Pregnancy and becoming a parent can raise lots of weird and wonderful questions, and it can be a mystery for men, too! Dad-of-two Dean Beaumont, the founder of DaddyNatal (daddynatal.co.uk), gets to grips with those burning questions on expectant dads’ minds…
Q. We have just found out we are pregnant but I am not feeling excited or like it is real yet?
A. This is very common, dads tend to be anything from 6 weeks to a full nine months behind mum when it comes to their feelings about their child. For many they don’t begin to think of themselves as dads until the baby is born. This is just because we don’t go through all the same physical and hormonal changes which our partners do.
There are things you can do though to help you feel more bonded with you unborn baby though which will help things become more real. Try and attend as many of the antenatal appointments as possible, go to the scans and get some images from them to keep and look at.
Give your little one a pet name so they even start to get their own little identity. You can also interact with your baby, read them a story or sing a song, from about 24 weeks they will be able to hear you! In fact, if you regularly read/sing the same thing once your baby has been born, they will even recognise it, and find it comforting and reassuring.
Q. I want to be involved in the pregnancy but don’t know how be. What should I do?
A. The best ways to be involved, are to make sure that mum is looked after and that you are preparing yourself.
In early pregnancy, just helping mum gets as much rest as possible, as growing a baby is often exhausting work. Support mum by matching your diet to hers as she needs to get out certain foods, you may also cut down on alcohol and quit smoking. Don’t forget there is also a good chance you will get to do those midnights runs to satisfy the wonderful cravings some women have. Just embrace the pregnancy and take all the different experiences step by step.
Make sure you are doing everything you can to prepare for the birth and life with your baby. Attend antenatal classes, read books and most of all keep talking about things together as a couple. Dads can sometimes feel marginalised during the pregnancy but there is no need – if you want to be involved, just get involved!
Q. Is there anything I can do during the birth apart from hold her hand or rub her back?
A. There absolutely is! Numerous studies point towards the massive difference that the birth partner can make to labour, including how long it lasts, whether interventions are needed, and even the level of pain your partner might feel! In fact, the role of the birth partner is so great on the labour, that world renowned birth professional Michel Odent, went so far as to say that dads should not be at birth! At DaddyNatal, we don’t believe this, but you do need to be prepared to make sure you’re your role at birth is a positive one.
Our approach is to make men aware of their two main roles in labour – that of protector and advocate. As advocate you are there to ensure mums wishes and preferences are listened to and respected. Your role of protector is to protect the environment and make sure that mum is feeling comfortable and safe for the birth of your child. I always recommend our DaddyNatal classes which prepare dads for their specific role during birth, and learning the tools which they will need – while you may end up holding her hand and rubbing her back, there is a LOT more you should also be doing.
Q. What’s the point of doing a birth plan? Everyone tells us it will go out the window anyway!
A. The point of a birth plan (or birth preferences as I prefer to call them) is about becoming aware of your options and choices in advance of the birth. You and your partner should sit down together and consider choices such as where you want to have your baby, what kind of birth you would like, how you feel about induction and pain relief, and so forth. Dad, your role is to act as an advocate for your partner, and you can only do this if you have discussed options in advance.
Writing your birth preferences will help you learn about different aspects of birth, and also help you think about the kind of birth you would like to have. For example, if you would prefer to have a birth which doesn’t rely on medical pain relief, writing this on your birth plan should highlight that you need to think about or learn other techniques you might want to use instead, such as HypnoBirthing.
Q. I have never held a baby and I am worried whether I will be gentle enough.
A. With the way society has changed, for many of us the first baby we ever hold or changed is our own, so you are in good company. Amazingly, studies show that once our babies are born, us dads have a drop in testosterone of up to 30%, so even mother nature is giving us a helping hand in preparing for our new role as dads.
Babies do need handling with care but they are not totally fragile. When dressing or changing your baby just take your time and don’t rush things, always make sure you change them somewhere safe where you feel comfortable, and you will be fine. It is always a good idea to try and attend a specialist antenatal class like DaddyNatal’s sister classes BabyNatal www.babynatal.co.uk that will help you to learn the skills in advance for caring for your newborn.
Q. My wife wants to breastfeed but I’m worried this means I can’t be involved.
A. This is a really common fear, but the reality is that babies need lots of care and attention, so there will be plenty for you to be involved in! When it comes to breastfeeding, there are still ways you can be involved, and in fact, it is important that you are – numerous studies have shown that dads have a massive impact on breastfeeding, and the more supportive you are, the more likely breastfeeding will be successful.
While you might not be able to feed your baby, you can still be involved in all the related aspects of feeding, such as winding and settling, and putting baby down for a sleep following the feed. You can help mum by making sure she has a drink when she is feeding and even things like cutting up her dinner into bite size pieces so she can eat with just a fork, as you can guarantee when mum is about to eat, your baby will decide they would also like a feed!
Breastfeeding is just one aspect of caring for your baby, so why not make another aspect your domain, so you are both getting your individual bonding time. Taking responsibility for the evening bathtime or bedtime routine, is a way of doing this, and means there is plenty for you both to be involved with.