Wow what a few weeks, first up we won Best Dadpreneur at the Mumpreneur UK 2011 awards, then we were awarded Business Parent of the Year at Mum and Working awards and now this!!
Back on the 15th of August I got the great news that I had been listed as finalist in the Gurgle Blogger Awards for Dad bloggers. To say I was over the moon would have been an understatement, unfortunately on reading who the other 4 finalists were my heart sank.
Most who know me will know I am not a great fan of forums. In my opinion, they tend to lead to competitive parenting. The advice is often contradictory, doing nothing to give parents confidence in their own abilities. This is the reason I suggest to people coming through my classes, that if they are after advice on particular subject, to contact myself or another birth professional and ask them to point them in the direction of balanced information they can read.
Why? Simple, I believe that it is our job to empower parents, help them get the information they need, for them to be able to make an informed choice. My personal opinions on parenting are irrelevant, it is for them, as parents to trust their instincts and make best decisions for their family based upon as much information as they need. After all, all families, their lifestyles, and their needs, are different!
Having taken time to reflect on what I saw on Saturday, I am still filled with an amazing warm feeling about what happened.
Saturday, saw me running a New Dads class. New Dads classes are for any dads with babies up to crawling stage. They are based around Developmental Baby Massage, whilst at the same time giving dads time to share and discuss their experiences with other dads. They also have the opportunity to ask me for specific advice on any subject relating to them and their baby.
I find the term birth plan misleading. It isn’t a plan of how you want your birth to go, writing one in that way can lead to disappointment, guilt and birth trauma. All births are different, choices made may change depending on how things progress, how your partner is feeling and circumstances beyond your control. I prefer to think of them as Birth Preferences. I find them a useful tool, especially for the birth partner.
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!
Dads, PAY ATTENTION!
In my previous blog, I talked about your role in labour as being twofold. First, you are your partner’s ‘protector’ but secondly, and just as crucially, you have a role as her ‘advocate’. So what do I mean by advocate?
The dictionary definition is:-
n [ˈædvəkɪt -ˌkeɪt]
1. a person who upholds or defends a cause; supporter
2. a person who intercedes on behalf of another
This quite accurately defines your role, but you cannot advocate successfully if you don’t understand what your partner’s wishes are. Advocacy starts now, not just during labour! (We will focus on labour and birth here but the same rules apply during pregnancy and when baby joins you.)
In all things relating to labour and birth, you need to sit down together and talk things through. Look at what choices you might be presented with. Discuss induction, if it is offered, do you want to be induced? If not, what do you want to do instead? If you are offered induction, what methods are you willing to use? What about pain relief? Do you feel strongly about it? What types of pain relief are you willing to use if needed? What are you dead against, if any?
You should try and look at as many possible outcomes as possible, although you don’t need to discuss them all in depth and over analyse! Communicate and reach a decision which you both feel comfortable with. I suggest you write a birth plan detailing these preferences, you can give a copy to your midwife in labour, so she knows in advance what kind of birth you would like her to help facilitate. It is also for your own benefit, having a copy you can refer to in the heat of the moment can be helpful.
You should both be happy with your decisions, but if you cannot agree, then (sorry guys) your partners wishes come first. You have to accept this, and still advocate her wishes regardless of your own feelings. A true advocate always puts forward the viewpoint of the person they are advocating for, regardless of their own feelings on the matter. It is also crucial for the birth process that your partner has complete trust that you will honour her wishes. Preparation here is the key to successfully advocating on behalf of your partner.
So how do you do it?
Firstly, you can use your advocate role in conjunction with your protector role.
Most women when labouring, in the right environment, will zone out. During contractions they will almost go in to themselves and be focused on what they are doing. You need to protect that state. NOBODY, not you, not the midwife, no one should ask her a question during contraction. If anyone does ask her a question, you will advocate for her, NOT by speaking on her behalf, but by gently asking the person to wait a moment and re ask the question when the contraction has passed.
During labour, you partner may be offered pain relief or other interventions. Here, your role as her advocate is to ensure that the wishes that you have DISCUSSED are respected. Your partner during labour will be vulnerable, she will not generally feel in a position to argue or even refuse interventions she doesn’t want, this will be YOUR job. You will need to explain on her behalf her choices, you need ensure these are respected and she isn’t pressured in to anything you or more importantly SHE isn’t comfortable with.
One question I get asked a lot is ‘What if she changes her mind about something on the birth plan, when she is actually in labour?’ How do you know, so you can advocate for her accordingly? There is a special DaddyNatal technique for this, this is where our CODEWORD principle comes in. This technique allows mum to signal she has changed her mind about something, but leaves her to feel safe to know that her original wishes will be respected until this moment. More about this in a later blog 😉
This role does not end with the birth of your child, once your child is born you will be advocating on your partners wishes regarding the third stage of labour. If your partner has decided to have unassisted third stage, one of you needs to let the midwife know. If you see that injection being prepared without having been asked (rare, but I have known cases where this was the case) you may need to physically get in the way of the injection, until you explain she doesn’t want it!
You will have some decisions to make regarding, chord cutting, injections, examinations. You should also be aware of these choices, discuss them beforehand, and then ensure those decisions made on behalf of your partner AND baby are respected.
Both your roles during labour can feel intimidating, but being prepared is the key. TALK about the choices and possibilities beforehand. It is very difficult to advocate for someone, when you do not know what their preferences are.
I will also be writing about two key tools to use in your role in later pieces. So please, keep coming back for updates or subscribe to the blog RSS feed so you don’t miss them.
Better still book yourself onto a DaddyNatal course and learn all these tools first hand!
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.