As some of you will know, amongst other things, I am quite a twitter addict. Recently I have been dealing with questions from some new dads that have surprised me. Especially when they have come from dads that had attended traditional antenatal classes.
Now don’t get me wrong, I suffer the same problems as all antenatal educators, that being there are so many topics to cover and how do you cover them all in a limited time. BUT there are topics that really should be covered in ALL antenatal classes where dad is present. DaddyNatal classes have a class plan, but its flexible, I tailor it each time to suit the dads I am working with. Some subjects may be covered in depth one course and more briefly in another. It is very much dad led in that respect, although I have core subjects which are always covered in depth.
Anyway I decided to go out to dads on twitter and ask them what they wish they had been told, I was surprised by the answers as nearly all of them are part of my core section, life with a new born. It has now persuaded me to run a number of pieces on what to expect once baby is here, so today we start with the following points. If I haven’t featured your points today don’t worry I will, this subject is going to run a while I think!!
So what did I get back?
First up let’s tackle sleep, this one did make me laugh, not because it isn’t serious point, but simply I think it is summed up in something Tom has said. “Ok, everyone tells you this and you will almost certainly have received numerous ‘witty’ remarks alluding to your impending lack of kip. But if you’re anything like me, you have probably been quite blasé about it and have inadvertently ignored them. “
Sleep deprivation was probably the most common response I got, and I wonder if Tom has hit nail on the head, I talk at length about it in class, most people reference the warning, and I cannot believe other classes don’t also discuss it. I am just not sure expectant dads get it, we all think back to our younger years and how we could party all weekend surviving on couple hours sleep a night. So we can cope, can’t we? Yes we can, but doesn’t mean we are prepared.
So what is it really like? Well maybe, way for you to see, is set your alarm to go off every two hours through the night, when it goes off, get up and do something for 15 to 30 minutes, then go back to bed, do that every day for just a week, and see how you feel! Then remember you have only been doing it for a week.
Sleep deprivation probably puts more pressure on the family than anything else, we all know what we are like when we are tired, ratty, prone to making mistakes, lacking in patience, rude and possibly even depressed. So understanding it is going to happen and some ways of alleviating the effects are crucial, for your sanity and your families!
So how do you deal with it, first up don’t be blasé, it can be that bad if you are not prepared, but once baby is here changing your pattern and doing some of the following although won’t cure it will certainly help deal with it.
Jonny’s comment was “how to master the daytime power nap (to overcome the sleep deprivation!)”
So what is a powernap? Powernap is quite simply that a nap, even just 10 minutes can leave you feeling refreshed. A powernap should not be more than 30 minutes and this is probably where most of us go wrong; we are that tired we just effectively go to sleep. After 30 minutes you are likely to go in to a deep sleep phase, this can mean you will have difficulty waking up and also make it harder to sleep at night.
For both mum and dad, learning to nap really is the best way to combat sleep deprivation, try and grab a nap when baby is sleeping. Try and set a timer so you don’t go longer than 30 minutes. Do it before baby is born and you will be amazed how refreshed you can feel.
One thing to avoid is caffeine after midday, most of us will reach for coffee or caffeine support when we are feeling tired, but if you take it after midday it can still be in your system and actually make it difficult to fall asleep at night. Remember a lot of things contain caffeine; tea and coke are just a couple which are similar to coffee.
Post Natal Depression (PND)
Now, regular followers will know this is a subject close to my heart, and although things are changing, they are changing too slowly and with not enough emphasis. Now I can write a book on this one, and I have written full piece on it here.
Ben commented “also no mention of the risk of depression in new dads when they suddenly feel useless” referring to lack of information at his antenatal class. Whilst Alex stated “all new dads should be given guidance on how to spot PND and what to do.”
They both coming at it from different angles and both very important, although officially PND in men is now recognised still very little is being done about it. The importance of educating Dads to recognise the signs in mum is also not being given enough importance.
It is estimated 3% of dads will suffer PND in the first year of their babies lives, personally I think the figure is far higher simply because dads either don’t seek help or are just diagnosed as depressed.
Very importantly, if a dad is diagnosed with PND mum should also be checked, commonly her PND has been projected on to dad, women are very good at masking the signs of PND and we need to learn how to recognise them before they become too severe. So signs both mum and dad should be looking for in each other can be.
- Loss of appetite, which may go with feeling hungry all the time, but being unable to eat.
- Being very low, comments about them being crap parent, no good at it. Also despondency.
- Feeling tired and very lethargic, or even quite numb. Not to be confused with sleep deprivation as can be linked with difficulty sleeping, not getting to sleep and even waking early.
- A general dis interest in the world at large, no desire to do anything, or even see anyone especially friends and family.
- Unusually irritable, which can link in with feeling unable to cope or not bonding/loving baby enough (common dad sign as he can feel pushed out or isolated) this can lead to guilt and be a vicious cycle.
- Crying or feeling like wanting to cry all the time.
- Either mum or dad can be either hostile or indifferent to each other and/or the baby.
- Panic attacks, which can strike at any time, causing rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms and feelings of sickness or faintness.
- Can also become very indecisive and find it difficult to concentrate or make decisions
- Also some physical symptoms like stomach pains, headaches or blurred vision.
- Mum can become obsessive about the baby’s health, or about herself and partner. This can also lead to excluding dad from caring from baby. A mum’s perspective on this was written by Emma here
This isn’t a conclusive list, but show common signs, obviously some come be result of other but you know each other best and it is important you keep communicating. If you see changes of behaviour that worry you, DO NOT ignore them, seek help or advice.
Already this has become a very long post so I will cover more of the comments I received in a later piece.
As always if anyone would like to comment please feel free to do so, if anyone would like advice email me Dean@DaddyNatal.co.uk