One of my favorite things about working with families during labor and birth is being a support for the husbands! I love working with the husband/partner throughout labor and birth to not only provide the mother the most comfort that both of us as a team can, but I also provide them with extra relief and care as well.
But many women do have that question, how can I get him more involved throughout this time?
The reality is that just 50-60 years ago, husbands/partners weren't greatly involved in the birthing process. So many men today may not have a father figure in their life to talk with about how they can be present to their wife/partner during pregnancy and labor, as well as not really knowing how to assist in parenting a newborn.
From my experience both personally and professionally, many men want to play an active role but just don't know-how. They either don't have an understanding of what is going on in their wife/partner's new phase of life, or they are afraid of doing the wrong thing and making her upset. This is especially true during active labor while the mother is focused on riding through each contraction. He knows that he can't take away the pain, but also doesn't want to upset her. So how can he play an active role and help when the time comes?
Here are some practical ways to get your husband/partner involved during pregnancy, labor/birth, and the postpartum period.
*Take a childbirth class together- This way he knows what exactly you are going to be experiencing physically, and help him to know that pain does not equal distress or trouble
*Hire a doula- Having a birth doula around will not only give him ease that it's not all on him, but the doula will also give him specific tasks to do during labor if he needs direction
*Let him know how you're feeling- Hormones are difficult to understand, so I can't imagine how impossible it is for our husband/partner to understand. Explain how different you are feeling, and ways that things can or may need to change in order to be more helpful to you during this time
*Create or go over your birth plan together- Again this lets him know what you desire and how he can help make these desires happen as much as possible
*Have the bags packed for him ahead of time- Let him know what is in your labor bag and why, this way it will give him direction and allow him to be present to you
*Tell him how you are feeling- Whether its pain or you are totally fine, let him know how you are honestly feeling
*See if he can help catch the baby- This depends on where you are giving birth and how comfortable your provider maybe with this, but if they are okay with it, you can have him help to catch the baby as they are being born
*Have him cut the cord: if he is up for it, having the husband/partner cut the cord is a very memorable experience for him.
*Have him share the news with the family- A proud dad moment is when they get to share the news with the whole world (or just family) that the baby has been born. If you have specific people who you want to be part of that group, let him know ahead of time, or even create a contact list of people in a group message to be notified
*Have him get you food/drink while breastfeeding- Many dads express that they want to feel closer to the baby by feeding them. If you are breastfeeding, it isn't a good idea to switch back and forth from breast to bottle. A great way your husband/partner can help with feedings is by keeping a well-stocked stash of water and one-handed nutritious snacks that you can have at hand while feeding
*Have him do skin to skin also with the baby- While it is important for the mother to do skin to skin with the baby, this can help babies bond with their fathers as well. It will also help the father feel more bonded with the baby.
*Have him swaddle and cuddle after a feeding- If you are done feeding the baby and ready to put them down for a nap or the night, having your husband/partner do the swaddling can be another special experience that they get to have with their baby.
*Have them change the diapers in the middle of the night- Many fathers may want to help out especially during the night feedings, but if you are breastfeeding you don't want to miss a feeding (which will mess with your supply). They can still help out at night by getting up with the baby first to change the diaper and/or messy clothes then hand over the readied baby to you for feeding.
*Let him parent- This is a huge confidence booster, but let them be the father. While you may be doing most of the caring, don't point out if the diaper isn't changed in the exact way that you do, or the clothes are the ones you would have picked out, or how he isn't rocking him in the best way. Criticizing the father will lead to a drop in his own confidence in parenting and can eventually lead to him not wanting to offer help anymore because of the constant criticism. Let him parent. (If you find yourself doing this, again and again, keep an eye on your behavior as it can one of many signs of a postpartum disorder).
What are some ways you've gotten your husband/partner involved? I'd love to hear them in the comments below!