Parenting Plans for Newborns: What Works and What Doesn’t

September 7, 2018
Gary Direnfeld

Article written by Gary Direnfeld

Co-parenting a newborn can be fraught with challenges. There is concern over the fragility of the newborn; the need for frequent feeding and diaper changes; the need for the infant to sleep and feel safe; the need for the caregiver to have their needs met while meeting those of the infant.

Needless to say, co-parenting a newborn is scary territory. The experience can be even scarier depending on the circumstances of the parents: are they young; are they older; were they ever together; is this a first child for either or are there other children between them; what is the level of conflict; are there concerns for violence or abuse; what are the parents’ views on breastfeeding and if/how that can be achieved; what supports does either parent have?

In terms of what works best and what doesn’t, it comes down to developing a parenting plan that both parents can buy into while respecting the needs and temperament of the infant. Given we are talking about infants, it is important to respect that babies this young have less tolerance for differences in their care and that considerable communication is required between the parents to facilitate care. Thus, co-parenting a newborn requires a level of cooperation and trust that may be challenging for the co-parents to bring.

Given communication will be key, if the parents themselves have difficulty communicating, then one or both of them may consider having persons who can facilitate, either directly or indirectly, their communication. The same holds true with parenting time. If there is concern about the parents being in the same space at the same time, then it would be helpful to consider the value of a neutral person being available to offer their presence to facilitate a sense of safety.

If there are ongoing disputes regarding the infant, those disputes should not be discussed while either parent is caring for the child, but rather at points where both have a break. The plan should allow for the peaceful care of the child between the parents.

A parenting plan that offers flexibility over time to meet the developmental needs of the child will also be key. What works at one month likely will need to change as the child ages. Building in capacity for change over time will go a long way to meeting the child’s needs and facilitating a good parental relationship with the child.

Flexibility on the part of the parents will be important, as will an ability to be open to instruction, compromise and support. Do consider getting professional help to support your efforts.