Co-parenting with a baby is a challenging and demanding experience for a new parent.
Unlike co-parenting with an older child, a baby requires constant care, attention, and support. From feeding and changing to soothing and nurturing, co-parenting a baby demands both parents to be fully committed and engaged.
Although it might seem daunting, it is also an opportunity to build a strong foundation for the future.
In this article, l explore some tips for co-parenting with a baby and how to make the transition into parenthood as smooth as possible. Whether you have gone through pregnancy alone and are now trying to involve babies father, or you’re newly separated, help is at hand.
Further reading: Co-parenting tips I wish I knew ten years ago.
1. Establish a consistent sleep schedule
Sleep is very important for your baby’s health especially as sleep quality and hours directly affect children and babies’ growth and brain development.
Establish with your co-parent the sleep pattern that keeps your baby happy, alert, and healthy.
Does your baby need naps after every feeding? Is 8pm the right time to put your baby to bed? What sends your baby to sleep? Is it rocking her gently? Is it the white noise machine or a lullaby player? If you find that your baby has preferred techniques and routines to go to sleep, make these available and implemented in both homes.
Having a regular schedule and consistent sleeping techniques at both homes will maintain a familiar and safe environment for your baby that will always be conducive to sleep.
2. How, when, what to feed your baby
Feeding. The most important time of the day for your baby.
If you are a breastfeeding co-parent, you have to put in some extra loving effort to ensure that enough milk is expressed for the days that your baby will be spending with your co-parent. Learn how to store and pack your milk (and the right accompanying bottles) properly so that it can survive the trip to your co-parent’s house and fridge.
If you use formula for your baby, make sure that your co-parent also knows that exact brand and type of formula they have to buy and prepare at their house.
Whether you do scheduled feeding vs. on-demand feeding, establish the same method with your co-parent. Having different manners and schedules of feeding can make your baby feel stressed and mistrusting towards one parent (or both).
3. Use the same nappies when you co-parent a baby
One of you might think, “well it’s just nappies, how different could they be?”
The answer is: they could be a lot different to your baby’s skin. Using the wrong nappy can mean skin irritation for your baby if one of you co-parents use the wrong one.
Come to an agreement with your co-parent on whether you use disposable vs. reusable nappies for your baby. If you prefer to use disposable nappies, make sure you both know which brand and size is suited for your baby. Confirm with the other co-parent when it’s time to upsize your baby’s nappy.
Additional tip: List two brands that agree with your baby’s skin so that if favourite brand suddenly runs out at the shops, you or your co-parent can buy the second preferred brand. This way, you both avoid conflict and possible skin complications for your baby if your favourite brand runs out at your local supermarket. Buying nappies online in bulk is a good way to save money and make sure there are always plenty in the house.
4. Share baby equipment to keep costs down
Having two homes for your baby to grow up in doesn’t mean everything has to be bought in two. You and your co-parent should definitely consider sharing baby equipment for more reasons than one.
To keep costs down and maintain a familiar home environment for your baby, prepare a list of items that need to be moved between homes at changeover time. Are there things on this list that you could share? This would mean less expense between you, less to move between homes, and your baby gets to use the equipment they are most familiar with. Win/win/win.
This list can include the car seat, stroller, walker, baby rocker and the more pricey items that can be shared between you and your co-parent.
5. Move comforters between homes
Even as adults, we have our favourite beddings, wraps, and blankets when we are relaxing or sleeping at home. Comforters play a huge role when it comes to ensuring the quality of our sleep and our feelings of safety.
Remember the shared list of things that come with the baby when traveling to each other’s house? This should also include your baby’s favourite comforter, blanky, and soft toys.
Maintaining comfort and familiarity for your baby is crucial in creating a constant sense of home, whether staying with you or your co-parent. This reduces risks for stress and anxiety for your baby as moving becomes a regular part of their schedule.
6. Be prepared to make changes as your baby grows
While similar routines, using the same stuff, and maintaining the same essential schedule for your baby is a fantastic thing to do when you co-parent a baby, you also need to discuss and make decisions when changes are coming. And mumma, these changes keep on coming!
From changing clothes and nappy size to feeding times and food preferences, discuss with your co-parent your observations and changes that need to be implemented, as often as needed.
Try to be open to sharing ideas about what is working in your home with your co-parent. For example, you may have safety-proofed your home in anticipation of the crawling stage. Let your ex-partner know what works well and what doesn’t. Remember, the person who will benefit the most from your shared information is your baby.
7. Communicate with the other co-parent
Babies are in a stage where they are developing their sense of trust, especially in their primary caregivers. And your obligation is to maintain that through meeting all your baby’s needs as consistently and timely as possible, whether it’s at your house or your co-parent’s house.
This is only possible when both of you have established an aligned understanding of the each of these needs and the details of responding to them.
It goes without saying that clear communication is crucial for both of you in achieving success when it comes to understanding your baby’s needs and accepting the responsibilities that come with meeting them.
This is the type of communication where any form of resentment or passive aggressiveness is out the door, one where you actually sit down (whether in-person or video call) to actually take notes and confirm with each other the right manner or your baby’s preferred measures when it comes to sleep, feeding, personal possessions, and play.
For general, on-going communication and everyday planning, a co-parenting app is a great way to keep everything in one place and avoid any confusion that could cause upset to either parent or your baby.
8. Create a parenting plan to co-parent your baby
Speaking of taking notes, it will be hugely beneficial for you and your co-parent to establish a shared parenting plan.
This might sound excessive but trust me. As a mum, I think any parent can benefit with having a written plan in place, especially co-parents who are doing their best to maintain quality standards in taking care of their baby between two separate and alternating households.
Writing a parenting plan together can also improve your communication and cooperation skills as co-parents while also creating a clear record and reference for your baby’s growth, changes, and needs. You forgot the favourite piece of music that soothes your baby? Refer to the parenting plan. Your co-parent keeps getting confused about the ratio of formula scoops to water? It’s there detailed in the plan.
Effective communication as co-parents is not only manifested through lengthy discussions about your baby (these are very important too!), but also through maintaining supportive resources for each other, such as a shared parenting plan.