A review of three small Swedish studies of new fathers has demonstrated the importance of midwife support for fathers after an early discharge from hospital.
Following an early discharge from hospital after a birth, fathers can be more engaged if they have more confidence. Even though early discharge implies the baby is OK, first time fathers in particular need constant confirmation that all is well. Fathers want and are expected to take a full role in caring and midwives play a key role in ensuring they have the confidence to do so. The three studies all confirm the importance of parents being able to contact a midwife easily and having regular home visits. A midwife’s acknowledgement of the father’s role and needs is important.
The studies show that breastfeeding support is particularly important. Fathers typically want to support breastfeeding and typically find this more challenging than expected. They need practical advice on how to help and typically feel they lack the required knowledge. “As the father is the mother’s most important supporting person, midwives must be aware that fathers also need support for building confidence.”
The reviewers describe how the maternity care system often does not treat the father as an equal parent, but just as a partner of the mother. “There is a mismatch between how men see themselves in relation to childbirth and how they feel treated by the caregivers in the maternity care at the hospital.” Fathers often feel they lack the support and information they need to play a full role in the early period.
Early discharge of parents after a birth can affect mothers and fathers differently, according to earlier research. Fathers tend to feel calmer when together as a family, whilst mothers can feel distracted by other domestic obligations.
Brunstad A, Aasekjær K, Aune I & Nilsen ABV (2018), Fathers’ experiences during the first postnatal week at home after early discharge of mother and baby from the maternity unit: A meta-analysis, Scandinavian Journal of Public Health 1.14
Photo: Mia Dahlstrand. Creative Commons.