Just for Dads
Congratulations, you are about to become a father! Becoming a father is
not only one of the most rewarding events to occur in your life, but also
one of the most stressful. Following are several ways to help with your
Importance of attachment for dad
The attachment process - or bonding between a parent and child - is the
basis of an emotional bond that will last forever. You will be an important
addition to your child's life and early interaction between you and
your newborn is important to the attachment process.
Most of the research on parent-child attachment has focused on moms, but
there has been recent research on the benefits of a dad's relationship
with his child. Just as skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby is encouraged
for the attachment process, dads are also encouraged to practice skin-to-skin
contact with their newborn. This is especially important if mom is unable
to have skin-to-skin contact because of her condition.
Moms have long held the traditional role as caretaker, but today many fathers
are now assuming many of the tasks of caring for their baby. Your involvement
during your partner’s pregnancy; the labor process; and taking care
of your newborn, such as changing diapers, holding and rocking the baby,
and helping with feedings are very rewarding and improve the early bonding
process. These tasks may not come naturally to you, but you can learn
these skills. Knowledge is extremely important and dads who are equipped
with information can be just as competent in caring for their newborn
as moms, and they will feel more confident in their new role (Deave and
Concerns for first time fathers
There are several concerns that new fathers may experience in their new
role. You may feel unprepared to become a father. You may also have feelings
of alienation or separation from your partner as she begins to focus on
preparing for the new baby. You may also be nervous about your lack of
experience with newborns, lack of an adequate role model in your life,
or lack of the basic knowledge of the pregnancy and childbirth. There
are many ways to learn about your partner's pregnancy and childbirth,
as well as learning the basic tasks of taking care of your newborn.
Dads want to be more involved in the day-to-day caretaking of their child.
Assuming responsibility for the care of your child can be the beginning
of the strong bond between you and your child. Part of the learning process
may include attending childbirth classes (online or live), classes on
baby care basics, books or online information. It is also helpful to talk
to other fathers and learn about their experiences. Many experienced fathers
love to share their stories. Developing a reliable support system will
help you cope as you transition into your new role. Start by reaching
out to your friends, family or other men who have children.
A helpful guide:
"A Father's Guide to Pregnancy," FAQ regarding pregnancy,
from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, AGOG 2013.
Other opportunities to gain information about pregnancy and childbirth
include attending some of your partner’s many appointments.
Attending your partner's prenatal visits will equip you with information
that may be helpful in understanding the changes mom is experiencing and
about your developing baby. You will learn about normal symptoms of pregnancy
as well as any abnormal symptoms. Attending your partner's prenatal
visits is also a way to support mom through her own transition as mom.
Your partner will have an ultrasound at about 18-20 weeks (4 months) of
pregnancy. This is called an anatomy screen. This will determine the age
of the baby and determine its normal development. They can also determine
the baby's gender. You will want to attend this appointment if at
all possible. Seeing the baby for the first time is very exciting and
can also be the beginning of the attachment process.
Preparing for labor and delivery
Childbirth classes, either online or in the classroom, can help educate
you on the stages of labor, how to assist mom during labor, about the
normal labor process and any complications that the mom or newborn might
experience. The more information you have will improve your confidence
as a coach and partner. Fathers can help mom cope with the discomfort
of labor and childbirth as well as encouraging her during the pushing
stage. Attending the delivery is a very exciting and rewarding experience.
Your presence is very important not only in supporting mom and providing
reassurance, but is also part of the bonding process with your newborn.
You can serve as the central source of information to the other family
members and your friends during the delivery and the postpartum experience
so being equipped with information can assist you in communicating to
others. You are very important during this experience.
The post-partum period
Your support for mom will continue to be very important. You will act as
liaison between mom and the health care team. The time in the hospital
is extremely important to the bonding process between mom, dad and baby
- the beginning of your family. Mom will be extremely tired after the
delivery so it is important for you to help regulate visitors so she can
rest. This is also a time when mom will need your help and support to
Your hospital stay is a great time to learn and practice the basic caretaking
skills of changing diapers as well as wrapping and holding your baby.
Feel free to participate in your baby's first bath. Your nurse will
be glad to assist you in learning these tasks. You won't be perfect
(it takes practice!) so don’t be afraid to try. Learn how to safely
perform these tasks and soon you will be a pro. It is important that your
partner is supportive of your efforts. Discuss your desire to learn these
caretaking skills with her ahead of time so she will be encouraging.
What moms can do
Include dad in the prenatal, labor and delivery, the post-partum experience.
Encourage him to attend your appointments and your prenatal classes as
much as possible to better prepare him. Help him feel involved and important
to the process. Encourage him to talk about his concerns on his transition
as father. Dads have different concerns than you do as new mom. New dads
are concerned about how they are going to financially support their family,
how they are going to be as a father, how they can support mom during
this experience. They are also concerned how having a child may change
their relationship with you and how a child may change his life.
Helpful hints for mom:
- Try not to be critical; support and encourage his willingness to learn
the basic caretaking tasks.
- Be gentle, he may not be perfect. It takes time and practice to get better.
As long as he is safe, that’s what is important.
- Tell dad what you need from him; he doesn’t know what you are experiencing.
- Let dad protect his family by being the go-between with you and the outside world.
- Make sure to give dad lots of alone time with the baby; this will improve
- Your support and encouragement can only enhance your relationship and that
of the family, improving the father-child bond. You are crucial to its success.
Some dads feel unimportant or left out during breastfeeding sessions but
you still play a role for successful breastfeeding. You as the father
can support mom by encouraging her. The more you learn about breastfeeding
the more you can partner with mom, improving on her success. Your support
will be invaluable.
As father you can:
- Reinforce the importance of breastfeeding.
- You can also help with the process by bringing the baby to mom
- Burp and change the baby's diapers
- There will also be plenty of opportunity to rock and cuddle your baby after
- Once mom is pumping you can feed your baby during some of the late night
feedings allowing mom to sleep through an occasional feeding.
It is also important for you to familiarize yourself with the symptoms
of post-partum depression. Post-partum depression can occur for several
weeks after delivery. Sometimes sadness is part of the hormonal changes
mom goes through after delivery but if those feelings become severe it
may be time to alert her obstetrician. Be aware of the symptoms.
Those symptoms include:
- The baby blues do not subside after a week or they increase.
- Mom's feelings of sadness, hopeless, doubt, guilt seem to increase.
- Mom is unable to care for the baby or herself.
- Her appetite changes.
- She expresses fears of hurting herself or the baby.
- She shows no sign of happiness.
- She exhibits panic attacks or extreme anxiety.
Again don’t hesitate to call your partner's health care provider
if mom exhibits any of these symptoms (ACOG, 2013).