You’ve watched your partner from the beginning of this pregnancy grow, not just physically but also from an evolutionary stand point. Where once stood a woman, there is now a mother. But you can’t help but wonder: “Where do I fit into this?” You’ve obviously played a key role, but the act of birthing and nursing an infant doesn’t necessary allow initially for a lot of hands-on “dad involvement.”
But you do play an important role – and studies are now proving it. A 2013 survey-based study* associated supportive, attentive partners with moms who breastfed longer and had a higher satisfaction in doing so. Mothers whose partners were involved additionally reported a higher level of satisfaction with their overall pregnancy experience at 3 months.
So dive in, experience as much as you can together, and know that you are an integral part of this journey!
Here are some ways you can support your partner:
- Be present – at appointments, shopping for essentials and classes.
- Support and positively acknowledge the changes her body is going through.
- Make healthy lifestyle changes for yourself. If you smoke, work on quitting; if you are overweight, improve your diet and exercise routine; if you have mental health problems or an addiction, work on them and get the support and help you need. You need to be the best you can for your partner and your child.
- Make her comfortable. Massages, foot and leg rubs, a warm bath, extra pillows – all of these things make pregnant bodies more comfortable.
- Learn as much as you can and support her in her birthing options.
- Seize the moment. This is literally the last few months you have together alone. Have fun, travel, enjoy intimate times.
During labor and delivery:
- Provide distractions. Bring her favorite DVD series, turn on the music, give her a back rub. All of these things can improve her tolerance to labor.
- Be her advocate. She may not be able to recall what she wants when she is “in the moment.” Be a calming presence and voice for her when she needs it.
- Expect and humor a bit of frustration from her. She is exhausted, she is uncomfortable and she may be easily annoyed.
- Take pictures and videos. You will both forget a lot the first few days, and it’s nice to have a way to remember the moments.
- Allow yourselves a chance to debrief. Talk about the experience and your baby.
- Become an expert diaper changer and bath giver.
- Rock your baby to sleep so mom can rest after nursing.
- Hold your baby at meals. Your partner needs nourishment and an arm to feed herself.
- Develop routines such as bath or bedtime. This can be a regular break for mom but also a way for you to remain engaged on a regular basis with your little one.
- Understand that emotions may run high. Support her, tell her that she is doing a good job as a mother; make her feel loved.
- Take on parts of cooking, cleaning or household tasks she may feel responsible for. Let her know you care by doing things without being asked.
- Ask her what she needs from you. She may not offer this up otherwise.
- Take care of your basic needs so you can be the rested one during a restless night, the sane one when everything seems insane, the alert one when the duty calls for it.
So congratulations and enjoy the journey. You and your partner will make a great team. You are an integral part of her care before, during and after the birth of your baby.
*published in the BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth Journal
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