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 contact with your partner. But if your partner can't have skin-to-skin contact, you can do this with your baby.
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.
But your partner in particular needs to rest and recover, so this might be the time when you can start getting hands on with your baby.
Some dads feel relieved, excited or enthusiastic that they now have a role to play, especially 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 and noticing what your partner and baby need.
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 you'd like 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. When dads are supportive and positive about breastfeeding, it helps mum and baby to get started with breastfeeding and keep 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 for support:
- 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, it's recommended that your partner gives your baby some skin-to-skin contact to calm and soothe your baby after the stress of birth. But if your partner can't hold your baby in the operating theatre, you can also hold your baby skin-to-skin while your partner recovers. 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.
Things you can do
- With your partner, decide when you'll contact family and friends to share news of the birth, and when you'll have visitors. Make a list of people to call.
- Plan 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 contact while waiting for your partner to return from the recovery room.
- Take some photos or ask the staff to take photos of you and your baby.
- Keep the National Breastfeeding Helpline number handy in case your partner has trouble breastfeeding - it's 1800 686 268. You can also ask midwives at the hospital, a lactation consultant or your local child and family health nurse or GP.