The Father’s Role
It can often be difficult for new dads to understand their role in the family straight away. For mums, the connection tends to be more immediate, especially if they choose to breastfeed, and their role is clearly defined from the start. However, they do not want to do all the work on their own, and dads have to work out quickly what they should be doing to help their partner look after the baby. Here are a few general tips, but of course, every family is different so you should try things out until you find something that works for you.
Support the Mum
Whoever the mother of your child is, and whatever your situation, she is going to need help and support. Not just practical support, but also emotional support. For women, the hormonal rush after giving birth can be overwhelming, and women who go unsupported are more likely to develop post-natal depression. As the father of the baby it is your job to reassure the mother that she is doing a good job and that you are there to do whatever she needs to look after the baby. If you live together, pamper her. Try running a hot bubble bath and giving her a massage, cook her favourite meal and bring her drinks when she’s breastfeeding; do anything you can to make life a bit easier. This should help to keep your relationship strong.
Talk to Each Other
Whether you are in a relationship or not it is important to communicate with each other about how being a parent has made you feel. This is especially important if you are a couple though, as your partner may be very confused about her emotions and desperately needing love and support. You should praise her and the baby in equal measures and use any opportunity you can to discuss your thoughts on your new life.
If anything goes wrong or starts to worry you and your partner, it is probably you who needs to be organised enough to find help. Keep a list of useful phone numbers handy so that you can ring anybody you need to for advice. This should include the midwife, doctor and health visitor, and probably both your parents and friends who have had children. It could also include your antenatal teacher and local breastfeeding counsellor.
You should also be prepared around the house so that anything your partner or the baby needs is easily to hand. If it is your first baby, you may not be used to ensuring the fridge and freezer are completely stocked up for quick and easy meals, but it is essential to do this because you may not have time to cook. Meals will probably be chaotic at first, so have some takeaway menus to hand too. You should also familiarise yourself with the baby aisle in your local supermarket so that you can dash out to get nappies and baby wipes in an emergency.
Deal with Visitors
You will probably never have more visitors than when you first bring your new baby home. This can be lovely, but it can also be draining. You should be prepared to put people off coming if you and your partner are too exhausted. Similarly, if the phone has not stopped ringing and you already have a headache from a screaming baby, do something about it. Either put it out of earshot, take it off the hook, or set the answer machine message to come on straight away. Remember to warn people before you do this though, or you may risk worrying grandparents and other relatives.
Be Hands On
When it comes to actually looking after the baby, the father needs to get as much practise as possible. You must learn to change nappies, how to bath the baby safely and how to give comfort when the baby’s crying as soon as possible, both to help your partner and to help you bond with your baby. Some men find this difficult because new mothers, whether they mean to be or not, can be paranoid and controlling where their baby is concerned. She may feel as though she is failing as a mother if she is not the one who feeds, changes and cuddles the baby all day long. If this is the case, you should gently remind her that you can handle it, and that it is essential for you to develop as a father. Also remind her that she doesn’t have to do it all on her own and that you are there to help. Don’t worry if you fumble the first few times, practise makes perfect.
Be a Breastfeeding Partner
In the early days, breastfeeding can last for hours, which means your partner will be confined to the sofa. You should bring her snacks and drinks, and put something she wants to watch on telly, or bring her a book or magazine. Once breastfeeding is well established, you can give the baby a bottle of expressed milk to give your partner a break.
Keep Work Separate
If you go back to work, it is absolutely vital to leave it at the office when you go home. If you are too preoccupied with work you may not make time in the evening to spend with your baby. If it helps, make a list of everything you need to do for work that night or the next day to try and summarise the day, and make another list of things you want to do with your family that evening. This should get your mind back on home rather than work. When you do get home, make sure the baby is part of your evening routine. Set time aside to take the baby for a walk, talk to him/her, give cuddles and read a story.
Soothe the Baby
Of course, this is easier said than done. Sometimes it just seems as though nothing you do will stop your baby crying, but hopefully you can find some methods that help. The first thing to remember is that the baby may be crying for a reason, so try feeding, changing the nappy, rocking to try and get him/her to sleep, burping, and look for any potential cause of pain or discomfort. If nothing seems to be wrong, you have to start using your imagination. A dummy helps, or give them your little finger to suck on (but be careful not to scratch the roof of their mouth). Other techniques include rocking, swinging, dancing with your baby, singing, pulling faces, making rude noises and holding the baby in a sling. You will find that what works once might not work the next time; it depends somewhat on your baby’s mood. Sometimes the best thing to do is just let the baby cry, if you are sure there is nothing physically wrong.
It is important for you to bond with the baby, and a great, easy way to do this is by cuddling. Take every opportunity to hold your baby and talk to him/her. It will comfort and reassure you both.
Remember to Look After Yourself
If you are performing your role well, it could be easy to be so busy looking after everybody else that you forget about yourself. You are no good to your partner or your baby if you are completely exhausted, stressed out and snappy (though you are likely to be all these things at some point, which cannot be helped). Find a way to relieve some stress. Make sure you have a friend that you can talk to and let off steam with, without neglecting your family. Take some time to give yourself a bath and sleep whenever you can.
Mother, Baby and Beyond
- Pregnancy & Birth Guide
- Mother, Baby and Beyond
- Baby calendar
- Newborn Baby’s Check-ups and Tests
- Newborn Babies’ Appearance
- Bonding with Your Baby
- A Guide to Sleeping for Mother and Baby
- Coping with a Crying Baby
- Sibling Bonding
- The Father’s Role
- Postnatal Health
- Baby Predicaments
- Sex after Childbirth
- Weaning and Moving onto Solid Foods
- Travelling with a Newborn Baby
- Losing Baby Weight
- Baby Health Concerns
- Caring for your child
- Looking after Twins
- Baby vaccinations
- Caring for your newborn
- Mother and Baby Myths
- Mother and baby development FAQ
- Pregnancy & Birth Guide
- Guide to Getting Pregnant
- Guide to Pregnancy
- Guide to Giving Birth
- Guide to Pregnancy Tests
- Mother, Baby & Beyond Guide
- Guide to Pain Relief in Labour
- Guide to pregnancy scans
- Pregnancy calendar guide
- Baby calendar guide
- Child development calendar guide
- Guide to miscarriage
- Guide to breastfeeding
- Guide to sleeping for mother & baby
- Guide to birth defects
- Guide to Post Natal depression