A new national survey reveals that 1 in 2 dads are missing in a baby's first few weeks of life.
Despite dad's playing a greater involvement in parenting generally, the survey reveals an absence in the early weeks. The research found that 52.2% of Australians believe fathers have minimal to no involvement in the early weeks of a newborn's life. The survey was conducted to gain insights into the current image Australians have of a father's role in the beginning of the baby's life.
Experts are urging families to alter this perception, saying dads need to form vital connections as soon as the baby is born.
Jen Hamilton has over 27 years' experience in mothercraft. After becoming an enrolled nurse Jen undertook further training to become a mothercraft nurse at Karitane in Sydney. After Karitane she became a nanny for 3 years before joining the Tresillian residential care team. Inspired to continue working in this field and enrich her learning she ventured abroad working in the UK, Europe and America.
Building on this experience she became an in-home maternity nurse specialising in newborn care, breast and bottle feeding, sleep, settling and routine establishment.
Inspired by her experiences, Jen returned to Australia where she established her own mother-care home visiting service. Yet, even with this background the past 16 years of her own life may have been the most challenging so far. Becoming a mother herself she learned, first-hand, the trials and triumphs of being a new mother. She has three children aged 16, 12, and 4 and knows the challenges and uncertainties of parenting.
Combining work and being a hands-on mum Jen has used her exceptional talents to establish successful feeding, sleeping and settling techniques. She has helped hundreds of families and their babies to do the same. Furthermore, her participation in online forums, writing articles for magazines and websites and also appearing on National television has enabled Jen to pursue her passion of supporting and educating parents.
Question: Why are 1 in 2 dads are missing in a baby's first few weeks of life?
Jen Hamilton: Working commitments. Cannot or does not want to take time off
Feels inadequate. Mum is breastfeeding and taking care of baby. Dad feels he cannot get involved or does not know how to get involved.
Dads can feel overwhelmed
Stigma attached to Mums doing it all. Breastfeeding, maternal instinct etc
Question: Why is it crucial that dads be around for a baby's first few weeks of life?
Jen Hamilton: To bond with the baby
To get to know the baby and feel comfortable handling the baby
To recognise and understand all thats involved with caring for a newborn
To support Mum
Question: How can a father form vital connections as soon as their baby is born?
Jen Hamilton: Skin to skin contact. This encourages the release of -The bonding hormone' Oxytocin. This time can be shared with both mother and baby
Lots of handling and cuddles
Cutting of the cord. This can be discussed with staff prior to the birth of the baby.
Question: What are the side effects of less involved dads in babies lives?
Jen Hamilton: Lowered confidence in handling of the baby. Dads become less involved not knowing how to care for the baby
Baby is bonding with Mum which a natural occurrence between baby and parent. Baby becomes familiar with mums smells, voice, touch etc. Baby is not familiar with these things regarding dad so baby can be more settled with mum. Dad loses more confidence
Dad may become less involved as time goes on
Mum can feel a lack of support
Question: And, how does this effect the mother?
Jen Hamilton: She may feel a lack of support
May feel extra tired not having as many opportunities for time out
Communication between parents can become strained
Mum could become resentful
Question: What are your top tips for how dads can maximise their involvement from birth?
Jen Hamilton: Education regarding normal baby behaviour and developmental changes and stages (WOTBABY App is perfect for that)
Skin to skin contact throughout the first few weeks
Bathing with the baby
Burping baby during feeds
When feeding is established Dad can give baby a bottle occasionally
Get involved with settling the baby
Get involved with night feeding
Take time off from work in the first few weeks if possible
Question: Can you provide other insights that this survey found?
Jen Hamilton: Dads tend to wait until when baby is older to get more involved. They tend to bond with the baby when the baby is more developed. Things like smiling, giggling and responding to facial expressions when baby is older, give dad a sense of attachment. They feel they are more needed later on when feeding is established and Mum has become more familiar with the baby and routine etc. its important for dads to realise the importance of banding in the early days. That bonding is a process far beyond just smiles and recognition from the baby. Babies are very instinctual little humans in the first few weeks and instinctually bonding with both parents sets things up for a positive parenting experience throughout the first few months and beyond. Not just between father and baby but also and very importantly between Father and mother.
Question: How has a father's role in the beginning of the baby's life changed over time?
Jen Hamilton: I think the pressures of today can make it a little harder for dads to get involved:
Less extended family support
Longer working hours
Interview by Brooke Hunter