It’s the third weekend in June, Father’s Day is upon us. Time to dedicate an entire post just to you, Dad.
Dads often feel a bit sidelined. Understandably. From the moment of conception it’s all about mum and baby. For labour and birth, Dads are asked to step up. And then off they go to stand in a corner again while everyone coos over mum and baby. Unlike mums, Dads rarely have anyone to lean on. Mums have groups online and in real life to turn to for support, friendship and shared experience. Groups for Dads are thin on the ground.
However, a Dad’s role is as vital after the birth as it was for this birth to happen in the first place. My post about Surviving the first few days and weeks as a new family mentions some of them. In my roles as Breastfeeding Counsellor and Babywearing Consultant I see every week what a huge influence Dad’s involvement has on an enjoyable parenting journey.
Many lists of what Dad can do in the new family may leave the impression that all this modern talk about Dads who help is for mum’s and baby’s benefit only. Far from it! A University of Notre Dame study in 2012 concluded that
“[t]here is growing evidence that men’s physiology can respond to involved parenthood […] This suggests to us that active fatherhood has a deep history in the human species and our ancestors. For some people, the social idea that taking care of your kids is a key component of masculinity and manliness may not be new, but we see increasing biological evidence suggesting that males have long embraced this role.” “
What this study showed, was that involved parenting, in this case co-sleeping, lowers Dad’s testosterone levels, making him more responsive to his baby’s needs. The more Dad is involved in caring for his baby, the more his body recognises that there is a dependent little person to be looked after. So get stuck in there!
“But what can I do?”, Dads often ask in my Breastfeeding Preparation Sessions. Most can think of
- feeding mum and keeping her hydrated
- managing the stream of visitors according to mum’s needs
- listen to her, aknowledge her feelings and emotions
- look after general household duties so mum can rest and recover
- change nappies
- look after the older children
All very, very important. “And what about other jobs around the baby?”, I then ask. “Sure, we’ll be breastfeeding. The baby will be with her pretty much all the time.” Will they? Let’s look at what babies need:
- optimum nourishment
- clean and dry bum
- close physical contact
- nurturing touch
- optimum body temperature
- repsonsiveness to their physical and emotional needs
There is only one need on that list Dads can’t provide (without some effort): optimum nourisment. Every.single.other.need Dad can meet. Not just changing nappies. Dad is baby’s first experience of love without food. That is a pretty big job!
Talking about big jobs: Taking those two lists above together, it looks like Dads have their hands incredibly full while mum recovers, readjusts and recharges! As luck would have it, there’s an awesome tool that makes it possible to meet needs 3–7 in the baby list above AND keep the mummy support running too AND benefit Dad as per the study quoted above… A tool as essential to our species’ survival as breastmilk… a baby sling. Dad can settle baby, keep them safe, form a strong bond, give mum a break and get stuff done all at the same time. And for mum, there’s nothing as attractive as her man wearing their baby with pride and love.
All well for a woman saying that? Grand, let the men speak so! In this touching Ode to babywearing for Dads for instance, which looks into four reasons why Dads should wear their babies. Or Ciaran, an Irish man, who has made it his mission to share is experience of wearing his son with as many men as possible, so they get to enjoy this amazing tool as well.
Involved Dads rock. For their woman, for their off-spring and for themselves.