Fathers: the practical guys in the shadow (Denmark)

father practical

A small study in Denmark, involving interviews with six fathers after the re-admission of their baby to hospital following an early discharge, has come up with a new description of fathers in postnatal settings: “the practical guy in the shadow”.

The interviews suggested a difference in perception between some fathers, who see themselves as equal partners in parenting, and health professionals who see them as helpers. This was not, however, a quest for more attention of these fathers to their own needs: the fathers in this small study showed greater consideration to the mother’s feelings than their own.

“It’s teamwork! But as such I probably was not there in their eyes [of the nurses].”

“It is natural that the focus is on the mother and the newborn. And in relation to the nurse I am a helping assistant.” 

“She [the newborn] is lying on my chest, as we were recommended. It is really nice and I can feel that she likes it. And I do too. And so does my wife, because then she can also get some rest.”

“My own father did not participate very much and was very occupied with working. He was a sole provider with three children, so he had his reasons…. So I try to participate in as much as possible because I want a good relationship with them.”

The study is an illustration of the complex nature of the interaction between medical care and family care of a baby and the less defined status of the father’s own connection with the baby.

The authors consider the possible link between reductions in hospital beds and staff, so that there is very little time for health professionals to engage with families. This leads to fathers being drawn in as practical assistants.


Feenstra MM, Nilsson I & Danbjørg DB (2017), “Dad – a practical guy in the shadow”: Fathers’ experiences of their paternal role as a father during early discharge after birth and readmission of their newborns, Sexual & Reproductive Health

Photo: Guian Bolisay. Creative Commons.