You’re healing, baby’s growing, and everyone is adjusting to the newest member of the family…
In the infancy stage, bonding and care revolve around baby’s natural process of development (eat, sleep, poop). At this stage, it may appear as though mom serves as the main source of care especially if you are breastfeeding exclusively. However, there is no better time to recruit and involve your biggest support system then from birth, dad! The positive effects of an involved father are endless, some of which include:
- Supporting mom emotionally through the challenges of recovery
- Strengthening the bond of intimacy in your relationship
- Establishing a strong bond with baby which affects the way they relate socially as adults
- Keeping the family routine and bond with existing children
- Maintaining the home so that mom can rest and recharge
Here are some ways to begin that process:
Coupled with the fact that most father’s have never held a baby before their own, 60% of new father’s have admitted a fear of holding their baby this can be magnified especially if they are not left alone with the baby within the first week after the birth. Ways to encourage dad and baby physical touch can include:
Daddy/Baby Skin-to-Skin Time – Babies need a lot of physical contact, so when they are not breastfeeding, daddy’s arms are the ideal place! Skin-to-skin contact (baby naked on dad’s bare chest) with father, keeps babies warm, and has been proven to reduce crying and provide comfort to babies sooner than conventional care.
Infant Massage – Massaging baby can assist dad with care giving sensitivity. It can give them the opportunity to have relaxing time alone with baby bonding and increasing attachment. It can also increase spousal support by giving mom some “me-time”.
Bathtime – “Bathing of babies is a indicator for a father’s involvement with his children…” – Jack O’Sullivan, spokesman for Fathers. Dad can spend great time bonding by giving baby a bath. This assists mom with some care giving responsibilities.
Sleep Routine – Most bonding begins at nighttime for dad, an event 80% of men take charge of. If bottle feeding is not an option, rocking baby and or reading to baby is a great way to create a bedtime routine that can carry into later stages. It provides consistency and routine for baby as a cue for bedtime. It also allows mom the opportunity to organize herself before breastfeeding or other tasks to be done prior to nighttime for baby. Once the weaning process begins, this time is a great opportunity to be strictly dad’s domain, as nighttime breastfeeding is generally the last step to complete weaning.
Prior to solids, ways dad can get involved are as follows:
Breastfeeding Support – Dad can participate in breastfeeding by:
• Encouraging mom to get comfortable before bringing her baby
• Providing mom with water or a snack while breastfeeding
• Keeping mom company through conversation
• Burping baby post feeding
Feeding – Bottle-feeding (whether expressed milk or formula) can become a great way for dad to experience the wonderful mealtime process especially when mom is not available. This also allows mom greater flexibility in her day.
Weaning – Studies have proven that babies learn their mother’s smell early in life. This can prove to be an impossible task for mom who is trying to wean baby off of breast. Dad’s assistance is invaluable here. He can comfort infant through ways listed above to help mom and baby transition out of breastfeeding, which can be emotionally challenging for them both.
The combination of motherhood, recovery, hormones and change can be overwhelming for any family. Your partner is your best source of support, let him be there for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for the things you need.
Share Your Feelings/Fears – In most cases women are not aware of what is happening to them postpartum, expecting your partner to understand makes it challenging for them to relate. Let your partner know what is going on with you emotionally and physically so that you can work through it together.
Ask for Support – The more attention you give to yourself the healthier your recovery. Let your partner know there are things that need attention in order to keep the home running such as chores and preparing meals. Taking baby for a walk or removing crying baby from mom can give mom the mental break she needs to take a nap, bath or just relax and recharge.
Educate Yourselves – The more you both understand about what will happen to your family, your body and your relationships post birth, the better it will be for everyone involved. Look into support groups/associations for dad where he can connect with other men and share in the experience of fatherhood.
Dad plays a crucial role in your recovery process. You will discover together what works best for your family as you grow together. Empowering him to have an important active role is healthy for alleviating any isolation and depression he may experience with the new family dynamic. It will enhance the intimacy in your relationship, and develop his relationship with baby which is needed for them grow into healthy socially competent adults. Champion the man in your life as your ultimate support system. The positive effects of his active involvement benefit the entire family and will make your postnatal experience a smoother and more enjoyable one!