Wednesday, November 14, 2007

30 Tips for New Dads

I was sent an email today from Abel Cheng who gave me permission to post the article below. It can be also found on the website Parent Wonder. It is entitled:

30 Tips for New Dads: Being the Best Father You Can Be Before, During, and After Delivery

Any proud papa would be excited and expectant about the impending arrival of a new baby. For him, however, he has the added anxiety of seeing his partner go through discomfort, mood swings, pain, morning sickness, childbirth and so on, not knowing how he can really be of assistance. Well here is a checklist of things that are of wonderful benefit to an expectant Mom … even if she may not realize it at the time.

During the pregnancy

1. Jobs, big and small: When your partner is pregnant, one of the most important things you can do for her is to offer support, understanding and able-bodied assistance. From simple jobs such as stacking the dishwasher to more high-expectation tasks such as buying sanitary products for use in hospital, a new Dad-to-be should be the calming influence.

2. Just be there: When she’s irritable and uncomfortable, having a haven at home can be bliss. Try to keep in mind why she’s irritable and do your best to smooth things over. After all, she’s weighed down and not feeling the best so try to soften the impact.

3. The lovely foot rub: Fluid retention and swollen legs are par for the course in pregnancy. A foot rub can be as valuable as a diamond necklace to a pregnant woman, especially if it’s done with love. Similarly, a shoulder massage or even allowing her some time off her feet will be just as welcome.

4. Take an interest: Browsing the baby aisle at the supermarket may not be your idea of retail therapy but your partner will swoon at the very sight of pretty bibs, adorable bootees and colorful linen. If she asks your opinion, try to give a well-formed one instead of shrugging “I don’t know, Darling”.

5. Prenatal classes: Particularly if it’s your first baby, your partner will want to attend prenatal classes so that the whole pregnancy/childbirth scenario is not a shock to the system. It’s important that you attend along with her, not just to learn the same things but also to show your support for what she will be going through physically.

6. Car seat: In most places, the law states that you are not permitted to take a new baby from the hospital without having a regulation car seat installed securely in the car. This could be your job. Either go shopping together or take it upon yourself to research and buy the baby carrier/car seat and have it installed so that it’s ready, whenever the baby is born.

7. The nursery: Naturally, setting up the nursery is something you’ll want to discuss and do together. Make it a priority so that it’s one less thing to think about as the pregnancy enters the final stages. Painting should be done early on and other furnishings can be arranged as the money is available or when on sale. Help hang curtains, install shelves and generally prepare the nursery for readiness.

8. Attend doctor’s visits: You won’t know the wonder of seeing your very own baby growing and developing in your partner’s belly unless you go along to one or more of the prenatal visits to the doctor. If you miss all other appointments, make sure you don’t miss the ones that include an ultrasound examination. Why not go out for lunch afterwards and make a real event of it?

9. Plan the road ahead: Planning is one of your jobs too. You need to plan contingencies for the sudden onset of labor, including the route to the hospital and who will look after any other children in the house at a moment’s notice. You need to make sure the car is read and gassed up for the trip and that you can take time off work when the baby is to be born. You also should plan financially, taking into account insurance, medical costs and expenses once the baby is born.

10. Remember your relationship: Once the baby enters the world, your relationship is likely to change. Now is the time to cement the love that you have for each other and talk about the demands that will be upon you both after the birth. Act now to remind each other of romance and the partnership that you share.

Labor and delivery

Here comes the big challenge! Watching your loved one go through agony and frustration can be tormenting but remember, there is a grand prize at the end.

11. Be supportive: Above all, your partner will be leaning on you for support. That means holding her hand, helping her walk, massaging her back, calling the nurse, feeding her drinks of water, reminding her of her breathing, timing contractions, helping her to the bathroom and all manner of other considerations. It may not be easy but it will definitely be appreciated.

12. Be prepared to feel like you’re in the way: It’s common for Dads in delivery rooms to feel as though they’re the ‘third wheel’, that they’re in the way and of no use. Nothing could be further from the truth (unless you make a nuisance of yourself). You are witness to everything that is going on. You may choose to cut the umbilical cord, you may be called upon to make important decisions and you will, most importantly, meet your new baby at the end of the proceedings. You are every bit as important as your partner; just be prepared to take somewhat of a back seat.

13. Offer help: Whether or not it’s required, offer assistance where it appears to be needed. Your partner and the professionals on hand will gladly accept if they know you are willing and able.

14. Don’t panic: Try to remain calm and level-headed throughout the delivery. If you feel as though you are going to faint or lose your composure, remove yourself from the environment, and return when you feel better.

15. Be the messenger: Everyone – family and friends – will be anxious to hear news. If the delivery is taking longer than expected, it will be up to you to keep everyone informed so that they don’t worry.

16. Step in if necessary: If you feel that something is not going according to the way you and your partner had planned, say so. Your partner may be too exhausted to speak up and will be relying on you to be the spokesman for both of you. Similarly, if you are concerned about her safety or wellbeing, or that of the baby, you must raise your concerns immediately.

17. Cut the cord: What a beautiful moment it is to help deliver your new child. Cutting the umbilical cord is symbolic of your profound role as father and welcoming your baby into the world. If you don’t feel up to it, just say so and hold your partner’s hand instead. But if you do want to do it, mention it to the delivering doctor early in the piece and remind him once the baby is born.

18. Bath the baby: Fathers are taking on more involvement in their children’s deliveries these days. Some are even comfortable with bathing the new baby post-delivery and it can be a lovely experience for the mother to look on as she recovers from the birth. The nurse will help you every step of the way if you require it.

19. Tell your wife how proud of her you are: When the big moment has finally arrived, there can be almost a sensation of disappointment as the excitement dies down. The doctor goes off to attend to another patient, the baby has stopped crying and everyone appears busy with other tasks. Now’s the time to share a special moment with your partner. Tell her how amazed you were at what she managed to achieve and tell her how much you love her.

20. Share the good news: Offering cigars after the birth of a new baby is not done so much anymore, but everyone appreciates a phone call telling them the exciting news. If possible, pass the phone to your partner if she feels up to talking to friends and relatives.

After the baby is born

You’ve endured the pregnancy together, survived the delivery together and now you have a future to look forward to with your new baby. Here too, there are things you can do to be the best father you can be.

21. Share in the care: On nights when you have to work the next day, your sleep is important but when you have the next day off, it can be a huge relief to take over the night feeds or, if your partner is breastfeeding, keep her company during feeds.

22. Support her feeding choices: For some women, breastfeeding comes naturally; for others, it’s a struggle from the first attempt. Whatever your partner chooses to do with regard to feeding, support her choice and back her up in front of others.

23. Help around the house: If you haven’t been a housework helper in the past, now is the time to change that, even if it’s until your partner is feeling like her old self again. Doing the shopping, vacuuming the floor and preparing meals are huge contributions at this point in time.

24. Change diapers: Come on, it’s not that hard! Imagine if you were left to change every single diaper. Taking a break from it is a delight so if you can afford your partner that opportunity now and then, she’ll adore you.

25. Screen visitors: A new baby does not mean a free-for-all on visiting hours. Your partner needs rest and your baby needs to adjust to a routine. Discourage spontaneous drop-ins and late-stayers with as much respect and poise as possible. Let them know that they are more than welcome at a particular time and ‘for an hour or so’ until everyone’s settled.

26. Be the hero: Contrary to the popular image of besotted, doting mothers, new Moms are often tired, stressed and hard to please. This passes so do your best to bear with it and maintain your understanding nature. Defend her to others and be her hero as much as possible. This will ensure that life returns to normal peacefulness sooner rather than later.

27. Try to be home on time: Work is vital to keep the income flowing in, but right now, you also need to concentrate on that work/life balance. Make every effort to be home on time until a routine is established.

28. Get to know your beautiful child: You have a new son or daughter. The responsibility can seem overwhelming but don’t forget to enjoy him or her. Every day is a precious gift so spend time getting to know your little one. Play, talk, feed, watch … they change very quickly, don’t miss out.

29. Count your blessings: Look around you. You have a partner who has given you the gift of a son or daughter and you yourself have helped to create a brand new life. Whether you have the world at your feet or you are making do with second hand nursery furniture, be thankful for what you have and encourage your family to feel that way as well.

30. Be the Dad you want to be: Not every father is hands-on and not all new Dads go ga-ga over tiny babies. What matters is that you can be relied upon and that you love your family. Compromises can always be made on specific roles and tasks.

Enjoy your family and revel in how it makes you feel. One day you may want to create another little addition so pave the way now for a comfortable, secure relationship by being a great Dad today.

What are your thoughts and experiences about this article form either a male or female perspective?


Rob Monroe said...

These are all great!

Essential are Numbers 5 (Prenatal Classes) and 14 (Leave the room if you need to).

Our hospital was not having any part of number 18 (dad bathing the baby). Abby scored great on the APGAR, but they still want to be sure that everything is done to their standards, mostly because they've done it every day for years and years!

My other suggestion would be:
Be incredibly nice to the nurses and doctors that are taking part in your day. We had a great nurse that got called away to help with someone else's C-section. She poked her head back in to see if we wanted her back or wanted to stay with the substitute nurse. We opted for nurse number 1 because she was much nicer.

Another suggestion - bring FRESH fruit. Obviously birthing-mama will not be able to eat, but after the baby is out it's nice to get some food. Hospital food is okay, certainly better than ten years ago, but nothing beats a good orange or banana when you're hungry for something healthy and good at the same time.

Those are things we noted from our experience this summer.

Sweating Through fog said...

Great advice. My only problem is with this one:

"22. Support her feeding choices: For some women, breastfeeding comes naturally; for others, it’s a struggle from the first attempt. Whatever your partner chooses to do with regard to feeding, support her choice and back her up in front of others."

I don't think that should be the mother's choice alone, but rather a joint one. I took great pleasure in feeding my children, which I wrote about here.

Certainly the possible health benefits are a consideration. But there are other benefits to be obtained from not one, but two very involved caregivers if that works for both mom and dad.

Mom at 35 said...

Wonderful list. My husband comes to almost each appointment with me and it makes a big difference. We also attend childbirth and prenatal classes, and it's fun to learn together. What I appreciate the most is how he constantly tells me that I'm beautiful, even when I'm quite forlorn about the stretch marks and, frankly, feel like a big fat cow.

Our New Baby said...

I have enjoyed going to the appointments so far. We are seeing three different doctors right now after what happened last time. We are getting more and more excited every day.

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