23 Postpartum Hacks for Dads

There are lots of articles to guide new moms through the challenging world of postpartum life. Turns out, every marriage has a built-in postpartum hack: ask your husband to help!

But dad, a little overwhelmed with a temporarily-dependent wife and now a very dependent brand-new, tiny human, might not stay on top of things as much as he’d like. Here are some helpful hacks to help dads help their wives (and themselves) shed some of the stress without losing their minds.

1. Prepare some postpartum pads for mom.

We all know your wife is going to be sore after the birth, so the best time to do this is before the baby comes. All it takes is a few menstrual pads, some aloe, witch hazel and a freezer. When her postpartum pain hits, just open the freezer and whip out those glorious packets of relief. You’ll be glad you were prepared and your (suffering) wife will think you’re thoughtful and brilliant. (Specifics here.)

2. Go tropical on your baby’s bum.

measuring tablespoon and glass jar coconut cooking oil on a slate rock background
Baby’s first few bowel movements often look like tar due to meconium, and can be equally delightful to clean up. Try to get some coconut oil on her newborn bum before that happens. When the meconium comes along, the oil will repel it, making cleanup a breeze.

3. Make a portable changing station.

Fill a picnic basket with all the baby-changing necessities for portable damage control. It’s easier than running all the way to the nursery every time baby needs a diaper change. Alternatively, set up several mini changing stations around the house — at least one on each floor. Be sure to keep them well stocked — your wife has a lot to worry about; don’t let the diaper supply be one of them.

4. Harness helpful visitors with a chore chart.

chore chart
Lots of people will stop by to visit, meet the baby, and offer to help out. Let them! Put up a whiteboard or poster and make a list of anything you can think of that needs to get done (refill the soap in the bathroom, fold laundry, water the garden, write thank-you notes, cook a meal, etc). It will function as a to-do list for you, give helpers direction, and reassure your wife that the house is still functioning so she can focus on healing. You’ll feel organized, helpful, and accomplished as more and more things get checked off.

5. Maintain a feeding station.

baby feeding station
Your wife may do this for herself before labor, but help her out by keeping it clean, organized and stocked, and be willing to run to add things as she uses it. If they’re not already there, moms report finding these items to be feeding-station necessities: phone/ipad charger, a few books/magazines, healthy snacks (i.e. apples, granola bars), bibs or burp rags, bottled water, the remote control, a pillow (for napping or back support), breast pads (and lanolin!), baby nail clippers, a lamp, and a blanket. (Photo courtesy of these guys.)

6. Those shoulder flaps have a purpose.

onesie shoulder flaps
You know those weird flappy shoulder things on onesies? They’re intended to make the onesie neck expandable enough to pull downward over baby’s shoulders to remove it during a diaper explosion (rather than upwards over the baby’s head, spreading the mess). It’s built-in damage control that you’ll be grateful for. (Photo courtesy of these guys.)

7. A little lanolin can go a long way.

Calendula cosmetic cream on wooden background
Your nipples may not be very helpful during the breastfeeding stage, but hers are. In fact, they’re not only necessary, but also chapped and painful. Keep her well-stocked with lanolin and breast pads. She’ll use the breast pads when she’s leaking, but breast pads with lanolin will give her relief the rest of the time.

8. Hum to calm your gag reflex.

dad gagging 2
Speaking of diaper-changing damage control, vomiting all over your precious child while you remove her not-quite-as-precious refuse is counterproductive. There are a few methods out there for outsmarting your gag reflex, but humming is probably best in this circumstance. It’s physically impossible to gag while you hum, the tune will help keep your mind off what you’re doing and it will probably calm baby. (Unless your kid finds your gag reflex hilarious, like for this poor guy, pictured above.)

9. Gift cards and meal trains are your friends.

C8Y71F A selection of gift cards in a store in New York on Wednesday, November 2, 2011. (© Richard B. Levine)
Before baby arrives, buy gift cards to a variety of your favorite restaurants, particularly ones that offer take-out. Once your bundle of joy is born, treat yourselves to good food without the hassle of cooking. Neither you nor your wife will be up for food prep, especially if you have other kids to wrangle.  Pinched for money? Start a meal train with the Meal Baby app instead. It lets you schedule the meals that family and friends are already offering to bring so you always have the right amount of home-cooked food. (Photo courtesy of these guys.)

10. Use Moses baskets around the house.

iPhone image. A tired newborn baby boy yawning in his Moses basket. A grainy image with a vintage glow.
Picture it: Your wife lays down for a nap, and you have sole charge of the baby. Most dads lay the kid on a blanket in the living room and obsessively check on him as they do chores. But not you! You’ve discovered the Moses basket. They’re easy to take with you from room to room and perfectly accommodate swaddled newborns who don’t need much space to begin with. (Besides, if you’re secretly afraid of breaking this fragile little human in transit, these baskets allow you to pick up the baby without picking up the baby.)

11. Use cheap makeup brushes for ointment.

Cosmetic brush for applying make-up portable with a cap.
Newborns often require impossibly frequent diaper changes. Getting your hands sticky with diaper cream 8 million times a day will get old. Instead, grab an old makeup brush and use it to apply the cream instead. (Bonus points if you buy a cheap one yourself or ask the wife before making an executive decision on which of her brushes qualifies as “old.”)

12. Don’t check inside the diaper, check outside.

Many diapers have a line on the outside that changes colors when the diaper gets wet. Don’t waste diapers by guessing whether it’s time for a new one; between the smell and the line, you’ll already know! (Photo courtesy of these guys.)

13. If you’re doing bottles, make bottle prep part of the nighttime routine.

A modern Dad Preparing Baby Bottles in the kitchen
If bottles are part of your routine, whether they get filled with pumped milk or formula, having some already set up can make 3 am feedings much more bearable.

14. Brush-free bottle clean-up is no longer the stuff of legends.

Say goodbye to scrubbing bottles with this household-material, baby-safe cleaning hack.

15. Dodge the boy-llet.

Newborn after bathing covered with yellow towel
That was a terrible pun but here’s the point: newborn boys often pee soon after their diaper is removed because the temperature change on their lower abdomen triggers that reflex. Before removing your little man’s diaper, wipe a cool cloth across his lower abdomen and wait a few moments for the reflex to pass. You’ll dodge that bullet without having to dodge something less metaphorical.

16. Active babies hate manicures…

Mother cutting newborn babies nails
…But sleeping babies don’t. Your newborn’s deepest part of the sleep cycle comes about 20 minutes into nap time. Take this opportunity to clip her nails without the tears.

17. 5-minute stink-beater.

This is an easy do-it-yourself project that the whole family will thank you for. Fill an empty wipe-dispenser with plastic grocery bags, looping them together like this until the container is full. When it’s time to dispose of the smell (before the smell disposes of you), your bags are right there, quick and self-dispensing. Better yet, the whole unit is easy to throw in a diaper bag so you don’t have to worry about having enough bags on the go.

18. Invest in baby gowns or sleep sacks.

They’re great for easier diaper changes, day and night. Baby gowns usually extend well past the baby’s feet and have an open bottom that can be scrunched up to the baby’s belly during a change. Sleep sacks work the same way but fasten shut. Zippers that start from the bottom and go up are often preferred so the diaper can be changed while baby’s upper body stays warm. (Photo courtesy of these guys.)

19. Keep an extra shirt for yourself in the diaper bag.

Pick an occasion-appropriate shirt, slip it into a gallon freezer bag to keep it clean, and stow it when you’re loading up the diaper bag. Bonus points if you pack a shirt for your wife in there, too. Spit up doesn’t discriminate. (Photo courtesy of these guys.)

20. Keep binkies clean with soufflé cups.

While we know pacifiers can interfere with early breastfeeding establishment, we also know some babies just gotta have ’em. For germaphobe dads out there, here is an easy way to keep binkies clean when you travel. If you’re really particular, you can even use this hack to prevent cross-contamination between clean and dirty pacifiers. Create your own system for distinguishing clean binkies from dirty ones, such as setting the clean ones face-down in the cup and replacing them face-up when they’ve been used. (Photo courtesy of these guys.)

21. Make nose-wiping a game.

Close Up Of Father Holding Baby Daughter In Nursery
Rather than pinching at her face, playfully toss the tissue over baby’s face and pull it away like peek-a-boo. After baby’s on board with the game, use the face-covered time to gently wipe (not squeeze) baby’s nose. Repeat until the nose is clean or the baby is less afraid.

22. Help sick baby recover with less fuss.

Baby not willing to take medicine? Invest in a pacifier with a hole in the tip of the mouthpiece (or cut a hole yourself). When baby’s asleep, use an eyedropper to administer the medicine into the hole through the back of the binkie. Make sure baby is swallowing, and be realistic about how much you squeeze in at a time. It might be slow-going, but anything helps when your little one is under the weather. (Photo courtesy of these guys.)

23. Use a command hook for easy bib access.

Whether baby is on milk or starting real food, learning to eat can be a mess. Put a Command hook near the feeding station or on the back of her highchair, and stock it up with clean bibs. Try to clean bibs as promptly as possible and keep the hook full (put it on the chore chart!). Whoever’s feeding will appreciate it. (Photo courtesy of these guys.)

— CCL Staff Member