Top 10 tips for how new dads can be actively involved in all stages of pregnancy, birthing, and early parenting.
Dads can play a valuable part during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting in improving the health and happiness of the whole family.
After gathering shared wisdom from past and present experiences, health carers, community groups, families, support networks and resources, expectant parents have identified many ways of integrating new parenting skills into a man’s world.
I’ve picked out my top ten tools because of the positive changes I see they create – a happier, healthier and more successful family life. These tools are easy to integrate into regular practice, practical and are also useful skills for life in general.
Relationship wellness – mind and body
- Self-care is so important. This can include mindfulness exercises, guided meditations, positive thinking and goal setting. Add body awareness exercises, breath work, regular massage and movement practices (sport, yoga, etc). Notice what brings pleasure to the body and explore strategies to manage any existing physical and emotional issues.
- Partner care. Practise presence and giving emotional and practical support. Learn each other’s love language and offer gifts of love in that language. Ask her what she needs and wants and meet that need as best you can. Get to know your partner with a curious, open minded and playful spirit. This will deepen love, trust and confidence in each other.
- Baby care. Baby care. Your baby thinks the world of you. You will feel more bonded and instinctively invested in your baby’s care when you give your time and attention for things like skin to skin cuddles, baby wearing, bathing, helping mum out, eye gazing, smiling, playing games, going for a walk and so much more.
Communication skills – Your rights and your responsibilities for an empowered life!
- Practise active listening, such as acknowledging, validating, accepting, forgiving, caring, reflecting-back with your partner so that each of you feels heard and understood.
- Make an informed choice and ‘Use your BRAIN’ – a handy acronym to help work through a decision. Ask what are the Benefits, Risks, and Alternatives of this choice. Check your Intuition and say No/Not now if it’s not right for you. Repeat with any other options that pop up.
- Write a birth and early parenting support plan. Various internet sites provide templates for this. Download a breastfeeding plan from the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s website.
Learning skills – Understand how to optimise birth, breastfeeding and parenting outcomes
- Attend independent and hospital based birth and parenting classes, antenatal visits and peer support groups. Read books for dads, materials from community groups like PANDA, and Relationships Australia. Talk to care providers and engage in the process of your parenting journey. Don’t wait for her to tell you what to do. Bring your own ideas to the table.
- Integrate new learnings and skills into real life situations to make positive change last. Repetition creates new habits that will serve your purpose better. Learn how to breathe more slowly and use it when you hit a stressful moment in life.
Reaching out – You are not alone
- Reach out to community resources – Beer + Bubs, Birthready dads, Sms4dads, Dads Group Inc, PANDA, ABA, Beyondblue, Relationships Australia, Mensline.
- Share your life stories with your partner, other dads, friends/family, colleagues, support services, and health carers. Listen to others and ask about how they’ve gained their life lessons.
Dads who use these life tools notice the positive changes in themselves and those around them. They feel empowered and it fuels them to be their best.They carry a deeper trust in their gut sense of how to look after their family. These dads are more able to make healthy decisions and be a team with their partner. They adapt to change more easily, manage their emotions better, and love deepens with their partner.
Men don’t need to fall through the cracks. If we all raise our awareness and tool up ourselves to tool up dads, they will feel more confident and informed about their rights, choices and responsibilities around the pregnancy to parenting time. We all benefit if we have happier and healthier parents transitioning into life with their baby.
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