This list of Tips for New Dads comes from a dad who remembers all too well the first few weeks and months of fatherhood!
Dominic is a father of two. He has written an account of his experiences of fatherhood in the first few weeks after his eldest was born, and on hindsight how he feels that new dads can better support their other halves go through labour and birth.
“After nine months of preparation for fatherhood- antenatal classes, articles, books and not to mention a few traumatic (for me) episodes of ‘One Born Every Minute’, my wife’s contractions start. After 24 hours of on-and-off contractions, the intensity increases and we finally make our way to the hospital. The whole time I’m thinking “I am going to be a dad!” Everything was going according to plan.
Another 24 hours later and the plan had been thrown out of the window. My wife was being prepped and wheeled into the theatre room for an emergency caesarean. The process was awful, my wife had a bad reaction to the medication, the baby couldn’t breastfeed, and we were discharged a couple of days later. We did not expect THAT!
The birth of a child is the most amazing thing ever. However, when things derail, it can be scary. As a first-time dad making his way to fatherhood I made a lot of assumptions about the birth plan and none of them happened. When a mate asked me for tips days before the birth of his son, I realised that there were a few things that I would have done differently. Hindsight’s great, right? So here’s what I learnt personally:
At the hospital:
- I always thought my wife would take the lead role and instinctively know what to do and I would just be there to support. I would recommend that you discuss this in advance and make sure you are both on the same page. When in labour she might be in too much pain to think straight and she may need you to be her support and her advocate. You don’t want to be unsure on what to do to help. I took the relaxed approached because along with my wife’s sister, we were keeping my wife distracted from the pain through joking around instead of practising everything we were told in our antenatal classes. Big mistake. So especially relevant:
- Encourage her to keep moving around. Help her to take a walk if she can.
- Help her to keep on all fours if she gets tired of moving, or sit on a birthing ball.
- Try and get her to avoid lying on her back the whole time.
- Use the birth pool if you’re given the opportunity.
- Insist on staying over-night with your wife at the hospital if she needs you there. Some hospitals will ask you to leave because of hospital rules. You can try and speak to the senior midwife. My wife was in tears when I was made to leave as she had only just had her caesarian, was struggling to come to terms with what had just happened and was scared.
Breastfeeding at the hospital:
- Try and encourage your wife to breastfeed if that’s the plan, and hold the baby skin-to-skin (lying on her chest) as soon as possible – when we first came out of theatre for some reason I spent the first few hours holding our daughter. What we later on realised was how helpful skin-to-skin contact was and that it would have been great to initiate this right from the start.
- Most hospital have lactation consultants if your partner is experiencing any discomfort, and there is a variety of support networks once you come home. Read more about breastfeeding here.
- It goes without saying but my wife needed a lot of support after the C-section. She had been through the wars and needed support with most things, as yours will, c-section or not. If it was a birth which required intervention, she may feel that she needs to talk about it and come to terms with anything unexpected, so speak to her about it and let her tell you how she feels about what happened. Most of all she needs her feelings to be validated right now.
- Now’s the time to start cashing into the frozen food stash that you both made before your baby was born!
- Support your wife in her effort to breastfeed if this was part of the plan. The reason that she will need encouragement is that sometimes it doesn’t go how you expected it to and seeing what Shabs went through, it can be painful. If you feel bad because she is in pain and baby is crying, don’t try and force formula onto her. That will most likely make her feel unsupported, and like a failure for not being able to do something so natural. Remind her why she is doing this, and get in touch with local lactation consultants so that you can figure out why she is struggling.
Now, this bit is important. Even if she has a breast pump attached to both boobs, even if she is spraying milk onto everything, NO calling her a cow as a joke. NO making her feel unsexy. NO telling baby “you don’t know how good you got it”. I’m not kidding, I know guys who have said this – and barely lived to tell the tale.
You don’t have to gush about it being beautiful. Just don’t make her feel like its gross, even if you encounter bleeding and cracked nipples, vomiting, spilt breastmilk and lumpy boobs. Remember that she’s doing this so that your baby can get the best possible start in life.
Night time feeding
- If your wife has chosen to breastfeed then during the night be prepared to help her to do this (if she is in pain through a caesarean or other intervention) by bringing your baby over whenever its feed-time. Even if your baby is in a Moses Basket on your wife’s side of the bed, the process for her of sitting up, rotating to the side and lifting baby out can be painful due to the stitches. My wife and I agreed that I would get up and feed the baby formula through the night so that she could sleep – we didn’t realise how bad that ended up being to her milk supply.
“What have you been doing all day?!?”
- If you come home after a days work and the house is in a state, don’t moan about it. (I learned this the hard way.) While you may feel like she had the whole day to do nothing, she’s still healing and trying to figure out how to look after baby as well as herself and probably spent most of the day working out how to breastfeed (which takes hours and hours the first few weeks), nappies everywhere, while trying to find time to feed herself. Even though you’ve just come back from work, it might be handy if you spent half an hour just cleaning up the place. Before you think “But she’s been at home all day!” then read about four lines up. You may think it sucks but remember fellas; I’m talking from experience. Whatever you could get done in half an hour could take your missus about two hours in her current condition, and she will totally love you for looking after her since she has been looking after the baby all day. It won’t be forever.
I hope I haven’t scared you too much! Bringing a baby into this world is most probably the most awesome thing you guys will do and your wife is a rockstar for doing it. And if you follow some of the tips above you and your wife will have the smoothest few months possible. And let’s face it, ultimately that’s what us blokes want right?
I hope I have helped in some way, good luck!
Do you have any thoughts? Let us know!