Information for fathers

So, you're going to be a dad!

You may experience a huge range of emotions when you find out you will become a father; feelings of joy and happiness are common, but feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and fear are just as normal.

Will our baby be healthy?
Can we cope on one wage? We'll never have any money again.
Is the house big enough?
I don't know anything about babies. I won't know what to do.
Everyone keeps telling me my life is over. I'll never see my mates again.
How will the pregnancy affect my relationship?

Worries such as these are perfectly normal when you are adjusting to your new role as a father. Some may be well founded, others not.

It can be tempting to stay quiet about these anxieties, thinking you do not wish to trouble your partner or that you should not be feeling these things. However, by repressing these thoughts you may actually increase the escalation of fear and worry that you experience.

Make certain that you talk about your anxieties around the pregnancy and relationship changes with your partner. She may very well have the same concerns.

Keeping silent can not only increase your worries, it can also exacerbate any uncertainties that she may have. Discuss your expectations with each other. Otherwise, it can be very easy for one or both of you to become isolated, not only from each other, but also from your family and friends. Talking about these things will enable you and your partner to feel more prepared.

Supporting your partner

Becoming a father is one of the most important, difficult and rewarding things you will ever do, and more often than not, it is the role men are least prepared for.

Traditionally, fathers have been responsible for discipline and setting rules in the family, while mothers did most of the caring. Unfortunately, this has led to a belief by many men that women were solely responsible for parenting. Today, there is greater acknowledgement of a father’s role in the pregnancy, birth and parenting of a child, and there is no clear difference between men’s and women’s roles. As a result, it is not uncommon for new fathers’ to feel unsure about what is expected of them.

There is no single recipe for being a father. The reality is that you will learn as you go, getting to know your baby's individual personality and temperament, and doing what's right for you according to your personal, family and cultural circumstances.

While parenting can be done by either parent, children still have different experiences with their fathers than with their mothers. Fathering is not the same as parenting. Children are lucky if they know they are loved and cared for by both parents. Many fathers know what they don’t want to do from memories of their own childhoods, but they aren’t sure what they should do.

How you work it out will depend on:

  • what you expect to do as a father
  • what your child's mother expects
  • what your partner expects if she is not your child's mother
  • the way you and your partner balance work and family responsibilities—how you prioritise your children and family
  • the good things that you want to keep from what your own father did
  • the things that you see other fathers do
  • what your own children want and need.

The most important gift you can give your children is your love. This means getting to know them and sharing who you are as a person. It means spending time with them and making the most of that time you spend with them.

The birth of your baby

Most fathers are present at their baby's birth these days. Childbirth can be joyful, unpredictable, exciting, messy, painful, and physically and mentally exhausting. It is important to remember your purpose at the birth is as a support person and advocate for your partner. You are there to help her, to soothe her, to encourage her, to reassure her, and to help her make choices or decisions in childbirth.

To do this, remain calm and controlled. Above all else, be flexible, and be prepared to adapt if things don't go to plan.

The best antidote for fear is facts. Talk to your obstetrician and midwife. Ask questions so you understand what is going on and whether there is anything you can do to help.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has many advantages—to your baby, to your partner and to you. Breast milk contains all the nutrients needed by your baby for the first six months of life, in exactly the right amounts, and remains the most important part of an infant’s diet for twelve months.

Human milk contains antibodies which protect your baby from gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses. Breast milk reduces the risk for your baby in the development of allergies and insulin dependant diabetes. It is less work and is always the right temperature and consistency.

Breastfeeding also offers health benefits for your partner with a reduced risk of post menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.

Most mothers make a decision about how they will feed their baby before they become pregnant or during pregnancy, and you are a very influential person in that decision. There is a clear body of evidence that where a couple have made a joint commitment to breastfeed their baby before birth, the mother is more likely to successfully establish and maintain breastfeeding.
 
If your partner is expressing any reservations about breastfeeding, discuss her concerns to help her make an informed choice based on accurate information. If your partner expresses any doubt whatsoever about her ability to breastfeed or her supply of milk, you can help by telling her how well she's doing, reminding her of the benefits of breastfeeding, and by helping her find accurate and complete information to remove any doubt. Don’t underestimate your ability to help your partner to successfully breastfeed.

Your midwife, obstetrician, antenatal classes and the Australian Breastfeeding Association are excellent resources in this regard.

Sex
 

Following birth, the hormone levels in a woman’s body signal it to produce and release milk and contract the uterus. As a result of the changes and adjustments birth brings, your partner may temporarily lose interest in sexual intercourse. This can happen whether the woman is breastfeeding or formula feeding. Many men become closely involved in the breastfeeding experience and spend time lying or sitting near the mother, sharing the enjoyment of a baby breastfeeding.

The natural slipperiness of the vagina may not be present at the beginning of the breastfeeding experience; there are products available eg. KY jelly which help lubricate the vagina. Be sensitive to your partners needs as she gains confidence in breastfeeding and recovers from the birth and interrupted sleep. There are other ways of showing your love—a kiss, a hug, holding hands etc. Take things slowly and talk to one another. 

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