After your baby’s birth – For Dads

January 28

After your baby’s birth – For Dads

15 min read By Emma Ashworth, Doula and Author of AIMS Guide to Your Rights in Pregnancy and Birth

Your partner has given birth and you are now a new Father! Your baby – or babies – have taken over your life and your days are a whirl of milk and nappies and washing and more milk. And not so much sleep. It can feel like the world is quite overwhelming, so what can you do to keep things going smoothly?

Your role right now

Your partner has just gone through what is likely to be the biggest physical change of her life. Whether she gave birth vaginally or by caesarean there will be a huge amount of healing to be done. Her body will be putting energy into continuing to contract her uterus for a few days, and into making milk, even if she’s not breastfeeding. A caesarean section is major surgery, tears and episiotomies can be extremely painful and need time to heal, but even after the most straightforward of births, she’ll need time to physically recover. Your role is therefore to support her and care for her, as well as helping her to care for your little one. 

This is a really important time for you both to get to know your baby. If your partner is breastfeeding she’ll need baby to be with her most of the time so they can have free access to her breast, but there will be plenty of time for you to hold them and enjoy them too – and not just during nappy changes! 

Breastfeeding support

If your partner is breastfeeding, one valuable tip often shared by dads is to have the telephone numbers of the UK’s breastfeeding support services stuck to the fridge, or somewhere equally handy. They are:

  • Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM): 0300 100 0212
  • La Leche League: 0345 120 2918
  • National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 0212

There is an answer to almost all breastfeeding problems, so your role here is to provide encouragement, tell her how well she’s doing, and listen to any advice you’re given so you can remind her of things you’re told. Making notes of tips you’re given may be helpful, too. A useful rule of thumb when it comes to checking whether a baby is getting enough milk is “what comes out must have come in” so watch those nappies to see how many wees and poos your baby is doing. This can be very reassuring! 

There is an answer to almost all breastfeeding problems, so your role here is to provide encouragement, tell her how well she’s doing, and listen to any advice you’re given so you can remind her of things you’re told. Making notes of tips you’re given may be helpful, too. A useful rule of thumb when it comes to checking whether a baby is getting enough milk is “what comes out must have come in” so watch those nappies to see how many wees and poos your baby is doing. This can be very reassuring! 

Be the gatekeeper

A new baby is incredibly exciting for your friends and family, too, and of course they’ll all want to come and visit. Most people want to cuddle the baby, which is understandable, but taking baby away from their mother or birth parent can interfere with getting breastfeeding off to a good start. It can also mean that babies (formula or breastfed) try to say they’re hungry and these signals are missed by the person cuddling them, so babies can then just go to sleep and miss a feed. If you’re struggling to get your baby back to birth weight, this can be a set-back. 

You have a really important role here: gatekeeper! Set expectations with friends and family before birth as to what you will want from them, bearing in mind that what you think will be ok before birth may not feel ok after birth. It’s ok to tell people that you actually need something different than you’d expected.

You might wish to ask potential visitors to:

  • Not to just turn up! Message in advance to see if it’s convenient first.
  • Please bring an easy to heat meal… or cake!
  • Help around the house – hang the washing, do some vacuuming, unload the dishwasher.
  • Be aware that if any of you are sleeping, visitors may not be able to come in! 

Speaking of sleeping, it’s perfectly fine to put a note on the door asking people to please not knock or ring the doorbell if any of you are taking a nap. There’s nothing worse than finally getting the baby down and laying down yourself only to be rudely woken by an unexpected visitor.

Step up around the house

Cooking, cleaning, washing and shopping is firmly your domain right now. You don’t need to worry about avoiding foods if she’s breastfeeding as the concept that certain foods are bad for breastfed babies is mostly a myth. In rare cases, some babies may be intolerant of specific proteins, but broccoli doesn’t cause colic and garlic won’t make her milk taste bad.

Summary

After your baby is born, you have a vital role in ensuring that your partner has the time and space to heal from birth. Don’t underestimate what her body has gone through, and how much energy it takes to recover from birthing a human! Try to manage the expectations of visitors so they don’t just come in and think they can hold the baby, be given a cup of tea and leave! The postnatal period can be a tearful mix of joy and challenges so being prepared for it in advance can help it to be a blissful time for you all.