By Dr Preeti Gangan
Fathers today are taking the plunge to redefine the concept of parenting by taking several first-time initiatives. The concept of division of duties and responsibilities is gradually diminishing with both parents attempting to create a balanced atmosphere. Even though the biological role is of the mothers, fathers must take part in nurturing their infant.
Here’s a quick guide for fathers to effectively dive into parenting and caring duties for your newborn.
Explore new styles of parenting
To develop a deeper bond with their baby, explore new styles of parenting. Actively leverage the online space to educate oneself about parenting and newborn care such as about the health benefits of breastfeeding. For instance, it is a lesser known fact that fathers can indulge in skin-to-skin or kangaroo care just like mothers. The significance of being a father can begin at childbirth. Skin-to-skin helps strengthen paternal confidence towards childcare and creates an emotional relationship at a very nascent stage. This first instance of intimate contact creates self-awareness for the father, decreases paternal anxiety and increases feelings of protectiveness. Touching, massaging, hugging and responding effectively to the baby’s crying helps the father to appropriately interpret changes to the baby’s appearance and behaviour.
While kangaroo mother care and breastfeeding are immediate postpartum practices, skin-to-skin with the father can be initiated as early as during postpartum hospitalisation. Encouraging kangaroo father care among the Indian parents can be an effective healthcare strategy that helps fathers build self-confidence, build physiological health of babies and facilitate an easy transition into fatherhood.
Additionally, couples should take antenatal classes together to garner information about breastfeeding, weaning, night-time feeding among others. Birthing techniques such as natural water birth has a lot of health benefits mainly that birthing in a similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful for the mother.
Role of breastfeeding champions
Fathers can partake the role of breastfeeding champions by firstly creating a suitable environment for the mother at home to feel comfortable about herself. Secondly, they should be supportive of their wife’s maternity blues and ensure that they take the lead with being well-versed in the information available. Fathers can equip themselves about the increased awareness about the health benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and baby. In fact, a new mother whose partner supports her by taking care of household responsibilities is likely to be more successful and keep breastfeeding longer. They feel better about pumping and banking milk when they return to the workplace and have more confidence in their breastfeeding abilities. A father can be equally if not a more active participant in bathing, nappy changing, massaging and cuddling to sleep. Fathers can increasingly play the role of baby transporters by taking care of the baby’s burping, diapering and cuddling post-feed. One can also act as pump caretakers responsible for sterilising and cleaning of the pump and bottles.
It’s not just a mother’s job anymore. Housework and childrearing are now seen as teamwork. Parents are now creating a lifestyle that allows them to have a delicate balance between working and parenting.
(The writer is an IBCLC certified consultant paediatrician.)