • Know what to expect by asking your health care provider or reading books on Breastfeeding. You'll learn that newborns nurse about every 1 to 3 hours each day. As babies get older, they can go longer between feedings.

Encourage Her

New mothers often doubt their abilities to breast feed. She may feel discouraged or weepy, and express doubts about whether or not she can produce enough milk. It would be rare for her to not be producing enough milk. Be sure to encourage her by showing your love and support. Let her know you have faith in her. Encourage her to sit or lie down and relax more often for a few days. Let her know that you understand that this is a big adjustment. Call the lactation consultant to answer your breastfeeding concerns.

Actively Support Your Decision

You can bet on it: Just as soon as the two of you make an infant feeding choice, someone will step forward to challenge your decision. Your mom may testify that all her children were bottle-fed and turned out just fine. A sister may say that when she returned to work, breastfeeding became "too hard." Friends may pick at your partner's confidence in little ways: "Maybe your baby cries so much because she's hungry" "Are you sure he's eating enough?" "Why don't you sleep and let me feed her a bottle."

You can step forward to respond to these kinds of comments so your partner doesn't have to: "We've decided on breastfeeding, and it's going very well." "Our baby is gaining weight and Ami is doing such a great job breastfeeding." "Our baby's crying because she needs me to hold her!"

Help With Feedings

Yes, there are things you can do. Bring her pillows and then hold your baby while she gets settled in a comfortable position. Bring her something to drink (she'll get thirsty while nursing). She needs good nutrition and a steady intake of fluids all day long.

Help prepare meals (cheese and crackers provide quick protein), or help bring home healthy take-out food. Salads, soups, and pasta are generally better choices than fried burgers and pizza.

After your baby has finished nursing on one side, you can burp or walk with your baby until your partner is ready to start on the other side. If your baby falls asleep, you can carry her to her crib.

Bottle-Feeding: If your baby is older and takes an occasional bottle of breast milk, it may work best if you do the bottle feeding. Your baby may equate Mom with breastfeeding and may not like the idea of taking a bottle from her. Here's your chance to bond with your baby.

Formula Feeding: If you have decided to go with Formula instead of breastfeeding, there are even more opportunities for Dad to bond with Baby!

Accept Help

Your partner may be shy about accepting help, but encourage her to allow family and friends to pitch in with meals and cleaning. The best way to get mom back in full swing is to allow her to rest!

Run Errands

There's probably a grocery store or pharmacy shopping list on the refrigerator - grab it and go. At least during the first week or two, your partner will need to sleep when she isn't feeding your baby or eating herself. Help her out.

Spend time with your baby. After your baby's been fed, send Mom to bed for a nap and you hang out with your new baby. Time with Dad is very special, and you can start morning or bedtime rituals now that will continue into childhood.

Help Calm The Baby

You cannot spoil a baby. In fact, babies who know their parents will take care of them when they cry usually cry less and calm down quicker. You cannot hold and comfort a baby too much. Your baby is learning that he can trust you and you will be there when he needs you.

Help The Siblings Adjust

If this is not your first child, you can play a key role in helping siblings adjust to your new baby. By helping with Baby yourself, you show that Mom isn't deserting the family for the baby, but that this is a new family member. The older children in your household could probably use some "one-on-one" time with daddy. Set aside regular time for "just the big kids," and do something fun together. Also, create some opportunities like this for Mom, so the older children can see that Baby doesn't get all of the attention.

By sympathizing with the jealous feelings new siblings often have, you can help them feel accepted and loved, and help them to welcome Baby more warmly. When your baby is sleeping (and certainly unaware of whatever you say), try saying something like "No, baby,this isn't my time with you. This is my time with your sister." Hearing this type of message can offset any resentment that sister or brother may be experiencing, showing them that Baby also has to wait now and then.

Be Understanding

You're a family now, and you have a child's needs to consider and meet. Let your partner know that you still want to feel close, but give her time to get accustomed to being a new mother and give yourself time, too.

Try to be understanding when your baby gets most of your partner's attention. Your partner is tired, recovering, and learning to care for your baby so she may feel a little overwhelmed. It may seem that she doesn't have much time for you right now. On one hand, things will improve: both of you will find your own rhythm of parenting and will soon feel more in control. On the other hand, it is true that things between the two of you will never be quite the same.

Make Time For Just The Two Of You

Family and couples therapists often say that the best gift you can give your child is a happy couple heading the family. Making time for the two of you is very important to your marriage and to your new family. True, the weeks after a new baby's birth aren't usually the most likely time for romantic trysts, but look for opportunities and know that "dating" will get easier as the weeks pass. When you're ready to leave your baby, even briefly, get a sitter and get away for a walk, a drive or a date.

Be Affectionate

Know that she probably feels as unattractive right now as she'll ever feel, so help her feel loved and beautiful by lighting candles, bringing her flowers, tell her how much you love her, and let her know that she is attractive to you.

Try Asking these Questions

  • How can we simplify our life during the first weeks after our baby is born?
  • How much time do you want to take off from work?
  • How much time would you like me to take off? What if I'm not very good at this diapering/burping/ putting our-baby-to-sleep stuff?
  • Can you think of some things I could do now, during the pregnancy that could really help you?
  • Whom do we want present at the birth?
  • Can you help me think of some things I can take on after our baby is born that would be especially important and helpful?
  • Whom do we want to help us after our baby is born?