Early days of parenting
After the birth you will feel a sense of responsibility knowing that you have to look after your offspring who now depends on you for everything. This can be a scary experience for first time dads, as you won't have had any formal training to do the jobs that you are now faced.
Your partner will feel exhausted after birth but her strong maternal instincts driven by emotion and hormones will allow her to feed, wash and care for the new baby. It is important for dads, to get involved too, not only to help your partner in the early days but so that you can bond with your new baby and stay close with your partner at this time. After a little bit of instruction, cleaning your baby and changing nappies will become a relatively simple business - you will master the technique very quickly.
In hospital your partner will be given support from the midwives. When she comes home it is then for you both to find your way but your midwife will still be at hand if you need further help. The excitement of finally getting your new baby home is very special but can be exhausting too. You may have taken time off work to be at home with your family and after this period you will need to find a routine which allows you both to cope when you go back to work. It's amazing how quick you can learn to change, feed and care for your new baby and it is also important that both you and your partner gets some rest to help you get through the tiring weeks ahead.
Many couples take it in turn to look after the baby through the day or in the night so that neither partner gets completely exhausted - teamwork and sharing is essential at this time and will help to reduce the impact of this complete change in lifestyle. Once exhaustion sets in, it can take many days to resolve so to avoid this try to get some help from reliable relatives and friends so that both of you can get a few hours sleep.
If your partner has chosen to breast-feed you may feel a little redundant at times although you can still get involved with all the other bits, which can be just as rewarding. Every couple will have different ideas as to how to look after their new baby but it is important to communicate and be flexible with each other so that in time you find the routine that is best for you both.
Breast and bottle feeding
Provided there are no complications after birth your newborn baby will have the inbuilt instinct to suck when placed near to the mother's nipple. The first moments of breast-feeding can be a wonderful experience for dads too as they witness their partner and baby displaying one of natures most amazing survival instincts.
Breast feeding is not only a wonderful way for the mother to bond with her new baby but is also the recommended form of feeding for most babies because the mothers milk provides all sorts of nutrients and minerals which help the baby grow strong. It also gives protection against potential infections provided by the antibodies contained within this milk. Breast-feeding can be a frustrating business for your partner to begin because the supply of milk can be slow initially but it soon increases as the baby learns to latch on and suck properly.
Mums can also learn to express milk from their breasts using a special pump and collection bottle, which can be useful as either you or your partner can then give breast milk if a break from breast-feeding, is required. Breast-feeding also helps reduce excess weight gained during pregnancy but it is still important for her to continue to eat a balanced diet including extra carbohydrates to give all the nutrients and energy needed to make good quality milk - an appropriate multivitamin supplement like Pregnacare, can also be useful during this time.
Breastfeeding mothers should also ensure that they are getting enough calcium from their diet. Calcium can be obtained from foods such as sardines, milk, yoghurt and sesame seeds. A calcium supplement, such as Osteocare, can be a useful addition to their diet to ensure they are getting the recommended daily amount of 1000mg.
There are some situations in which mums either choose not to or can't breast-feed the baby, in which case bottle milk is a perfectly satisfactory alternative. Manufacturers have tried to make milk powders, which closely resemble breast milk although they don't contain the antibodies and balance of nutrients that is unique to every mum.
Bottle-feeding can be expensive in comparison to breast-feeding and requires a lot of preparation such as sterilising the bottles and making up the feeds with the correct amounts of powder to cooled boiled water. There are various different brands of milk powder on the market - your midwife or health visitor can advise you further on types that are suitable for your baby. One advantage of bottle-feeding is that the milk can be prepared and given by either parent.