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Breaking Down Barriers: Supporting Fathers in the Postpartum Space

Updated: Jun 17

A father's hand holds an infant's hand
 

Please Read: Inclusive Language for All Parents

The language used in this blog post is intended to be inclusive of all parents, regardless of their sex, gender, or preferred terminology. While I may use terms like 'dads' and 'fathers' for brevity, I fully acknowledge that families come in diverse forms, and the roles and identities of caregivers vary widely.


Whether you're a father, a co-parent, a non-binary parent, or any other caregiver supporting a new mother, birthing person, or baby, the principles and strategies discussed in this post are applicable to you. My goal is to support and guide all individuals navigating the postpartum period, regardless of how they identify or define their role within the family unit.

 

Breaking Down Barriers


Becoming a parent is a truly transformative experience that impacts every aspect of one's life. While much of the attention during the postpartum period is understandably focused on the mother and baby, it's equally important to acknowledge fathers' unique experiences and challenges.


There is a long history of excluding fathers from the birthing and postpartum experience. Until the 1970s and 1980s, most hospitals in the US and Canada did not even allow fathers into the delivery room. Even today, I see new fathers shooed out of the room by well-meaning female relatives, and have encountered women who are embarrassed to breastfeed in front of their own husbands


As a breastfeeding specialist and postpartum doula, I've witnessed firsthand the profound impact that partner support can have on the entire family dynamic. In other words, dads matter, and their presence in the postpartum space makes a huge difference.


In his blog post, I discuss the importance of welcoming dads into the postpartum space and offer a few tips for supporting them.


A father holding a newborn baby against his chest

Supporting Fathers in the Postpartum Space


Acknowledge the Transition


The transition to fatherhood is a monumental shift. It's a journey that includes new responsibilities to navigate, emotional highs and lows, and sleepless nights that can feel like an eternity. The postpartum period can be overwhelming for partners, yet we often overlook their need to express this. Recognizing and validating them during this time lets them know that their experiences are valid and important.


Tip # 1: Address fathers directly. Ask how they are coping and what they find challenging. Validate their feelings and offer reassurance.


Encourage Involvement


One of the most empowering ways to support dads postpartum is to encourage active involvement with their baby. Even when a mom is breastfeeding, there are countless ways for dads to bond with their newborns. Diaper changes, bath time, burping and soothing, and babywearing are all tasks that partners can do to strengthen their bond with the baby. When dads assume responsibility for these tasks, they bond with their baby and promote equality and shared responsibility within the family.


Tip # 2: Get dads involved with newborn care immediately. In the first few days and weeks (or whenever at home), dads can take ownership of the diaper changes, burping, and soothing.


Provide Emotional Support


Navigating the complexities of parenthood can take a toll on mental health. It's important to create a safe and supportive environment where fathers feel comfortable expressing their emotions and asking for help. Open communication, regular check-ins, and connecting them with support groups and resources are all ways of offering emotional support and can make a big difference.


Tip # 3: Regularly check in with new fathers. Ask open-ended questions to encourage dialogue. Find and share resources like support groups or counseling services in their area.


Foster Connection


The postpartum period can be isolating for both parents. We can encourage both parents to prioritize self-care and maintain connections with their support network, whether friends, family, or other parents going through similar experiences. Spending quality time as a couple, even one hour for a walk or coffee, can help strengthen the parental partnership and provide a much-needed respite from the challenges of new parenthood.


Tip # 4: Encourage dads to schedule regular activities that bring them joy and relaxation. Carving out time for themselves can help alleviate stress and maintain emotional well-being. Additionally, I suggest setting aside dedicated time for couples to connect and bond without the distractions of daily life.


Discuss Expectations


Stepping into parenthood means renegotiating roles and responsibilities within the partnership. Today's dads are often more involved in the home life than their own fathers were. Sometimes parenting expectations can be wildly different between two people. It's important to begin these conversations early, and revisit often.


Both partners should be allowed to express their expectations, preferences, and boundaries. Listen to one another. Recognizing each other's perspectives, strengths, and limitations. Focus on collaboration over rigid rolls, and solutions that benefit the entire family's well-being.


If these discussions feel overwhelming, seeking guidance from a counselor or parenting coach can help. Through these conversations, you can establish a supportive parenting dynamic where both partners feel valued, respected, and empowered.


Tip # 5: Schedule regular check-ins with your partner to discuss parenting roles. Listen actively, prioritize collaboration, and seek outside support when needed from a counselor or parenting coach.


Conclusion


In conclusion, supporting dads through the postpartum period is beneficial for their well-being and the overall health and harmony of the family. By acknowledging their experiences, encouraging their involvement, providing emotional support, and fostering connections, we can empower dads to navigate this time with confidence and resilience.


 

As a postpartum doula, I provide holistic support to all parents as they embark on the beautiful and challenging adventure of parenthood. Everyone needs a little help sometimes. Check out my services or reach out to me to learn more!






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