How can I get my husband to help out with the newborn?

By Gail Belsky

Q. Since the birth of our second child two months ago, my husband has spent virtually no time with the baby. Instead he's focusing on our 3-year-old. When I ask what's up, he says our older son needs his attention more. I don't understand this behavior, and I certainly don't want it to continue. Help!

A. Well, in a way your husband is right. Your older son probably does need some extra attention. And especially if you're busy nursing, there's more your husband can do for your older son than for the baby. But that's not really the point, is it? You want your husband to be as excited about the baby as you are. Instead, it's the Disappearing Daddy Syndrome, which leaves you feeling like there's nobody there to share the work -- or the wonder -- of it all. Why is he doing this? Who knows? Is it possible that he was like this with your first baby as well, but you were just too dazed to notice? Maybe he's uneasy around newborns. How long did it take him to bond with your firstborn? (It took my husband at least six months.) Ask him straight out -- "Are you uncomfortable around the baby?" -- without sounding critical. You may not get a straight answer right away -- not until he's had a chance to process the whole thing himself.

In the meantime, you still need his help, and he needs time to bond with his baby. So here's what you do: Tell your husband that you need to spend some quality time with your 3-year-old (which you do), and that you'd like to take him to the playground for a picnic lunch this weekend. If your husband protests, don't get into an argument. Just say, "I really need one-on-one time with him." The more you step aside, the more your husband will have to step in. And once he's got the baby to himself, he'll see just how much love he has to share.

Gail Belsky, a mother of two, lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, October 2003.

American Baby


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