If this is your first child, there are a lot of new things to learn including breastfeeding (if this is what you’re planning), feeding your baby and bathing, amongst many others. You’ll quickly realize how much your life is going to change!
If you’re considering having a child with a co-parent, you might be thinking of sharing custody. As you know, newborns require a great deal of looking after. Co-parenting at this early time in their life necessitates specific arrangements, in order to make sure that their needs and well-being are respected.
What do babies need?
Your baby’s needs come first. Every child needs consistency and a routine, but this is more particularly the case with newborns. Everything must be planned and done at a set time, for instance, feeding (breastfeeding or not) or sleeping.
Newborns like a predictable and fixed routine with lots of sleep, set meal times, cuddles, eye contact and bonding with their parents. On the contrary, unfamiliar routines, such as moving to a new home, can make your baby anxious.
Sharing custody or not?
Custody arrangements depend on a child’s age and personality. But whatever their age and whether you’re a 2, 3, 4 or more parent family, children need the love and care that each individual parent provides.
Newborns have frequently one co-parent as a primary caregiver, often the mother but not always. They (father or mother) usually take care of most of the day-to-day tasks, such as feeding, bathing, bedtime, changing nappies, etc. It’s best for the child to spend most of their time with their main caregiver in order to avoid them having to move from one house to the other too frequently.
Whether they are involved in a relationship or single, some co-parents decide to live together during the first months of their child’s life. This way each parent stays with their baby while respecting their need for a stable routine.
If you can’t live together or prefer not to, the baby should remain at either their mum’s or their dad’s. Try to avoid overnights for the moment, and living close to each other is recommended.
Whatever kind of custody you choose, remember that your baby needs to have regular contact with their non-primary caregiver (at least every two or three days, if possible). If they have siblings, it’s also important for them to see them frequently. To create a bond, each parent should participate in tasks such as feeding, changing nappies, bath-time, playing, going for a walk (babies love it!), etc.
Moreover, as babies often need a strict schedule, custody and visiting time must be planned around their routine (feeding time, breastfeeding, bathing, bedtimes, etc.).
What to do if you are breastfeeding
Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, co-parenting plans have to be arranged around your baby’s feeding schedule. If you’re breastfeeding, it is most likely that the baby is going to stay at their mum’s. If this is your case and you’re the mother, you may prefer to avoid being separated from your child for too long.
Breastfeeding is an excellent way to create a strong bond between a child and their mum. However, this should not be a reason for separating the child from their dad. Using a breast pump or getting involved in doing other tasks are opportunities for the dad to look after their child and create a special bond.
Create a parenting plan and discuss what’s best for your baby together
You’ve made this baby together. Therefore, any decisions should be taken jointly when it comes to your baby’s needs and routine.
While writing the co-parenting arrangement (parenting plan), think together about how to share your parenting responsibilities: What type of custody arrangement will you choose? Who will the child live with? Who will be the main caregiver? Consider other questions regarding your little one’s routine: Breastfeeding or not? What baby products and items should you both use? What about bedtime schedules? How should you arrange the nursery? Other things to consider are parental leave and childcare.
These topics should be discussed in advance, before conception or birth preferably. Writing a parenting plan will serve to set out your choices and intentions, as well as your rights and responsibilities towards your little one, on paper. As your child grows up and their needs change, you’ll have to regularly amend this co-parenting arrangement.
Once the baby is born, it’s important to keep track of visiting schedules and doctor’s appointment to ensure that both parents are fully involved in their child’s life.