Dads Matter Too
When a baby comes along there is, naturally, so much focus no the new baby and the mother but can you imagine what fathers go through with the huge change of becoming a father? In this blog post I share a couple of tips to help you along, to help your relationship, to help Mummy understand what Daddy might be going through as they transition into this new role.
When I had my first baby, I was so mindful of what I needed to do to make sure that my partner had best a start to parenthood as he could. I was lucky to draw on my years of knowledge as a Nanny to help him but, ultimately, there are some things that I think aren’t spoken about that can really help that father-child bond.
My Top Tips for becoming a Father:
Be aware of Dad’s experience in labour
One of the very first things that happens to Fathers when a Mother gives birth is the experience of watching you go through labour and have your baby. Of course, you are going through that too and a difficult birth can mean that labour is quite stressful. You can experience some sort of birth trauma or Post-Traumatic Stress, which is spoken more so for women who are starting to share their stories and talk about it. However, we could say that Dad comes out traumatised by the experience of birth, too. For Mum, you’re in that moment and you are in that moment to get baby out safely but, for Daddy, he’s not physically doing the hard work but he is in the room watching his partner in pain, sometimes struggling, and this experience can be traumatic for some men. It can cause anxiety and a lot of men feel quite helpless and find the experience very difficult to bear. They can feel helpless and exhausted – although Mum is doing the physical work, Dad might be awake for 2-3 days without any sleep. I’ve spoken to lots of Dads in the past who have found birth so traumatic; I think this is a topic we need to talk more about, as it can take Dads a little while to get over this. Although you may, or may have hard a tough time giving birth to your baby, it’s really important to remember that birth is a huge experience for Dads, too, and they don’t get the post-natal check-in from the Health Visitor, that women do.
Help Dad understand his role in the early days
With a newborn, baby’s feeding pattern is so important to establish and this, often, falls to Mum. During the first couple of days, although you want to cradle your baby yourself, be mindful that you need to give the baby to Dad so that he can start to bond, too. This is not to say that Daddy should take over holding the baby and stop breastfeeding, of course not, but Daddy can help with winding after each feed, allowing Mum to rest and changing. The more responsibility you can give to Dad in these first couple of weeks, the stronger that bond will be. It is really normal for Dads to feel a bit pushed out in the early weeks and allow Dad to help Mum rest and recover from birth.
Let Dad find his own way
It’s totally normal for new parents to make mistakes – it’s so important that Dad is allowed to make his own mistakes. We’ve all put a nappy on back to front! It’s so essential that Dad can get on with learning his own role without being told what to do. As a Mum, you need to sit back and let Dad learn his own way with baby just as much as you do as a Mum. This will build his confidence and mean that you’ll both have a better experience of new parenting together. This doesn’t mean he needs to stay awake next to you 24/7! He, too, will be better off having a chunk of 5-6 hours sleep if you’re feeding at night so that you can rest in the day. Once everyone starts to get very tired, there’s no point you both being exhausted at the same time; try to tag team and share that responsibility as much as you can in the early days, particularly whilst he’s on his two weeks Paternity Leave.
Allowing Dad to give baby a bottle
We are often told so many different pieces of advice around breastfeeding and giving a bottle alongside breastfeeding in the early days. In my approach I do believe you can give a bottle in the first 1-2 weeks alongside breastfeeding, if you’re happy to do so. You won’t want to confuse your milk supply so, if you do want Dad to give a bottle at 8pm, then Mum needs to pump instead of that feed so that you still maintain the milk supply that you’re asking of your body. Pump and keep it for tomorrow’s feed. Let Dad enjoy feeding the baby; I really do think this is one of the best ways for Dad to build their confidence up and bond with baby. Although it’s easy for Mum to tell Dad how to do it, I really would encourage you to let Dad learn himself how to bottle feed and then wind.
Think about your relationship
In those early weeks, ask someone close to you to come and sit with baby in the early evening so that the pair of you can go for a walk or a meal for an hour or maybe two, in the first 8-12 weeks of baby’s life. I really do believe that it’s so easy to forget your relationship is those first newborn weeks and months – of course it takes time – but it is so important for the pair of you to remember that you really, really matter too. I’d strongly encourage that you have this time together, to reflect, to support each other and to simply be together. You should have an hour or two between feeds at this point so do ask a well-meaning friend or family member to help you.
Of course baby is your world once they arrive but keeping those lines of communication open in your relationship between Mum and Dad, particularly in those early newborn days, is so so important.