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!

Continue reading

Babywearing for Dads (Baby Bjorn and SnugBaby Reviewed)

Dads, this is something you really should be thinking about!

Babywearing is great for us dads, especially in that that we can calm our babies excellently using the closeness of a baby carrier. The bass vibrations of our voice can have great calming affect on baby. One of the things I never tired of when carrying our children was just tilting my head and being able to gently kiss the top of their head. I also previously mentioned postnatal depression and the causes, one of these being not feeling bonded with baby… well babywearing is a great way to bond with your baby.

I think for mum and dad, one of the great things about babywearing, is being able to do so many things whilst sharing the experience of what you are doing at same time. For baby, too commonly their view of the world for first 9 months or so, is the sky, from laying in their pram as we shop, walk or generally get about. Through babywearing, they get to see everything we see, which obviously has to support their development. I used to find myself pointing things out and talking about them whilst carrying the kids, but in retrospect, I realise that when I was pushing them in a pram, we didn’t really engage with them!

What one do I need?

As with everything baby-related, the choice seems to be endless!! They actually fall into four main categories (I’m bound to get contradicted with on that point but hey, my blog my rules, sorry private blogger joke…)

Baby Sling Style

Relatively simple to use. It’s also a favorite amongst mums who like the ease and privacy it provides for breastfeeding. Although they are quite versatile and can be adjusted to a hip carry for older kids, not the type I ever got on with and one I rarely see men using. The other drawback is they tend to be size dependant for wearer, so not great for couple who want to use same carrier.

Mei Tai

At the end we review the SnugBaby take on this type. They are also known as an Asian Baby Carrier (or ABC). Basically a rectangle piece of fabric with four straps, two for the shoulders and two for around the waist. The straps are criss crossed and tied for security. Mei tai carriers, tend to distribute the weight more evenly than most and can be used in almost all carrying styles. Most are not recommended for newborns (unless its a SnugBaby) but can be used right into toddlerhood. Probably too quickly dismissed by many, I know I certainly did as a new dad, but wouldn’t anymore.

Baby Wrap

These are basically just a large piece of fabric. They can be used in huge array of different styles, but the drawback is the wearer has to learn how to safely tie each style! For this reason I am not keen from male perspective, although I can see that if you are using them daily you will quickly remember the different ways to tie them. However, I feel for dads, who maybe are only getting opportunity to babywear at the weekends, just too much time and stress re learning how to tie it each time!

Back Pack (or Front Pack) Baby Carrier

Probably the most common sort that you will see dad carrying baby in. Personally, I think this is only because the manufacturers of theses types recognised huge male market and addressed it. The other types of carriers have very minimal promotion of use by dads. I am also reviewing the Baby Bjorn active carrier, one that I also used with my children. These are pretty restricted in carrying styles, but easy to use and quite masculine in appearance.

So onto our reviews!

Baby Bjorn Active

This was carrier we bought for our son and then used also with our daughter. This really became my carrier, not sure if this was because Steph wasn’t keen on it or because setting it up is like getting your seat position right in the car, only for someone else to drive it and change all the settings! So if she did use it and naturally would have to change the set up, she wouldn’t hear last of it from me! Come on guys, you know what I mean, right?

Overall this is a simple to use, functional, mid budget carrier. It is comfortable to wear and easy on the back.

When you first receive the carrier, it is in two parts, I know we hate instructions, but use them! I did the typical male thing, ignored the instructions, spent 30 mins trying to figure it out… only to then read the instructions and have it ready to go 5 minutes later! Once you have got it together, you will spend some time setting the carrier up to suit yourself. This is probably the main drawback to the Baby Bjorn, if you are going to share the carrier you will be forever re adjusting it to suit each other. It is also claimed to be breastfeeding friendly which I would dispute. I know a few women that have tried and it is certainly not easy or discreet to achieve.

All that aside, I loved MINE. Yes, once it became just mine, I really enjoyed using it. I would wear it at every opportunity and carry the kids. It is really comfortable and the large padded straps ensure you hardly feel you are wearing it. Spending time getting it set right is worth it, as you can then carry your baby for hours with back pain or discomfort. Small minor point is that it only has two positions, facing in or facing out on your chest. This also limits how long you will be able to wear it as the kids get older. They are cool looking though and I think actually one of the few baby products that strike me as male orientated, and made with men in mind. So the Baby Bjorn Active gets a FOUR Star Review

SnugBaby

I’m not sure why, but when I went out to review the SnugBaby, it didn’t exactly fill me with excitement. Maybe because of the 99% focus on women on the website, maybe just the designs were not masculine enough or appealing, or maybe it was the thought of having to learn to tie it (sounds complicated!). However, as you read on you will see my opinion changed! The SnugBaby comes in number of options and designs, and is a variation on the Mei Tai carrier. SnugBaby is suitable for use from newborn right up to toddler. (Yes, to put it fully to the test, I even carried my nearly three year old in it, quite comfortably too!)

 

OK, wow, what a convert I became, once I got the hang of it, I loved it. The basic ties are a doddle, and even the back carry takes no time at all to get a grips of. I really thought my two kids would challenge the SnugBaby claim that it is suitable even for toddlers… especially with them being 23 months and even 35 months!! Not at all, had my little girl up and carried within minutes and she loved it! My concern over back support was unfounded, I found the carrier comfortable and supportive, the wide straps where they cross the back ensure maximum support and spreading of the child’s weight. The carrier itself is so lightweight, and add to that the multiple different positions you can use it in, I really think this is superb! Also, there is no problem in any number of people using the carrier, as there are no settings to remember… put it on, tie it up and away you go… it really is that simple. Honestly guys, take long hard look at this one, don’t dismiss it because of the female-orientated website or the colour schemes. The product itself gets a resounding FIVE star review the website and marketing approach unfortunately only get a THREE star review and again thats boosted by the product.

To be clear these reviews are from a dads perspective, I am not a babywearing expert and I am aware the different opinions exist regarding different carriers types. I am hopeful we will have full guest blog on baby wearing from expert shortly.

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.

Labour Dos and Donts

(Trust me guys you need this)

Having listened to so many stories about men getting into trouble whilst their partner is in labour and having guys that I have worked with come back and tell me “You were right, I did x and it didn’t go down well!!” No S***!! That will be why I told you not to do it!

So what will make everyone’s life easier during labour, and get you out of this alive?! These tips apply to all types of birth, just use your common sense and modify them slightly depending on circumstances. I could write you complete instruction manual, but let’s be honest, you would just glance at it and put it to one side and then guess how it’s all going to go anyway… So what’s the point?

So let’s keep this simple

Do as you are told!! Really. It may not be the way you were taught at your antenatal class, or what the book said, but she really does know how she wants to be massaged or rubbed. And yes if she tells you to shut up it because you are annoying her then SHUT UP. No, she doesn’t need you to keep talking to her to “take her mind off it.” Trust me, you won’t achieve that, and you’re probably just preventing her from staying focused!

And if she does want something, she wants it NOW!! Not when suits you, so react to all requests speedily and without question.

This rule overrides all my others, because if she is telling you to do something, and I have suggested differently, listen to her. I do not want to be cited in any divorce cases as the third party.

Be a Boy Scout. Be Prepared. Yes, I know she insisted on packing the bags for the hospital but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to know what’s in there and where it is! Make sure you know where everything is… and NO ‘man looking’, telling her during the middle of a contraction that you can’t find something, when it’s right there in front of you, won’t go down well either.

Gadgets. I know us blokes like gadgets, but don’t get too focused on that contraction monitor. IT’S not having your baby!! And trust me; she does not need you telling her “here comes a BIG one!” She will already know that!

Be Coach Sven. You are Sven and not Sir Alex; you are not to shout encouragement from the sidelines at the top of your voice. Yes she can do it, but she doesn’t need you shouting at her. Be like Sven – focused, calm, and offering support as required.

Extend your vocabulary.  “You’re doing really well, Sweetheart” uttered the 10th time in as many minutes, will start to really irritate. You of course will be proud of her, she will be doing brilliantly, be amazing, awe inspiring. Have some ideas of different things you can say to show your support. Oh and anything you say, say it softly!!

Ok, if your eyes are starting to glaze and you are already looking at this like a manual, take a deep breath and keep going. This is for your own good!! You have only been reading for 3 minutes! Consider it preparatory training and focus!!! Ok, focused? Good, because the learning starts here…  during labour your total focus is her and her needs. Your text messages, emails or even the football result can wait. Do not be constantly checking your phone.

Your partner needs to have your support; she will probably be scared at points, so hold her hand. Tell her it’s ok, even if you are scared too. During transition (end of the first stage of labour) the bout of adrenalin which is released into her body which triggers baby’s birth, can also make her feel quite low/as if she can’t do this anymore, so this is where you need to be at your supportive best. She can do, she is doing it, and baby is nearly here.

If it isn’t Broke…. Do not give in to the male natural instinct of ‘fixing’ things. You will undoubtedly at times believe your partner is in need of help, this does not mean you override any discussion before hand and start deciding things based on you feelings. You need to understand sometimes she will scream at you, she will swear at you, this does not mean she needs you to take control. You have a job here as her advocate should the need occur, you are there to make sure her wishes and requests are listened to. Write a birth plan together, discuss preferences in advance and make sure you understand what she feels strongly about.

Ok, so things are progressing and you are feeling tired? Back hurts? So what we going to do? Absolutely NOTHING you are not going to say anything at all! However you are feeling, it doesn’t compare to how she is feeling right now!!

Plan in advance if you think you would like to maybe take some pictures or video of moment baby is born get clearance. Some women will not want pictures under any circumstances. And even if you have agreed in advance she still has women’s prerogative to “change her mind”.  This also includes disappearing down the business end to “just have a look”!

Do not rush off straight after the birth to announce it to the world, it can wait. Stay with her, get her glass of water, give her a cuddle, tell her how proud of her you are and make sure she is ok ………………. Ok, sod off, now you can go tell the world.

If at any time you are in doubt of what to do always refer back to DO AS YOU ARE TOLD!!

DaddyNatal supports men to become better birth partners and fathers. If you have any questions please email me Dean@DaddyNatal.co.uk

When does a man become a dad?

Antenatal bonding: What is it and what’s the point?

When does a man become a dad?

Those who read my last blog carefully will see that I referred to becoming a father on the day that my son was born. My own discussions and surveys with men show that I am not alone in feeling this – on an emotional level, men tend to be anything up to a full 9 months behind, not really fully bonding with their baby and seeing themselves as a father, until the birth.

Antenatal Bonding is simply about making a connection and bonding with your baby before they are born. So don’t panic if you are not feeling connected to your unborn baby, but do make the conscious decision to bond with your baby before they are born. Dad’s antenatal bonding for most of us is not a natural process, it takes a conscious decision to do so.

Why Does This Matter?

We affect our baby’s development from the moment they are conceived. That’s right Dads, your attitude and support throughout pregnancy, can directly affect your baby. Through music and talking you will already be developing your babies learning skills. Through creating a positive calm environment, you will be supporting your baby’s emotional development. Dr David Chamberlain a renowned psychologist who has researched prenatal development, psychology and bonding refers to the time baby spends in the womb as, “an intense learning period in ones life and time to establish patterns for a lifetime.”

Dad’s, helping create a calm & positive environment is integral to the physiological development of your unborn baby. Any stress which mum might feel during pregnancy increases the production of neurohormones.  According to Doctor Verney author of ‘The Secret Life of the Unborn Child’ these neurohormones easily cross the placenta to the unborn baby. In moderation, these are beneficial to baby’s development, but in excess can have an adverse effect. So a calm, stable, home environment is important, not only from birth, but throughout pregnancy.

Your unborn baby has an ear by just three weeks (so probably before you even know you are expecting!). Their ear is functional by 16 weeks, and at 24 weeks they can hear sounds from outside. This means for most of the pregnancy, your baby can hear your voice! They will know who you are, and already be bonding with you. Once baby is born, when you talk to them, they will recognise you and respond to your voice. This will pay dividends for you when baby arrives, as their bond with you, and your voice, will be calming for them.

Antenatal bonding is also important for your own confidence. You will find that you will be more at ease with your newborn, and you will be more comfortable with them. Baby will also sense this inner-confidence, and feel more secure and safe with you too as a result, which again will help keep them feeling calm and bonded with you.

A dad that is successfully bonded with their baby, will be better able to support their partner. For those that have chosen to breastfeed, it will also help tremendously in establishing feeding.

Finally now that it is generally accepted that fathers too can suffer from Post Natal Depression (PND), antenatal bonding can also help reduce the chances of PND. A common cause for PND in men is that they feel guilt when they don’t instantly feel bonded with their baby. To compound this further, men can end up feeling excluded and isolated in their own family. These are common feelings, but ones that can be avoided. Some men are fortunate to feel an instant bond at birth, but for most that bond establishes over time. It is harder for that bond to establish in amongst all the additional pressures of becoming a family, so why leave it until the birth to start bonding with your child?

For you all as a family, you will feel less stressed and more harmonious.

Ok, its important… so how do I do it?

There are some very simple things you can do… you don’t need to them all, just choose to do those you feel comfortable with, but make the decision to do something.

1)      If you have scan pictures keep them on show, look at them often and start to visualise your baby. As men we find it hard to attach to things we can’t see, hear or touch. This will help you start to think of your baby as a little person and start the bonding process.

2)      Each time you greet or part from mum, talk to your baby as well. Say Hello to your baby, maybe even give the bump a gentle run or pat at the same time.

3)      Give baby a name – this will make them more of a real person. It doesn’t have to be the name they will have when born, it can just be a pet name.

4)      Spend time together as a family. Talk to baby, if you comfortable sing to your baby or maybe recite a rhyme or read a short story. Ideally pick one thing, and read or sing it each time. Your unborn baby will start to recognise and attach to that song or story. It will connect it to a time of feeling loved and content, and once born, singing this song or reading the same story is a great calming method, especially at bedtime.

5)      At around 20 – 24 weeks you will be able to feel your baby move or kick. This is a great opportunity to become physically connected and bonded to baby. Take time to feel their movements, as the pregnancy progresses, you will be able to visualise their growth as you feel the movements become stronger.

6)      Start a blog or write letters to baby. Talk about the preparations you are making for their arrival, about the scans or appointments which you go to. How you are both feeling. This will all help reinforce the fact your baby is another person in the family already.

7)      Play music to baby, pick songs that mean something to you or pick relaxing pieces. Again, your unborn baby will start to recognise the music if you play it regularly during pregnancy.  Once baby is born, when it hears the music it will connect it to a time of feeling loved and content – another great calming method!

Doing all or some of these things will have a huge benefit – for all of you as a family now, in those all important first days and crucially for the rest of your baby’s life.

It is worth the effort, so ask yourself, what are you going to do today to bond with your baby?

Most important day of your life

Recent discussion and comments have got me thinking about this one.

What will be the most important or special day of our life? What defines it as that?

I think my definition would be “The most important day of your life is the one that most affected who you are, what you believe, your core motivations and inspirations”.

I have heard people say that the day they got married was their most important day, others have stated that it was day they were born as this was the day  they came into being and without that day, nothing else would ever have happened. For some it was their 18th or 21st Birthday, or a graduation day.

For me, I think I can honestly say, it was the day I became a father. Until that day, for all the high and lows in my life, I dont think I was really complete, but meeting my baby, put everything else into perspective. I certainly changed as a person, and the things I did assumed a new importance and benchmark.

This initial thought process all started around a comment about what we are willing to do/spend to make sure our special days are as perfect as they can be? Generally, the answer always is ‘whatever I can’. The average wedding costs over £10,000, parties for 18th and 21st and even 1st birthdays run into the hundreds of pounds, the same for graduation celebrations.

But what do people spend on that most magical day, the birth of their child?

The day a baby is born, is a truely special day,  and the impact of that day will live with us, and our children for the rest of our lives. Why do we not do everything in our power to make it as special as we can?

Is it because we don’t see why we should? The NHS or government are meant to provide these things so why should we have to pay? Is it because we think it is the medical profession’s responsibility and they will look after us? Is it because we think birth is out of our hands and we are powerless in impacting on the experience we are destined to have?

Private classes start for as little as £50 and there is such a wide range available, but less than 10% of expectant parents take a private class. WHY? Why is it we will spend £1000’s for our wedding day, but not for birth of our child?

The range of courses available now is amazing and caters to people from all walks of life. There are specific labour and birth preparation classes in the form of active birthing classes such as MummyNatal, created by The Natal Family, which will teach you how to prepare physically and mentally for birth.  There are special information groups for water births and home births.  There are classes for couples that explain how couples can work together in labour, and perhaps most importantly, how to have informed choices in labour and birth.

And now, even classes run by dads just for dads, like DaddyNatal.

What do they cost? Well, a MummyNatal 6 week course for an expectant mum, combined with a 2 evening Daddynatal course for the expectant dad,  AND a couples class – (that’s at least 17 hours of preparation and education ready for labour and birth) costs less than £170 . Yes, you read that right. £170. An NCT traditional class will cost about £200 depending on area you live in, or if you wanted to hang the expense you could have a couples weekend away learning and relaxing, whilst staying in a nice hotel, and still not spend more than £600.

Couples will happily spend £50 every 6 weeks for baby swimming or massage classes,  but don’t consider spending the money on making sure the day their baby was born is as special as possible. Why?

So again I ask the question, why do we not invest some time and money (and not alot of money considering what we spend on other things and how much we are going to end up spending on our children) to give us the best possible chance of the birth day,  we and our children deserve?

A lot of these points I will cover in future entries as I feel some of them deserve an entry to themselves.