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The birth of your baby is a momentous occasion for any dad. Parenting can be the most rewarding and challenging role of your life. But parents “learn on the job” and Dad’s have to find their role just as mums do. Often there are concerns or fears, but most men really want to engage with their children as much as they possibly can. The best way to tackle the situation is to getting involved from the beginning…and I don’t just mean the conception part!
Dad’s Role Before baby is born
For obvious reasons, the mother may find it easier to bond with the baby growing inside of her, but it can be far more challenging for Dads. As a first step, it is a good idea for Dads to accompany their pregnant partner to as many medical appointments as they possibly can. If this is not possible, then the ultrasound appointments are highly recommended, where you will get the chance to see your growing bub for the first time. This is one moment you will never forget. Feeling the baby kick for the first time is also one of those amazing moments.
It can also be helpful if Dad can attend any prenatal classes with their pregnant partner before the baby arrives. You might learn things like how to support your partner through the birth or be armed with knowledge for when baby arrives. Of course unexpected things can happen but you’ll get points for showing up and being prepared!
How things have changed for Dads
There’s definitely been a huge shift over the years to improve the opportunities for Dads to be involved. Even one generation ago, Dads were not allowed to be in the birthing suite. These days we wouldn’t have it any other way!
In some ways the gender specific roles of the past made it easier for people to know their responsibilities. But nowadays a lot of the parenting tasks are shared, so the boundaries become blurred. Needless to say it’s fantastic that Dads are so much more involved and society has changed enabling mums to return to work more easily if they so choose. You may wish to read our blog on “Heading Back to Work After Baby’.
Dads can also have some input during preparations for the baby including the purchase of items for the nursery, car seat, pram etc. Of course Mum will probably have a big say, but just being there, being interested and acting as a sounding board is a great help since you will both be using these items for baby.
Dad’s Role During the birth
For many men, the birth of the baby can be a very daunting milestone. For some Mums too it can also be an overwhelming experience. Just being there beside your partner can be a great help and your presence and words of support will be very comforting to your partner. Perhaps you could distract her through contractions, take a few photos for the scrap book or be her advocate or offer encouragement when things are not going according to the birth plan. This is really a topic we could write about for hours, perhaps best saved for another blog, but most fathers report that the birth of their child is one of the best moments of their lives.
Dad’s Role After Baby Is Born
Most men want to be involved but can be unsure about what the “Dad’s role” involves. Men want to do the right thing but don’t know where to start. There are now 2 people who will need your attention so try to help your partner as well as the baby – they both need you. Your partner is going through a major readjustment to her life since baby arrived.
Your relationship with your partner may go through a period of change as well. You may not have time to do all the things you used to do and neither will your partner. Children need your time more than anything. It is however, still important to try to find time to do things together such as a meal, a walk or a “date night” so that you can maintain and nurture your relationship. You were a couple before you became a family so as much as the the baby feels like the priority right now, remember to give time to each other as well.
Bonding with Baby
Here are some great ways that Dads (and Mums) can bond with their baby.
- Hands on involvement in the day to day activities like nappy changing, settling and feeding.
- Use these opportunities to interact with baby and as they grow you will be rewarded by small joys like eye contact and other developmental milestones.
- Skin to skin contact. Try to get as much of this as you can. One Dad I know was a master at laying baby across his forearm. Baby loved this position and it can also act as a bit of tummy time too.
- Dads are great at carrying baby in a sling or carry pouch. If you are heading out, perhaps leave the pram at home sometimes and let Dad carry the baby. This close contact will help with bonding.
- Talk, sing, bathe and dress your baby.
- Baby massage.
- Rocking, dancing, singing.
- Special play time.
- When feeding, bring baby in close, just like Mum might do if she is breastfeeding. This will allow baby to look up at you and gaze into your eyes.
- Reading to your child from an early age offers many benefits such as bonding, communication and literacy.
- Read more about this topic in our blog Developing Literacy from an Early Age.
Other ideas for Dads:
- Find opportunities to look after baby independently. Make sure baby is well fed and then let Dad take bub for a walk while Mum ducks out to the shops for 20 minutes or walks around the block. Short periods in the beginning will help dad to build up confidence and trust with baby.
- If your baby or your partner is sick, take time off to help them out if you can.
- Make sure you are a part of the bedtime routine. One, because you want to be, two, because it helps mum out and three because it could help sever the connection between feeding baby to sleep. A trap that you definitely want to try and avoid if you can. Try to have a little gap between the feed and the sleep. Dad’s role is crucial at bedtime whenever time allows. Bedtime is a special time to bond with your child and help them relax and unwind before sleep. Read our blog on the importance of routine.
Have a laugh
If you’re finding it a bit challenging, remember to stop and try to have a laugh about things and some funny things that your child does. I often find inspiration from Father of Daughters instagrammer, Simon Hopper. Check out his feed here.
Remember the best way to bond is to be involved with your child. Before you know it you’ll be helping with sports activities, homework and teaching them to drive! It all seems to go very fast!
A Dad’s role is so important and can never be underestimated. We hope all Dads enjoy the journey of fatherhood.