dads at birth

For Dads Only: Bonding with Your Baby

Dad bonding with baby

If you’re a new dad or you are about to become a dad, you may be wondering what your role in your baby’s life will be. While many moms may feel the bond with their baby before they even arrive, for some dads it may take a little time and that’s okay! Your relationship with your baby is a unique and special one and it needs to be nurtured just as the bond does between mother and child. Here are some great ways you can ensure that you and your baby build a lasting and secure bond.

  1. Start before birth: Bonding with your baby can begin as early as when he’s still nestled cozily in the womb. Get involved with your partner’s pregnancy by attending her prenatal visits, taking prenatal classes, feeling baby kick and helping to prepare your nest for baby’s arrival. One way you can actually help your baby get to know you is by singing or reading to mom’s tummy. Somewhere between 20 and 24 weeks gestation, babies start to be able to hear outside voices with their little ears. This will help your baby connect with you once he is born as he will recognize the tones and patterns in your voice.
  2. Practice skin-to-skin care after birth: Kangaroo Care is not only hugely beneficial for mom and baby, but for dad and baby too. Infants who have skin-to-skin contact with their dad following birth and during infancy enjoy benefits such as better thermal regulation, reduced stress and less frequent crying. Also, dads who engage in this practice with their new babes report feeling more closely bonded compared to dads who do not.
  3. Get involved: Many dads may feel like it’s the mom and baby show those first few weeks of infancy, but really, dads are tremendously needed and can be invaluably helpful too! Help with the feedings by bringing baby to mom if she is breastfeeding and then offer to burp baby afterward. Have mom pump for a midnight bottle and be on night duty for special daddy and baby only bonding time. Use diaper changes as an opportunity to make loving eye contact and silly faces with your little one. There are many ways to help with a newborn that will not only give mom some rest but foster a closer connection between you and your baby.
  4. Wear your baby: There are a whole host of benefits to the practice of babywearing and they are not just for moms! Find a sling or carrier that you like, snuggle up to your little one and take a walk around the neighborhood or get stuff done around the house. Carriers are a great alternative to strollers as they allow for the benefits of physical closeness between baby and parent. They are also a great way to be hands-free so you can knock out some chores while cuddling with your babe. Check out this article for more tips on how to safely wear your baby.
  5. Take part in the bedtime routine: Whether it’s being the expert on bath time or choosing a special book that will be just for you and your little one, being part of the bedtime routine is a great way to bond with your baby. If your baby regularly nurses to sleep and needs mom to do the actual putting down at the end of the night, find ways to get involved in the preparation. Your baby will come to know and expect that special time with her dad and it will be a signal that the time to sleep is near. 
  6. Be a soother: Often when babies get upset, a dad’s knee-jerk reaction can be to hand her back to her mother. And if she’s hungry, this is the best solution. However, many times babies will cry for a variety of other reasons where dad can be just as helpful at providing a comforting snuggle as mom. If you’ve ruled out hunger as a possibility, try soothing techniques with your babe like rocking, swaying, swaddling, singing, shushing and bouncing. Often dads can be excellent soothers by just having a comforting voice and a rhythmic bounce. 
  7. Set aside special dad and baby playtime: Whether it’s an evening walk to the park, some silly time on the play mat or a nighttime snuggle with a favorite book, set aside time each day that is just for you and your baby. Not only will this give mom a chance to shower and grab a snack, it will create a predictable routine and special bonding time daily for you and your little one. Use your time together to engage with your baby by making silly faces, allowing him to study your expressions, telling him about your day, playing peekaboo or even giving infant massage a try. These are all fun ways that you and baby can build a lasting and secure bond.
Dad at birth

There are many great ways for dads to create their own special bond with their baby that will foster a mutually beneficial relationship. If you have a new infant at home and you are struggling to feel the connection, don’t worry, it will come. Give some of the above ideas a try and allow yourself time to explore the ways your relationship with your child will be special and unique. For questions about pregnancy, natural birth or postnatal care and infant bonding, please contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We’re here for you from conception to postpartum and beyond.

Father with newborn.jpg

Partners at Birth

DadKissingNewbornMany partners find themselves in completely uncharted territory when it comes to what to expect with maternity care as well as labor and childbirth. Here we hope to offer some insight and no-nonsense advice for mastering and navigating pregnancy and out of hospital birth.  We have collected the most frequently asked questions to which partners-to-be want answers.

For further reading, Penny Simkin's The Birth Partner and Rose St. John's Fathers at Birth are two excellent books among those catered to birth partners.  Many childbirth education classes offer great information and support to fathers/partners attending birth (we offer a class specifically for families planning to birth with us!).

What? My wife/partner wants to have the baby where? Is it safe to have my baby out-of-hospital?

If your partner is a normal, healthy pregnant woman, the answer is YES. Research shows that having a baby in a birthing center or at home with a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is as safe as, and in some cases, safer than, having your baby in a hospital.

If we have our baby at home...isn’t it messy?

On average we fill one to two kitchen sized trash bags with trash from the birth. We use the same disposable pads that are used in the hospital to catch any fluids. Our midwives do a great job of cleaning up after the birth and start a load of laundry for you before we leave. When all is said and done you would never even know a birth happened in your home.

What about cost? Is it expensive to have a baby at home or in a birthing center?

We offer a package price for your prenatal, labor & delivery, and postpartum care that is often less expensive than choosing other birthing options. We also offer a billing service that files your insurance claim for you after the birth of your baby. Remember, this is the only time you and your partner are going to experience this birth, and sometimes it's worth paying more to get the birth you want. 

I am scared I will pass out at the sight of blood. Have you ever had a partner keel over?

We have never had a dad pass out.*** Normally you are so involved in what is going on that you don’t have time to get faint. For dads who think it is a possibility, we have you stay near your partner’s head and focus on supporting her through each contraction. If you do pass out, we are there to help and you will have a memorable birth story to tell your little one as they get older!

***Actually, this is not true anymore! One of our dear dads passed out twice at a recent birth!  We assure you this is not a common experience however!

How will I know what my partner wants me to do when she is in labor?

It is important to talk with your partner about her expectations for you at the birth as well as what role you would like to play. The more the two of you have talked, the easier it will be to meet those expectations in labor and have the birth experience both of you envision. At Health Foundations, partners can be as involved in the birth process as they want. Some options to consider include helping catch the baby and cutting the cord. Or if you’d prefer to leave all that to the professionals, that is fine too.

OK long is it going to be?

Labor often involves a lot of waiting. The average birth lasts approximately twelve hours. You might spend several hours rubbing her back, counting to ten, offering her water, and supporting her in whatever position she choses to labor in.

Is there an instruction manual to tell me what I need to know and should be doing?

It can be pretty nerve-wracking to know your partner expects you to help her get through labor when you haven't got a clue what it will be like or how to help. Our best advice is to attend a childbirth preparation class with your partner. Childbirth classes will help teach you how to work as a team, give you pain coping techniques to help coach her through contractions and give you an idea of what to expect. In addition have put together a few universal tips:

  • A laboring woman is always right.
  • Don’t ask a woman questions during a contraction. She will be annoyed with you.
  • Most women do not appreciate jokes when they are in labor.
  • Most women do not like their bellies touched during a contraction.
  • Don’t go to sleep unless she gives you the OK. She is working hard and has to stay awake. She will expect the same from you.
  • If something helps her during contractions (like rubbing her back), start it as soon as the contraction begins. Starting half way through a contraction is not helpful.
  • Laboring women are sometimes only able to get their thoughts across in one or two words and are often very direct in labor. If she tells you to STOP doing something stop. If she tells you to do something, do it right away.
  • She needs encouragement. Tell her she is strong and doing a good job.

My partner keeps talking about having a doula at the birth. Isn’t having our midwife and her assistant enough?

The pressure of being a super-coach in labor is taken away when you have a doula. A doula’s role is not to replace the dad or partner but to allow them to be involved in the birth at a level that is comfortable for them. The support a dad or partner can provide is irreplaceable. It is not fair, however, to expect them to retain every technique taught in their childbirth class. It is like asking someone who has never watched or played a football game to coach Monday Night Football with only a brief training session and a playbook. Parents who use doulas can shift the burden of remembering details from childbirth class and their birth plan onto the doula's shoulders. They are free to follow their instincts and let the doula guide them when they need it.

What should I do after the birth?

  • Tell your partner you love and are proud of her.
  • Some dads give their partner flowers or a special gift to commemorate the special event.
  • Help her care for the baby. You can't nurse the baby, but you can hold the baby so she can sleep. Arrange for someone else to help so you can both get some rest.
  • Hold the baby so she is able to take a shower.
  • Watch for signs of unusual sadness that might indicate postpartum depression.