Breastfeeding Dads Part II

Ok, as a family you have decided to breastfeed, so that’s it, dad’s job done… over to mum!

Absolutely not! If this is decision you have made, then you need to work together, this is a team activity and your support is crucial.

First up, lets myth bust! Breastfeeding is natural, easy and all women can do it!

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Breastfeeding Dads!

Right, before we get into this one, let’s be clear on my personal opinion: I advocate breastfeeding wherever possible. I believe it can be the best start for a child and I believe in the benefits of it. That said, I do not decry those that choose not to breastfeed, as long as it is an informed decision and has been taken in the best interests of the family, given the personal circumstances.

Ok, that’s that out of the way! So what do I have to say on the subject?

Simple, I get more and more fed up with the discussions I see taking place… I am fed up with media and their use of terms like breastfeeding zealots, breastfeeding Nazis or even Breastapo. But I am also sick of the attacks on families that have chosen to not breastfeed or for medical reason, cannot breastfeed. Yes it is true, depending on what research you read, between 1 and 5% have a medical reason for not being able to personally breastfeed. Even if it’s only 3%, that’s still over 18,000 mums a year in the UK alone who can’t. Yes, there are now milk banks, or milk sharing networks, but this are not widely available, or advertised. Unfortunately, they are also viewed as very ‘hippy’. It has also been a long while since wet nurses were commonly used, so to some the thought of it being another woman’s milk being given to their baby, for some reason repulses them.

There is still so much general discussion about the amount of women that give up in the first two weeks, or percentage who are still feeding at 3 or 6 months, and how we need to support more women to continue breastfeeding. This almost becomes self-defeating, the cycle that occurs from this are feelings of being under pressure, leading to fear of ‘failure’ and the guilt associated with that, which then allows the media to use the terms they do. Yes, a lot of women get great support that really helps, but also a lot of women also struggle, hide their struggle because they feel guilty or scared of being criticised or judged, turn to formula, AGAIN hiding this because they feel guilty or scared of being criticised or judged. I have known many women who have even hidden the formula cartons away when they know the midwife/health visitor is coming to visit, rather than ask for help.

BUT that isn’t what I want to make people think about, I want to draw attention to the crucial element that is being missed by breast feeding support workers, health visitors, midwives etc. Not all of them, but a large proportion.


DADS! Yes, dads. They are a crucial element to successful establishment and continuation. Again, those same dads, without adequate support to take a positive role, can also be the reason for failure to establish and all this is being ignored.

 

So why can Dads be the reason for failure to establish or continue breastfeeding?

There are two main reasons. Firstly, there is what I refer to as the male ‘fix it reflex’. When us men see our loved ones in distress, pain or despair our natural instinct is to ‘fix it’. And being men, we tend to look for practical ways to do this. Without proper support and understanding, this is what can make us men a liability, during pregnancy, during labour and when baby is born! We don’t do it out of malice, we don’t do it for self-gain, we simply want to help our loved one and ‘fix’ the problem. In breastfeeding, this can manifest itself when our loved one may be struggling to establish breastfeeding, or generally just finding it hard, especially in those first few weeks! For many men, if we see what we perceive to be our loved ones in difficulty, we will try to help, and often this will include (when all else seems to not be working) to reach for the formula. Why? Simply because it is an almost immediate, practical, solution, no other reason. We understand breastfeeding offers the best start for our baby, but at the time our ‘fix it reflex’ takes over, and we want to help. The decision to formula feed has been taken out of the hands of our partner, which can create a negative spiral of guilt, denial and then the very real difficulties associated with the impact mixed feeding can have on milk production… ultimately possibly leading to them discontinuing breastfeeding.

The second reason is a little more complicated. Now, men if not properly prepared, can feel excluded in a household of baby and breastfeeding mum. They can end up feeling a bit of a spare part or dogs body, if nobody has supported them, prepared them and told them how to help support their family, is that really such a revelation? If this continues, it can also turn to resentment, a feeling of exclusion, and lead to male postnatal depression. Those early days in general are quite a stressful time, complete with the torture that is sleep deprivation for the whole family.

I’m sure many of us will agree, even if just privately, at this time we didn’t always act rationally, and again this is the case here. Generally it will be men that first bring formula into the house. Normally stating “just in case of emergency” or “better to be prepared” or something along those lines.  Men long for an opportunity to simply get involved with feeding, so if opportunity presents itself they will jump at the chance, often this is through the use of formula they bought “just in case”.

Unfortunately there is a growing attitude that even expressing is not really a good idea. Yes, I know it can lead to problems, but again, understanding and preparation here is essential, and many families make this work very successfully. Men do want to share that feeling, the one women get when they are feeding their baby and can gaze into their eyes, that moment of very special connection. We men can become very jealous of that connection, especially when you also consider some of the issues I discuss in my blog on antenatal bonding. For most men they don’t feel like they are dad until baby is born, so this bonding process can be inhibited in these circumstances.

I’m not saying all men will do all, or some of the above, but a lot will. Simply, either out of misguided idea of helping our family, or simply not understanding our role. Just waiting for an opportunity, so we can become more involved.

This has all sounded very negative, Dads can do so much if properly supported and prepared. If they understand how to become involved, and are given a sense of purpose, so many of these possible pitfalls can be avoided. Dads, when mum is feeding baby, sit with her, talk with her and talk to your baby. Bring mum a drink whilst she is feeding, that simple act has so many benefits both physically and emotionally. Take a proactive role in what comes after the feed, the winding the sleepy post-feed cuddle…

I believe our current antenatal education system needs to be addressed, it needs to be MORE dad inclusive. It is why we discuss breastfeeding within DaddyNatal… it is why I prepare dads for the feelings (positive and negative) they may start to feel. It is why I give dads a list of things they can do in support of a breastfeeding partner. It is why I make dads aware of their ‘fix it reflex’ and teach them at times like this to sit on their hands. It is why I give dads a sense of purpose and get them to share in the feeling of achievement, if they as a family have chosen to breastfeed and are successfully doing so.

There is so much more I want to write on this subject and at a later date I will re visit it. I will also publish my tips and advice for Breastfeeding Dads. Go on try that term because successful breastfeeding, like all aspects of parenting is easier if everyone is pulling together. So yes, dads should breastfeed too, figuratively speaking!

 

Review of the Bit Bike!

OK dads this one is most definitely for you! I heard about this new product called the Bit bike so thought I would do some research and see what the buzz was all about! So found their website BitBike.

The first thing that hit me was the pictures, it looked great!

 

 

So then started reading, what was this thing?

“The BitBike has been subjected to extensive tests to meet European safety standards.”

“The BitBike’s award-winning design comes in a range of vibrant colours, so it will really stand out from the crowd, whether you’re in the playground or zooming through the outer reaches of the galaxy.”

“The BitBike’s ergonomic design provides optimum comfort and security for toddlers.”

“Innovative integrated handlebars ensure a good driving position, protecting the rider’s spine and increasing balance, while the molded plywood structure yields to the leg profile to prevent friction. Wide wheels offer stability and balance, which are both essential for superheroes en route to save the earth.”

Ok by now you will know I am skeptical of such claims so contacted them to find out more, had great chat with Billy, who is obviously very passionate about it, and who kindly then offered to send me one!! Result!

The bike is recommended for children between 18 months and 3 years of age. Now as my little boy was just about to have his third birthday and my little girl is just coming up to her second, we had the perfect product testing crew to put it through its paces.

Not being one to miss a trick we hid the bike from the kids and wrapped it up for my little boy to open on his birthday. So the morning of his birthday arrived, his presents at the ready he opened the BitBike, this is where the problems started! As soon as it was opened he was off and riding! The rest of the presents ignored! Thanks BitBike! Unfortunately more was to ensue, having completed a dozen laps of the living room, little sister decided it was her turn and the battle commenced. No amount of trying to convince him to open the rest of the presents was going to work. Eventually he decided his sister could have a go and off she went. She loved it as well and was a natural rider.

Since then it has been outside at every opportunity, they have even started to take turns, and I have to say they love it, and to be honest so do I. It is made to such a high quality, it does everything its meant to. It is simple in concept and that I think is part of the attraction, this kids love it, and no BitBike you are not having it back!

Whether it is just coincidence I cant say but their coordination and balance does seem to have improved, they also seemed to know instinctively how to sit on it and ride it, which again I think is credit to the design.

My only question, is what else do you have in the pipeline? I cant wait to see what designers that came up with this will come up with next!

So in traditional style this receives a resounding full FIVE star review

What is the partner’s role during birth? Part I

What can dad do during birth?

This is the question I am probably asked the most, normally followed with a comment such as “apart from hold mum’s hand” or worse “keep out of the way!” These comments couldn’t be further from the truth… dads can do so much during labour and really make a difference. Unfortunately no, we cannot guarantee everything will go to plan, we cannot wave a magic wand and no, we definitely can’t swap places!

So again, what can dad do during birth?

Dads role in labour is really only about two things… So dads listen up, understand your role, prepare for your role and really support you partner!

Be Her Protector

Yep, you get to be her knight in shining armour! But what are you protecting?

Everything with regard to being her protector stems from one key factor, adrenalin. In my piece “men at birth” I explain about fear. Birth professionals the world over will agree, adrenalin is an enemy in labour… adrenalin can stall labour, make labour more painful and longer.

Your role as a protector is about protecting your partner’s environment and recognising anything that may cause fear, and get that adrenalin pumping around her body.

This image is of a typical delivery room,

What in this room could cause apprehension or fear in your partner?

Simple, just about everything! Even the clock on the wall can cause both of you to watch time pass and worry how long it is taking. Then how about the blood pressure band hanging behind the bed. What about the alarm call button or the baby station? Maybe the IV tree sitting just at head of bed? All of these things can evoke anxiety in either of you, which can start the process of adrenalin production.

DON’T PANIC!!!

Simply by recognising these things can cause anxiety is first step. Now you are aware you can talk about them, understand them and accept that they are there not for you but simply because they are always there. If you spot something in your partners eye line you feel may cause a problem, move it! Think about how you can take the emphasis of the medicalised delivery room, with dimmed lights, music playing, etc.

So these are tangibles that you can spot and deal with, but also think about the walk in to the hospital, checking in, being examined. Just actually walking in to the maternity suite can be scary, as it all becomes very real for both of you. Is it any surprise that the majority of women when arriving at hospital, will state that “typical, my contractions have slowed down”? That’s caused by that surge of adrenalin… So be aware, once you get there make your partner as comfortable as possible and the environment as relaxing as possible as quickly as possible. Reassure her and follow my labour dos and don’ts.

OK, now what else was missing from the picture? Simple, people. So who will be in the room? Well, probably you, also the midwife. That will be the minimum, but depending on your circumstances there may be more.

Do you need to protect you partner from the midwife? Absolutely! But no, before the outcry, not because the midwife is bad or dangerous! Your partner just needs to feel comfortable with her midwife. To keep adrenalin down, your partner needs to feel surrounded by people she can trust and feels relaxed with.

Your role as protector does not stop there though… you also need to protect your partner against YOURSELF! During labour, your partners senses will be heightened, Mother Nature gave this as a gift to labouring women so that they can sense dangers around themselves, so they can protect themselves. During labour, your partner will sense any worries or tension coming from yourself, in a nutshell, she will smell your fear. If she senses you are afraid or worried, it will trigger her fear and thus her adrenalin. This is why YOU preparing for YOUR role during labour is so important. By being better prepared and informed, you will be calmer and more confident during labour and birth.

So focus on her, keep reassuring, use that extended vocabulary you now have prepared. Overall, trust in both of your abilities and instincts. Simply by reading this you will be better prepared. Keep preparing, and allow yourselves to enjoy the experience, as it is a truly wonderful time when you meet your child for the first time.

However, being your partners protector is only half of your role… my next blog will cover your other essential role – that of advocate.

 

Baby Monitors, whats available? (Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature reviewed)

OK dads, this is our department, a gadget for the baby! Time for some research. There are a wide range of baby monitors on the market, varying in both price and functionality. Prices range from as little as £25 to over £200.

So what are the choices?

First, is your basic sound only monitor, this type of monitor has a base station that is in the bedroom with baby, you then have a portable receiver to enable you to listen to the sounds of baby. Most of these tend to be analogue transmitters so signal quality can sometimes leave a bit to be desired.

The second type is the sound and movement monitor, this will have a base station, a sensor mat to go under babies mattress and the parent receiver unit. In addition some transmit an analogue signal whilst the better ones transmit a digital signal.

Finally, are the sound and video monitors. These have a base unit which incorporates a small camera and the portable unit which will normally contain a lcd screen. They start with your basic black and white screen but can have a colour image. Some even have infra red capabilities, whilst some will also transmit your images online allowing you to view them wherever you are.

So what one should I have?

Ok dads, now is the time to control the urge to buy the one with all bells and whistles! It is a gadget but a gadget with a serious purpose. The real answer is the one you want is the one that is right for you as a family, balancing budget with needs.

If you are on restricted budget but want some comfort then the sound monitor is way to go. Personally, I favour the sound and movement monitors, these always gave me reassurance of hearing my babies with added comfort of alarm sounding if no movement or breath registered after 20 – 30 seconds. I was one of those dads who if they hadn’t heard baby for a while would have to go and check they were OK. Didn’t take me long to throw sound monitor away and get sound and movement one! (also dads these are great fun, you try seeing how gentle a touch you can achieve on top of mattress without monitor sensing it! Almost impossible to make any contact without registering which is very re assuring) If budget isn’t an issue you may want to consider the video monitors for some parents seeing their child is very re assuring.

Tommee Tippee kindly sent me their Closer to Nature Digital Monitor and Sensor Pad to review. As our youngest is 20 months we thought this would really put monitor to the test!!  Many people will tell you that a sound and movement monitor is redundant when baby can start to move freely or crawl. In fact this is exactly the case with ours, which now sit in a box in the loft gathering dust. Even before that happened with our Angel Care monitor, and we had to disconnect the sensor pad and it became basic sound only monitor. The pad wasn’t sensitive enough to pick up movement if baby had moved to end of the cot. In the case of the Tommee Tippee one, it passed with flying colours no false alarms at all in over a week!

Ok, so what else?  Important dad bits first, it looks cool, stylish, with black and white contrast colours, the handset is sleek and small enough to fit in pocket, with belt carry clip already fitted! It has a slimline docking unit for recharging the batteries supplied with it. No need for a constant supply of AA batteries and trips to garage to get ripped off. You just know the batteries will run out just as you are settling down to a well deserved break as baby goes off to sleep. Four AA batteries can be placed in base unit in case of powercut.

This is a digital transmission monitor, giving crystal clear reception and excellent range up to 300m. Yes I did see how far I could walk down the street before it stopped working and no, it wasn’t quite far enough to get to the pub! It has in built nightlight and room temperature display. There are a number of user changeable settings but I will let you look at manual, to then discard it and just play until you have found them all, why should I spoil your fun?

Overall this would have got a Four Star rating if it wasn’t for the talk back function! This easily pushes it to a Five Star rating and if I could six. Talkback is the ability to talk to the baby through the handset without having to go up to their room. This I think is an excellent addition and one that will seriously extend the life of the monitor in usefulness terms. Having the ability to talk to your child as they get older will allow problems to be dealt with without having to return to the room. If they are trying to pull a fast one just to get you back into the room this will allow you to ask what’s wrong before returning. Of course I am not advocating remote parenting but there are distinct benefits to having this facility.

Pop over to Tommee Tippee to see more reviews on their site. I have now found this monitor as low as £75 from Tescos and Toys R Us! I cannot recommend it enough.

What a week!!


A glimpse into a working week with Dean & Steph of Bump, Birth and Beyond

Gosh, while everyone else seems to be winding down for Easter… things have never been busier at Bump Birth and Beyond LTD. It has been a hectic week, but a very positive hectic week!

Our busy week kicked off on Saturday, listening to the first interview Dean had recorded for The Baby Show broadcast on Star Radio. The interview was focused on the role of the dad in pregnancy, and very exciting for us, as it was the first ‘official’ interview Dean had done, and it definitely was a great learning experience.

Then, Sunday saw us officially announce our partnership with Peterborough City Hospital at Peterborough Baby Show. Bump, Birth and Beyond are now running DaddyNatal and Active Birth Classes, on behalf of the hospital, free to parents. How fantastic to have a Head of Midwifery who is so forward thinking, she really is one of the first in the country to recognise that fathers/birth partners have huge antenatal education needs which have never (until now!) been met.

There was an excellent response to the news of the classes, with signups both on the day and since. Both courses are already 10% full, and we are still awaiting the formal press release and for the community midwifery team to start promotion yet!

Sunday also marked the completion of the first part of training for our new Daisy Birthing teacher, Alison. Courses have been so successful that Steph cannot keep up with demand on her own, so we are extremely excited about Alison’s arrival. She will commence teaching in June which will allow us to offer more courses in even more locations.

On Monday and Tuesday evenings, Steph was out teaching her regular Daisy Birthing classes in Peterborough and St Ives. Steph teaches classes to around 40 pregnant ladies a week, as well as managing all the bookings and day-to-day admin of the company… oh yes, and she looks after our two toddlers full time as well!

Little did we realise what more the week still held in store… At 10pm Wednesday evening, Steph arrived home from yet another Daisy Birthing class to the news that Dean had been invited down the next day onto The Vanessa Show on Channel 5 to talk about fathers at birth. Turns out a producer had heard his interview on The Baby Show website and wanted him there for a discussion segment about birth! How could we refuse…?!

So scrapping all previous arrangements for Thursday, Dean travelled to London to record the show. To say I was nervous would be a major understatement! I was petrified to be doing my first TV appearance only a few days after my very first ever live media interview! But, of course, I was also really excited. The people were brilliant and I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to Pearl Lowe and Christina Hopkinson, as part of the segment on the discussion of fathers at birth. They were lovely and certainly put me at ease (although nerves kicked back in once the cameras started rolling!). You can see my appearance here and judge for yourselves how I got on at The Vanessa Show Feel free to comment as we would love to hear your feedback. It was a long day out though, left home at 11.30am, and didn’t get home again until 8.30pm (luckily Thursdays are Steph’s evening off!)

But still work to be done… Friday saw us at a meeting at Peterborough Hospital to discuss some of the logistics of our partnership, and then followed by an agreement that we would produce contact and reference packs for the community midwives, so that became our focus on Saturday! However, the support and excitement of what we are doing, coming direct from the midwives is so refreshing. It really is a pleasure to be working with them all.

And finally, we finished the week on Sunday with one of our Couples Antenatal Workshops in Kettering. Our classes are jointly run between the both of us, to make sure that we cover all the essential points from both the mum and birth partner perspective. A really great class, thoroughly enjoyed it, and then arrived home in time to spend the remainder of the afternoon in the garden with our two children.

So a busy week made busier by some unforeseen media appearances! A great experience though and we can only thank Liz Weston. She has been very supportive, and in the short time she has been doing our PR, has been amazing.

So that was our hectic week how was yours?

 

Gadgets For Dads Reviewed: Hitachi Lifestudio and Eye Fi Geo

As I am always getting asked for recommendations from dads, I have decided I will start doing reviews as part of the blog. The blog was launched as a way of giving helpful tips and advice for expectant and new fathers, so these reviews will be in keeping with this aim. Every couple of weeks I will be doing reviews in different categories and we are starting with gadgets, (not my fault… I explained to some PRs what I wanted to do and got offered some great ones to review!) The products have been supplied to review, some purely for the review and some I have been allowed to keep. Irrespective of this my reviews will always be honest and truthful, the reviews will be conducted always from a male perspective (surprise, surprise). Lets be clear, I am no technical whizz, so these reviews will not be about the technical ins and outs, they will be purely about, do they work? Could I work out how to use it? Do they make life easier? Im sure you’re getting the picture!

So up first is the Hitachi Lifestudio Mobile Plus and I have to say, I love this product. As someone who struggles with the chronology of events, this gadget is a godsend!

OK, so what is it? Basically, the version I was sent is a 500gb external hard drive that connects to a 4gb usb key. So, why do I love it? Simple, it comes with great software that is easy to use, it’s functional and fun.

In a nutshell, it copies from your computer and stores all your pictures, video, music and other files. It also sorts them into date order, then making them easy and fun to access.

On first instal, admittedly the transfer speeds are not the quickest (although I do have a lot of pictures on the computer) but once the initial sort was done, the speed was fine. I found that the LifeStudio software did a great job of sorting my photos and videos. Once they are sorted, they are then displayed on a fun interactive 3D wall, dubbed ‘MyLife’. All the files are sorted by type and then into dates, first they are broken down into year and then into month. This feature alone I think is a must for new parents, our babies grow so quickly and looking back on some of photos, I couldn’t be sure how old our children were in them (as I said earlier, I am useless when it comes to the chronology of events). LifeStudio solves this problem for me, as the software has sorted and stored my pics into chronological order.

The LifeStudio does a great job of make the navigation of files simple, instead of sifting through multiple files, everything is right there at your fingertips. You can also link it with your Facebook, Flickr and Picasa (yep, you can even upload photos or comments directly from the application).

LifeStudio is more than just about pictures though, it will also sort and store your documents, your music, in fact just about everything you have on your hard drive. You have access to TV, films and news.

LifeStudio also has some great and easy to use backup software, (how I wish we had this when our laptop suddenly died a year ago, taking pictures of our son with it, it cost us a fortune to have our hard drive recovered). In addition to this you get 3gb of cloud online backup storage free. This can be increased but carries an additional cost.

In summary, I would recommend this product without hesitation. I was shocked to find the unit I tested was being sold at just £79.99. Even if I hadn’t been allowed to keep the one I tested I would certainly have bought one. It is simple to instal, easy to use and genuinely makes life easier.

So with out a shadow of a doubt this gets Five out of Five Stars

Next up, and closely related is the Eye-Fi Geo X2 another gadget I really enjoyed reviewing. This one also solves the problem of my bad memory and stops me getting shot. Take your pictures and when in range let the card automatically upload them to your computer!!  No more will you suffer the problem of going to take pictures, only to find memory card full because you have forgotten to download older images, so then having to decide which ones to delete so you can take some more! Or, alternatively having to go to nearest store to buy new memory card, because we cant possibly delete any old photos, as they are all important memories! Trust me when I say this will happen constantly when your child is born.

So what is the Eye-Fi Geo X2? It is SD memory card with Wi Fi and geo tagging (get me, sounds impressive doesnt it?!) Basically, you put it in your camera, take your pictures, when you are near your computer and its on, it will automatically download your pictures. Brilliant. In addition, it is intended that it will apply the location at which the picture was taken, using the geo tagging feature.

Just plug in the card in its USB card reader supplied and software is simply and quickly installed. Software has very simple and easy to follow instructions to follow as you set up your preferences,  I was concerned about how easy this was going to be, trust me it was simplicity itself and something anyone can do (well, if I can anyone can).

You can decide on the wireless networks that the card can use to upload your pictures, and apparently it can store up to 32 of them. I didn’t test this so will take their word for it, as Im sure for most of us 2 or 3 will be plenty.

There are settings to suit everyone, you can have it upload all photos or just selective ones, you select the folder you want you photos to be stored in, you can also select to share pictures online through your facebook account, as well as Flickr and Picasa. The facebook account facility is great, as it will share without the need to be logged in.

To be honest, I couldn’t really seem to get a grip of the geo tagging facility. I’m sure for some it is a great option to have and once set up could have benefits, I just didn’t feel it was crucial so gave up on setting it up. Not having geo tagging did not in my opinion detract from what is a great product.

In summary, I would again recommend this product without hesitation. Although as the card I reviewed with Geo tagging sells for around £75, I would be tempted to suggest you get the standard version which retails at around £50. I will be sorry to return this card, but will probably be buying the standard version in the not too distant future. Another product which is simple to instal, easy to use and genuinely makes life easier.

Great product but loses a star due to geo tagging so gets  Four out of Five Stars

 

Two Under Two

Id like to introduce you to my children and discuss what it’s like to have two children so close in age. My little boy O, is now 2yrs 9 months and my little girl W, is 1 year 8 months. There is almost exactly 13 months between them in age. We could have had2 under 1 if we had really tried! 😉

We always wanted to have our children close in age, to be truthful, we were aiming for more of an 18 month age gap… but that myth about being most fertile after just giving birth proved to be true for us, and it was a case of almost first time lucky! Lots of opinions abounded when we announced our second pregnancy, including the fact we must be certifiably mad! However, we believed there would be benefits to having them so close together, particularly that having them close together in age would reduce the sibling rivalry and jealousy that can occur.

Just to make life interesting, following our experiences from O’s birth, both Steph and I had decided to train to work with expectant & new parents. On top of this, we were starting our own business, parents to a baby under 1, pregnant with baby number 2, and I was still in full time employment!! HHmmm put like that, maybe the certifiably mad comment wasn’t too far of mark!!

What was noticeable, once W was born and especially in those first weeks and months, was the total love for W had for her brother and vice versa. At no point did O appear, or act, as if he resented her or needed to compete for attention. He has, from the first, always looked out for W, always looked to get her things and in early days was willing to share everything with her… (That bit is starting to wear off a now though!) Of course, with every up side comes the natural downside. For Steph, the sheer work involved in looking after a newborn and a 13 month old was certainly taxing to say the least, let alone the rest on her plate.

However, the initial bond that developed between the two of them was immensely strong and continues to be so. I sincerely hope it always will be.

Here W is just 5 months old, supposedly developmentally incapable of playing with another child. I will let you decide what you think they are doing? For me, the sheer joy of seeing them enjoy each others company and interact with each other is immeasurable, it is one of those heart melting moments you get to enjoy as a parent.

 

The thing I find both amazing and worrying at the same time, is the way they mimic each other. This has happened since the very early days and it is without doubt, for me, a double edged sword. On one hand, W through mimicking O, has developed an amazing vocabulary for one so young. Her speech is so far ahead of where O was at this age. However, on the other hand, I do have moments of concern that O mimicking W causes him to regress in some ways. O never really took to comforters, apart from a spell when he was quite young, after that he would suck his thumb to comfort himself when going to sleep, but that was about it. W on the other hand has always been a hand sucker, (yes, her whole hand generally) and this is something that in recent months O has now taken to as well.

Overall though, they both benefit as they can constantly interact with each other and have developed excellent social skills for children so young. This interaction includes some basic sign language we have taught them, and some O has learnt from another little boy, at his one day a week in nursery.
W has already turned the tables on her big brother and is now without doubt the boss of this relationship. While it used to be O who would be able to pin W to the ground during a wrestling match, now W wins those matches every time!
O is incredibly kind-hearted, and will do almost anything for his sister, which has certainly helped us on a number of occasions.
O loves playing with his little sister, and now the first thing he wants to do when he wakes up in the morning is go and see her. Even if it does mean no lay in for us!! (Oh, for a lay in!!) This has now progressed to the second he wakes, jumping out of bed, running down the hall, opening her door, and vaulting over the side bars of her cot to actually get in and see her.

Bath time shanigans

Bath time is now excellent fun (well for three of us, not so sure Steph enjoys it!!) I have always encouraged much splashing in the bath to make sure the kids have no fear of water on their faces. O used to take great delight in splashing himself, mummy, daddy and W. Here again though, W has turned the tables and really, really goes for it with her splashes, soaking everything and everyone in the bathroom. The common cry now is from O shouting ‘stoooooooooooooppp!’ That said, we have two totally fearless children, who I have no doubt will cause Steph many missed heart beats and sleepless nights! Steph keeps trying to dress W in the girlie clothes, but I have a feeling she will be quite a tom boy in years to come (result for daddy!!!) They are definitely now at the age when they can be thrown, dropped and generally flung around and will ask for more!!

According to the experts, a child really doesn’t play with another child until they are at least 2 years of age. Really? Must introduce them to ours, because they definitely enjoy playing together, and have done for a long while. O is the more laid back of the two and W will normally win any argument. That said, it has become noticeable that this is wearing thin and O is fighting back and not so willing to concede. We are really starting to see their individual personalities appear which is amazing and makes each day special.

I could go on forever, but will include updates on the children from time to time. Suffice to say, I love my children and Steph dearly and I wouldn’t change a thing. I still believe our instincts and choices, to have them close together was the right one, and although it is difficult at times (more so for Steph than me, as I get to go to work) I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.

Making sure his sister holds his hand

Gving her big brother a massage

"aahhh I love my big brother"

Men at birth, good idea or not?

I was asked to write a piece on this subject by a fellow birth professional and midwife. Why I haven’t written it before I dont know, it is something I feel very passionately about.

Michel Odent was famously reported as saying men shouldn’t be at the birth, he even went as far as to blame them for the increase in Cesarean rates. At the time I was incensed by his comments. It was at the time when I was coming to the end of my training and was really passionate about supporting families, but especially in supporting men to prepare for their journey to fatherhood. I used the reflective practice I had learnt through my studies to really look at his comments and my reaction to them.

In truth, I actually found that in a lot of respects I agreed with him! The difference is that I don’t want to take dads out of the birth and I think there is another, more empowering way of looking at the issue. I want to see dads (and mums) being made more aware of the importance of the birth partner at birth, giving dads proper support and information to fulfil this role (if they wish to take it on) – after all the benefits will be far ranging and crucial for the whole family.

Dads-to-be themselves need to understand that in general their partner does wants them there, there is nobody they would rather have with them. But with this comes responsibility, responsibility to understand what is happening and to prepare to be the best support they can be. Preparation for the birth is not just the domain of the woman, and a dads role at birth is not just about being a spectator.

So why should men be there if they can?

The biggest enemy at any birth is fear; fear causes the production of adrenalin. This can slow the production of oxytocin and in turn this can slow or even stop contractions, which is often referred to as failure to progress. So logically, having someone in the birth room who makes the mum feel secure and safe is really important, and with the right preparation, arguably there could be no better support than having the person she loves and chooses to go through the ups and downs of life with, to support her. There is nobody she would rather have there, nobody that knows her better or she feels safer with.

Another reason for the man’s presence is in his role as an advocate for his family. A key part of his role can be to make sure his partner’s wishes and desires are listened to. Sometimes in the intensity of moment, mum can lose sight of these or be in a vulnerable position unable to advocate for what she really wishes, so the man’s role is to do this, so she can focus on the work of birthing and stay in the zone.

By being present at the birth, a man will almost always feel an immediate bond with his baby. Bonding with the unborn child is quite difficult for men, often it doesn’t occur until after the birth, and this bond can sometimes be harder to achieve if they are not there to witness and participate in the birth. This bond is crucial to the family in the first weeks and months following the birth, so certainly where men want to be present, telling them they shouldn’t be is not going to be helpful to what follows.

Are there any risks to the man being at the birth?

Unfortunately yes, the support that can be so important and desired can be undermined by dad’s own anxieties during the birth. This is partially what Odent was referring to when he made his claims. An anxious father who is fretting and worrying will cause mum to be fearful that something may be wrong (this is often subconscious but has a very real impact). This fear which mum picks up on can cause her body to increase her adrenalin production, inhibit oxytocin, and as described earlier, therefore start the chain of events that potentially will lead to a stalled labour. Unfortunately stalled labour is the most common reason for the cascade of interventions to begin, as soon as interventions start the likelihood of them escalating increases.

There is also the risk from the man’s “fix it” instinct. If the man is not understanding of the birth process he is in danger of overriding his partner’s wishes or doing something detrimental to the natural processes of birth. For example, if a man believes his partner is in pain, he will want to stop her being in pain; at this point he may suggest and even promote interventions. However, the reality may be that his partner is coping well and just making the normal sounds of birthing… but if he suggests she needs pain relief, it can bring in a seed of doubt and lead again to that negative cycle of fear. Dad’s in the birth space need to control this natural ‘fix it’ instinct, but this can only be done through first being aware of it, and then having the ability and tools to control it… This is crucial to making sure he is not one of the reasons that interventions are being suggested!

So dads listen up, if you want to be there and your partner wants you to be there, you need to put in some effort and be the best birth partner you can be. You have the potential to truly affect the whole experience and outcome, and with understanding and support you can reduce the need for interventions. Your presence WILL impact on the birth experience one way or another!

Finally, it is a helpful idea to discuss as a couple the role of the birth partner. You and your partner may decide you are not best person to act as a solo birth supporter. This is absolutely fine, it is not a requirement that you HAVE to be the only birth partner (or that you even need to be there at all, if it doesn’t feel right for you and your family).  You could both consider another family member also being there, or using the services of a doula. Doulas are professionally trained as support for expectant parents, and they can act as a birth supporter alongside dad, or instead of dad – whatever suits you as a family. I would always suggest interviewing a couple of doulas to help you find the person who is right for your family. ANYONE in the birth space can have positive or negative impact depending on how they make you feel, so it is imperative that you are comfortable with them and they are also comfortable with you.

But please, can we empower families to decide what THEY want for their birth, and to allow mums AND dads to prepare, rather than be telling them who should and shouldnt be at their birth. Anyone can bring good and bad into the birth space, men/fathers are not by default ‘poor’ birth partners, and a bit more support and encouragement would go a long way.

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Dean Beaumont is a leading expert in working with fathers and founder of antenatal programme DaddyNatal which supports fathers-to-be to prepare for birth and parenthood.

He is also author of The Expectant Dad’s Handbook published by Random House.