So, you’ve had all the discussions about what kind of parents you want to be. Who’s doing what. How you can help out. Your expectations of your role as Dad. Your expectations of her role as Mum. How you’ll share the load. Share the nappy changing. Share the night feeds.
Perhaps I should rephrase all that. You’ve been told what’s going to happen and you’ve pretended to listen. What is there to know? There’s going to be a baby and life will never be the same again.
There are a lot of airy-fairy, namby-pamby terminology out there for things to do with pregnancy, labour and newborns so I thought I’d enlighten you on the science behind a couple of things in the most un-namby pamby way possible.
In your Wife/Partner’s head, she will have plopped the baby out, drug-free and the midwives will all be telling her that that was the most amazing birth they have ever witnessed. Anything that even mildly deviates from this impossible fantasy will make her feel like a failure. Therefore, if your Wife/Partner ends up needing any intervention, she may be devastated.
If she needs to be taken away to have her lady garden re-landscaped or her innards put back in the right place, then you can take over skin-to-skin with the baby. Here’s the reasons why:
- Being skin-to-skin with the Mothership can raise the baby’s temperature by two degrees. Being skin-to-skin with Dad can raise the temperature by one degree. That’s a lot in baby world.
- It colonises the baby with your bacteria. This helps to kick start the immune system. Baby may rub it’s mouth against your skin. Any bacteria that the baby gets in and around it’s mouth will rub off on the areola around your Wife’s/Partner’s nips. The lumpy bits on her areola are receptors which will feed back to the immune system so that the antibodies for the bacteria are in the milk within 3-4 hours.
- Holding the baby upright on your chest helps clear all the gunk in the airways. Gone are the days of cradling a newborn, swaddled in blankets. Wear a top that is lose fitting so you can tuck the baby underneath, get it nice and warm and help it cough up all the lung butter.
- Baby will be able to feel your heartbeat which will help keep it calm. A handy tip for any time, not just after birth.
- The most important reason is because your Wife/Partner will be imagining her baby lying in a cold, comfortless hospital crib, screaming for it’s Mother and it’ll all be her fault because she’s such a failure and tore from her arsehole to her armpits. Therefore, knowing that the baby is having skin-to-skin with Dad will not only win you massive amounts of points but will help her be just a little less crazy. Just a little.
For the first three to four days, your Wife’s/Partner’s boobs will be producing small amounts of colostrum, a potent, immune boosting liquid. Because the baby’s stomach is the size of a small marble, there won’t be very much (about a teaspoon per feed). This is what it does:
- It helps your baby poo out the meconium which in turn helps prevent jaundice
- It passes on the antibodies your Wife/Partner has collected during her lifetime
- It helps the baby collect it’s own new antibodies
- It helps prime the gut and protect it against infection
- It’s very rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins
If your Wife/Partner is having any boobing problems, here are a couple of my previous posts (positioning help and possible problems) with tips on nips. Most importantly, find out where the nearest boob feeding support group is and deliver her and baby there forthwith.
The Baby Blues
Around day four (can be longer if birth was a bit traumatic), your Wife’s/Partner’s milk will come in. She will have knockers at least the size of her head and possibly, probably, will spend most of the day sobbing uncontrollably. If she’s not sobbing continually, she may be freaking out in other ways so tread carefully. This is because of a huge surge of hormones. It’s all normal and will only last for the next several months. The main thing is to give her lots of reassurance and answer all questions with, “you’re a brilliant Mum and you look amazing to me.” Don’t deviate from this answer as it could lead you into treacherous territory.
A couple of other pointers you might like to know:
You will be inundated with visitors very early on. Your Wife/Partner may be fine with all the holding of baby, but she’ll have her limits. To avoid a why-aren’t-you-telepathic-if-you-loved-me-you-would-have-realised type meltdown, have a chat before the visitors arrive and have a code word or look that your wife can give you which will be your cue to give the baby back to your Wife/Partner. Why can’t she just do it herself? I could go into the inner workings of a hormone-ravaged female mind but I fear I would lose you quite quickly so just accept that she can’t and won’t. Doing this will gain you at least a million Dad points.
If your Wife/Partner is boob feeding, it will be accepted that you can’t help with night feeds. Brilliant for you. However, by around 6am, she may be ready to murder you especially if you’ve slept soundly all night. As soon as the baby has had a feed, get up and take baby downstairs or into another room to allow your Wife/Partner to rest. She will expect you to be telepathic and or read the signs that she wants you to take over (loud huffing, swearing, slamming of objects, name calling). So if you do take the hint without question, you will gain a new high score of Dad points. Any time from 5am. This is also your bonding time with the baby – my husband would put our daughter in the sling and play his computer console. She loved that quality father/daughter time.
Navigating your way through the dangerous territory of your Wife’s hormones and expectations in the first week will be more challenging than the baby but hopefully now you have the tools to avoid a few landmines (and here’s another blog on what not to say). Just remember, “You’re a brilliant Mum and you look amazing to me,” will get you out of most metaphorical sticky patches. A damp flannel is good for everything else.