Do you want an equal partner in parenting? Then you have to play it right, starting at the very beginning. Here are some ways to make Dad a primary caregiver too:
1. Don't Do Anything in the Hospital
C-section surgery made it hard for me to move much the week after giving birth to our daughter. My husband had to do everything—except nurse. He had to bring the baby to me, put her on my breast, take her away and put her to sleep (on him!) because I couldn't. AND I LET HIM.
So instead of feeling left out of my baby love-fest, he felt super connected to our daughter, and also had a deep sense of purpose (even if was just checking the consistency and regularity of her poops.)
2. Do Not Critique His Methods
For that first week in the hospital, my husband did all the diapering. I mean all. Did our daughter pee out of it a few times? Yes, but so what? I didn't know any better, and he became known as the "diaper expert," and later the "nail-cutting expert," and "diaper pail emptier" too.
So I had to keep my mouth shut. Even if I thought I knew better.
3. Extol His Virtues. Often
Speaking of expertise, anytime anyone asked me how I was doing, I was sure to give my husband his due credit. "I couldn't do this without him," I would say, to some surprised looks. And I wasn't just blowing smoke to stroke his ego. In those early confusing weeks (why didn't anyone tell me how hard nursing was?!!) my husband would help set up my nursing station: He'd fetch me food, pillows and burp cloths on demand, like a concierge at a top hotel—or an equal parent.
4. Let Him Sleep
As a nursing mom, my early days of sleep were shot. No need for my working husband to suffer too. So in the dead of night when the baby howled for food, I'd go to her room and shut the door. I'd let my husband snore away—not because I'm so selfless, but I knew I'd need him rested in the morning to help out.
5. Pump It Out
After about a month, I finally started the pumping. It was dreadful—all the equipment and the noise and being milked like a cow—BUT my life vastly improved: Someone else could feed the baby… that someone else being my husband.
While some women who bottle-feed mourn the loss of total control, I reveled in the way my daughter looked up lovingly at my husband as he gave her a bottle of pumped milk. Whether it's nightly supplementation or expressed milk, I highly recommend giving up a feeding or two to your partner and hit the sack while he's feeding her!
6. Let Him Do it His Way
After a few months of doing this new mom thing, I did start to learn the ropes—with the help of a gazillion books and websites. I even left a copy of "The Baby Whisperer" on his pillow every night—which he got through exactly one page before conking out. But he had instinctual knowledge about parenting. Which of course was different than mine. So I had to keep my mouth shut. Even if I thought I knew better.
7. He's Got a Way
Which I often didn't. Because mothers are primally tied to their babies' cries for evolution purposes (so they can protect them,) I wasn't always of sound mind when it came to decision-making. Sometimes I just needed her to stop crying. "Just wait," my husband would say, and coolly place his hand on her heaving stomach and help her calm down. I left the room before he did, knowing she's in really good hands—her father's.