Serious postpartum depression

A new baby can be overwhelming for both Mom and Dad. Here’s some advice on helping Dad become more comfortable around the baby and more supportive in his new role

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Q: My husband shows no interest or initiative in helping with our newborn, and it’s making me really sad and upset. I’ve even had suicidal thoughts because of this.

A: You may be suffering from postpartum depression, which can have damaging effects on mothers and their babies. Having suicidal thoughts is very serious. I suggest that you seek help immediately; your obstetrician or family doctor can put you in touch with a qualified professional who works with new parents. Tell your husband how you are feeling and ask him to go with you to the appointments. It’s also important to find out just how he’s feeling and what keeps him from getting involved.

Sometimes new dads see babies as extremely fragile and they’re afraid they will hurt them. If this is the case with your husband, you might encourage him to hold the baby while you are present, and reassure him that he’s doing a good job.

Your husband may also be feeling usurped. He may be taking a back seat to the relationship between you and the baby because he doesn’t know how to fit himself in, or he may not feel needed. You can help by trying to find ways to include him in the baby’s care. Don’t be afraid to be specific; for example, ask your husband to care for your baby when he comes home from work while you catch a nap. Let him know you need his help. New mothers need considerable support from their partners, especially in the early days and weeks after birth.

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