A Father’s Role After Childbirth

Reviewed on : 20 September 2016

Child care should not be the sole responsibility of a woman and a new father should come to the mother’s assistance in bringing up a child. Male partners can play a significant role in boosting the confidence of new mothers who suffer from various postpartum issues, including anxiety, depression and vaginal problems. A new father can share several responsibilities with the mother, to make this new challenge easier for both of them. He can look after many secondary things that need to be taken care of in childcare, like running errands outside the house and making arrangements and preparations, whenever necessary, related to various steps of childcare. While some new fathers also feel emotionally drained after the nine-month roller coaster of their partner’s pregnancy and about 10% of them also experience baby blues, awareness of a few things can help men relax and be effectively supportive to their partners after childbirth.

Manage Expectations

Many fathers-to-be hope that things will go back to the way they were after their better half delivers. This might be a misplaced expectation as many things definitely change after childbirth. The priority that the new baby’s needs must be given, changes everything. New fathers hence need to manage their expectations of what they earlier considered to be ‘normal’. Coming up with a new routine becomes a must. They may have to handle several of the household chores like laundry, shopping and other errands. It might take one some time getting used to this new schedule but it is all a part and parcel of raising a child.

Interrupted Sleep

A baby is going to cry at night and someone has to get up to comfort the newborn. Men should not leave this responsibility entirely to their wives and should participate equally in attending to the demands of the baby at night. Even if the baby wants to be fed, being present alongside the mother at least sometimes will make her feel good. The man should keep in mind that the mother will anyhow be tending to the baby for the most part, so, he should take an initiative to ease some of the child care burden off her shoulder whenever there is an opportunity to do something that either of the parents can do.

Be Mindful of your Partner’s Mood

It is quite common for women to feel overwhelmed after childbirth. The sheer pressure of the responsibility can sometimes cause anxiety and depression. If that is the case, the husband should be sensitive towards the changes in the wife’s behaviour. If he notices sleep disruptions, general irritability, excessive crying or any other such symptom, then he should talk to his partner, try to be supportive and in case of persistent symptoms, help her to seek help from her healthcare provider.

Dealing with Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND)

One in four dads go through paternal postnatal depression. It is the male equivalent of postpartum depression. Just as women might sometimes feel overwhelmed, men can also find the responsibility of raising a child too much to handle. In such a case, the father needs to stay positive,  eat healthy and try to get some rest whenever possible. He may even talk to a specialist to get help to overcome this feeling.

Celebrating as a Couple

A new father will also be extremely excited with the little bundle of joy and would naturally want to share his excitement. When celebrating, it is important for new parents to celebrate as a couple. If family or friends come home, fathers can take the responsibility of laying the table and cleaning up after they leave. The husband may also need to make sure that he takes the initiative to entertain any visitors.

Mother Comes First

When it comes to taking care of the house, do not leave it to the new mother, even if she was doing it alone before conceiving. The new father may step up and carry out the household chores with a smile. Alternatively, the new father can hire domestic help for the chores and spend more time with the baby and the mother.

Patience is a Virtue

After childbirth, the new mother might not be as sexually active as before. The father needs to be patient and put her needs before his own. Childbirth puts a lot of strain on the vagina and sex might not feel the same.  Doctors also recommend taking some time off after delivery in order to heal completely. In some cases, even after the doctors gives the green light, the new mother might not be up for it. The husband needs to keep in mind that this is a phase and will pass. The first time the couple has intercourse, after the delivery, the man will need to be extremely gentle and slow. Talking about what feels good will help the couple enjoy the experience.

Child care experts also suggest that the man needs to become a protector of the bond between the mother and the baby. The husband can help the new mother with bathing the baby, changing and washing the baby’s clothes. New fathers also need to build their bond with the baby. This can be done by taking over certain responsibilities from time to time. Just like the mother’s touch, the baby also needs a father’s touch. The new father can play with the baby by rocking him/her in his arms, tickling the baby and talking to the little one.

Husbands also need to appreciate their wives from time to time for the miraculous job that they are doing. Other aspects of the husband’s job can encompass taking care of the finances, and shopping for toys, nappies, car seats and cribs. Take the initiative of baby proofing the house.

One of the most important parts of the man’s job is to be strong for both the baby and the mother. Being strong emotionally will provide a sense of comfort to the mother who has gone through a lot of stress. The new father should try to spend as much time at home as possible and should not isolate himself. A father should not feel excluded from the mother-baby group, thinking that he does not have a role to play. Knowing that a baby needs his/her father, just as much as the new mother needs her husband, will help them to truly enjoy fatherhood.

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