New dad in action
What can the partner do once the baby is born? A midwife offers practical steps for the newborn’s dad.
Irene Bourquin, an experienced South African childbirth educator, midwife and author, offers this advice:
- Take photos of mom and baby. Move in close, show baby your shining eyes and welcome it with your deep voice. Ask a staff member to take a picture of the three of you – the new family together. This is the time when families are born. Enjoy this special time together. Thank your partner for her hard work in giving you a lovely baby. Thank the staff for their assistance.
- You may be exhausted and want to go home fairly soon after you have seen your partner settled, or you may not want to leave at all. Both options are quite all right. Have the best cup of tea with your partner. While your partner is being washed and dressed, you can touch, feel and hold your baby close to you. Open your shirt and feel your baby skin to skin. When you return for the next visit, bring photos, flowers and gifts galore!
- Phone her family and your family before celebrating. Remember to ask someone to drive you home if you are wetting the baby’s head with champagne.
- Have a neat home for her to come home to, food to eat, your clothes and dishes washed. For a home birth, acquire home executive skills. You will be rewarded.
- Expect some moms to get third-day blues. They often cry for no reason, and sometimes they do have a reason. Be loving. Understand that her hormones are playing tricks on her and that the enormity of being a mom can be overwhelming.
- If your partner had the baby in a hospital setting, let her acquire some skills. If she had a home birth, or was discharged early, make sure that you have all the relevant contact numbers – the Well Baby Clinic, post-natal doulas, lactation counsellors and home help all make a huge difference.
- If you have no help, buy yourself an apron and get on with the job of being a houseman. In the first few days, you can learn to bath baby, change nappies and master some parenting skills. Babies need male input from day one. Childbirth classes can help equip men for this role. While nothing really prepares anyone for the roller-coaster ride of becoming a parent, learning as many skills as you can certainly helps.
- Take leave, even for a few days, when your new family starts out together. Two parents are so much better than one. You can both learn together – this is a shared experience. Most companies give paternity leave, so perhaps you can even lobby our politicians.
- ‘Mothering the mother’ is the norm in many Asian and African cultures. Mom is specially cared for, massaged, fed and rested during this time. Our western culture has mom and baby at the supermarket soon after birth. It can be stressful for a mother to be alone with her new baby for long periods of time. She needs loving care at this vulnerable time. Try to bring in family members and friends to help lessen the load. Come home earlier once you are back at work. Learn to identify post-natal depression and find out where to get help.
- Register the baby. Make sure the names are correctly spelt and you haven’t added in or omitted any letters.
- Back at home, wear your baby in a sling or pouch. Talk, touch and sing to your baby. Wear your baby close to your heart. A baby in a carry pouch can look at your face, see your sparkling eyes and take you all in, and vice versa.
This is an extract from The very practical pregnancy handbook written by Irene Bourquin and published by Pearson South Africa. For sale at your nearest bookshop.
For a chance to win one of 5 copies of this book, enter our giveaway.
How hands-on were you with your newborn baby?