If everything goes smoothly, your baby will be content just to be with you and your partner in the first hours after birth. You have an important role in bonding and supporting breastfeeding at this time.
Bonding in the first hour: for new dads
In the first hour after birth, your baby will feel very comforted by some skin-to-skin time with you and your partner.
When awake, your baby will also want to be held and have brief periods of eye contact with you. This is called ‘mutual gaze’. The combination of being held and mutual gaze stimulates your baby’s brain and makes baby feel calm and safe.
Recovering from birth
You’ll all need to get over the physical effects and emotions of the birth.
Some dads feel relieved, excited or enthusiastic that they now have a role to play, particularly if they felt a bit distant from their baby during the pregnancy.
The trick is to pace yourself and balance your enthusiasm with sitting back at times. Mum also needs to focus on breastfeeding and adjusting to motherhood.
To get ready for this time, you could decide with your partner beforehand how you’d like to spend the first few hours. Perhaps discuss how you’ll both get some rest, when you’ll contact family and friends, and when it’s OK to have visitors.
How dads can support breastfeeding
Breastmilk is the best food for your baby. But breastfeeding doesn’t always come easily – it’s something that mum and baby have to learn how to do together.
Your help and support with breastfeeding can be crucial as your partner learns how to breastfeed. When dads are more supportive and positive about breastfeeding, it helps mum and baby to get started with breastfeeding and to keep breastfeeding going as baby grows older.
If your partner has trouble with breastfeeding, you might need to reassure her that it’s OK to get some extra help. You have lots of options:
- the midwives in the hospital
- a lactation consultant
- your local child and family health nurse or GP
- the National Breastfeeding Helpline – phone 1800 686 268.
First hours after caesarean birth
You have a very important role to play if your partner has had a caesarean.
For example, you can help your baby feel calm and soothed after the stress of birth and leaving the womb. You can do this by giving your baby some skin-to-skin time while waiting for your partner to get back from recovery. If you wear a top with buttons, it’ll be easier to undo them and hold your baby on your chest.
Babies who have skin-to-skin contact are likely to cry less and make a better start to breastfeeding than babies who are wrapped and left in their cots after caesarean birth.
Recovery from a caesarean can be up to six weeks. In the weeks following the birth, you’ll also need to look after your partner and take a hands-on role in looking after your baby. This might include bathing your baby, changing nappies and bringing your baby to mum for breastfeeds.
You might also need to change your plans for going back to work or organise some extra help for your partner during this time.
It’s major abdominal surgery. Mums are on strong pain relief for the first three days. They can’t lift the baby until at least day three. So from a purely physical perspective, it’s really important that dad is there to lift the baby, change the baby and so on. Dads really need to be in the thick of it straight away.
– Midwife and mother of two
Things you can do
- With your partner, decide when you will contact family and friends to share news of the birth, and when you’ll have visitors. Make a list of people to call.
- Plan ahead for how you want to spend the first few hours after birth, taking into account physical and emotional needs for all three (or more!) of you.
- If your partner has a caesarean, plan to give your baby some skin-to-skin time while waiting for your partner to return from recovery.
- Take some photos or ask the staff to take photos so you have a record of this important event.
- Keep the National Breastfeeding Helpline number handy in case your partner has trouble breastfeeding – it’s 1800 686 268. Other people who can help are midwives at the hospital, a lactation consultant or your local child and family health nurse or GP.