Your lover is going to become a dad: he will see your belly round, share with you the ultrasounds and questions about the arrival of a baby, and then discover the baby’s first smiles, the first baby bottles, the first games. However, it is not always easy to discover your role as a parent and find your place in this new trio, maybe even less so when you’re a young dad… With the help of Stokke, we asked all of our questions to a psychologist specializing in parenting, to learn how to foster the dad/baby connection and to accompany young dads in this delicate process of discovering paternity.
Is it more difficult for a man to become a parent?
“This is not presupposed: it usually takes longer for the father to feel dad,” says Jeanne Ribierre, psychologist. He does not have the 9 months that the mother has to digest the shock and create the same psychic connection: “It may be more difficult for men to feel like a dad right away.” “The big challenge for them is that our society makes things more complicated: paternity leave is very short. It is considered normal that the mother is more present with the baby; it makes it more difficult for the father to find his place.” While dad has a primary role to play in the development of his child, “he has as much tenderness, compassion, knowledge, as the mother.”
9 months of progress and preparation
Involving the dad starts with pregnancy, and requires special attention from the future mother: “She can share her discoveries with him, explain how she feels, describe her physical sensations. It is important that she invites the father to touch her belly, to talk with the baby,” said Jeanne Ribierre. Future dads should not hesitate to attend birth preparation classes when they can. It’s a good opportunity to learn what to expect and to ask questions. Some classes are more suited to couples, such as haptonomy or prenatal singing: this allows you to prepare together. “The dad’s role during pregnancy can also be to protect the mother from external remarks and misconceptions, which can be anxiety-provoking and difficult to manage. He can have this role of a buffer, which allows the couple to work together. It is an opportunity to talk about what they want to do, to project themselves into their parenting role, and so on.”
How to involve dad when breastfeeding?
No, the young dad is not excluded from participating in breastfeeding. “Dad can get involved in a thousand ways! By first learning about breastfeeding precisely, to be able to accompany the mother,” explains Jeanne Ribierre, who insists, “Breastfeeding is a couple’s decision, and the father is a great support for mum during this period. Often, breastfeeding is successful because daddy is involved.”
Getting the baby from his crib, giving him to the mother, changing the baby’s diaper, helping him sleep… The dad can be very present during breastfeeding. “And just because he does not actively give the breast does not mean he can not share this moment: you can live this moment all three together, enjoy this experience together.” If dad wants a stronger physical connection, he can hold the baby while it is burping, take the opportunity to make skin to skin contact, and have a moment of cuddling after feeding. “Skin to skin contact is an ideal opportunity to create a connection and reassure the baby. Do not hesitate to take these breaks for two during the first month of the newborn: the baby discovers the warmth, the smell, and the heartbeat of the dad.” Especially since it often reassures the father to see that the child is calm in his arms. “If there is still a feeling of jealousy, exclusion, frustration, or even embarrassment: it is essential to talk about it, so that the dad does not remain alone with these feelings,” says Jeanne Ribierre.
How to make sure that everyone finds their place with the child?
To create the bond, each parent can gradually establish favorite pastimes with their child, small moments to develop the connection with their baby. “Obviously it all depends on the families and individuals, but the ideal method is to share the tasks,” notes Jeanne Ribierre. Alternate tasks like bottle feeding, changing the diapers, giving baths, which is a moment of sharing and essential physical contact… “The important thing is that he does something he wants. It can be a stroller or baby carrier ride with the baby while the mother is resting for example….” And to give daddy the freedom to invent his own past times with his child. The mother must agree to give him time alone with her baby.
Know how to trust in each other
“I think what’s important is that mom and dad trust each other. It is necessary to be able exonerate each other, to release the pressure: the parents are often worried of failure, but it is necessary to keep in mind that there is no perfect parent,” reassures Jeanne Ribierre. While the father is often led to care less for the baby the first months, the mother should not hesitate to let dad help in his own way. “It often takes a lot of work to let go of the mother for the first few months, I agree.” But it is essential for everyone to find their place in the family, and that creates a triangular relationship. “You become a parent, but be careful not to forget your relationship! Dialogue is essential—trust in the other, too. I am convinced that dads have a paternal instinct: let them express it.”
The testimony of Lola Rossi, mother of Emma, 10 months…
Lola, can you introduce yourself, your husband and Emma?
I’m Lola. I am 27 years old, and I have been with my husband Laurent (who is 30 years old) for 6 and a half years. We are the young parents of tiny Emma, who will be 10 month old soon and who fills us with joy!
How did you announce your pregnancy to the future father?
Our little princess was a surprise! We had not planned to have a little one any time soon, so I did not really announce the pregnancy to dad in an original way! I went to take a blood test without telling him because I had doubts. After receiving the results, I went to his work to announce that I had a test and it was positive!
How did Laurent get involved during pregnancy?
During the pregnancy, Laurent really realized that he was going to become a dad when we started to feel little kicks! He then got involved a little more to start creating a bond with his baby and prepared to become a father. He rubbed my belly with my anti-stretch mark oil, he tried to feel the baby moving in the evening on the couch and started to talk to him near my belly so he could hear his voice. He was also present at all the monthly appointments to see the ultrasounds, and I watched him every time having that huge smile when the screen came on and he saw his daughter.
How was it first meeting Emma on delivery day?
Strangely, Laurent realized better than me that we had become parents! He immediately fell in love with his daughter, while I felt a little disconnected and I wondered, “Is it really me who created this little human?” We all went back to the room to sleep and while Laurent slept as if it was him who had given birth, I spent my night watching my daughter sleep, full of little stars in my eyes…
How did your first days as young parents go? Did you immediately find your place with Emma?
The return home and the first days with Emma went very well. It looked like we had done that all our lives! I have four brothers and sisters who are much younger than me and who I cared for a lot when they were babies. I think it helped me a lot to become a mom… Laurent saw that I managed things very well, which helped him to be more relaxed and not stressed. Little by little, he learned to change diapers, to bathe his daughter, to put her to sleep, etc.
You nursed Emma. How could Laurent help you during this period?
Laurent was also for breastfeeding, so he was delighted that I wanted to breastfeed our daughter. Since he could not take over from time to time or even prepare baby bottles, he helped me differently, especially at night. At first, Emma woke up twice to eat, she slept in our room, and it was Laurent who got up to pick her up and bring her to bed. So, I did not really need to wake up completely to feed her, and my nights were quite relaxing despite the awakenings!
How does he create a connection with his daughter today? Do they have little rituals between them? What times of the day does he prefer to spend with her?
Although he can not feed her and have that connection with his daughter during meals, he has found other alternatives to connect with her. It began with the baths since birth. He took care of Emma’s diaper before helping her sleep by singing her little nursery rhymes. We also attended baby massage classes with my midwife: he used to do it regularly for a father/daughter relaxation session. On the weekends, Laurent loves to go on a stroll with his daughter: with Stokke Xplory, Emma is at his level. They can really have fun together! He also likes to read stories before going to bed: Emma listens and quietly observes the books before falling asleep peacefully.
Does it make you rediscover your love in his new role of dad?
In all this new adventure that is maternity, I think what surprised me the most is to see my lover become a dad! We have been together for almost 7 years, I know him by heart, but by becoming a father, I discovered a new facet of him that only reinforces my love for him…
Find the universe of Lola on her Instagram account
Created by: Stokke x Les Louves
Translation: Ashley Griffin
Photo credit: Lola Rossi
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