Just for partners
Useful information and tips for partners and significant others in expectant mother’s life.
Becoming a parent, whether it’s for the first time or in subsequent pregnancies, can be a very exciting but also a worrisome experience.
It is important to prepare for changes within your family dynamic for once the new baby arrives, but there are also some changes you can make that can help to support your partner during her pregnancy.
Mums-to-be are often encouraged to make adjustments to their lifestyle, whether that’s not drinking alcohol, giving up smoking, eating a healthier diet, or exercising more. As her partner, the best and most supportive thing you can do, is make those changes with her. This is also relevant when you are planning a pregnancy, as making positive lifestyle will aid with conceiving.
You can also support your partner by reading up on pregnancy and learning about what she is experiencing. It can help you feel more involved and equipped to offer her invaluable help and understanding day-to-day. Emotional wellbeing of your partner is equally as important as their physical one. The hormonal changes of pregnancy can influence your partner’s mood and mental health wellbeing. If you are worried about your partner, it is important to encourage her to reach out to her midwife or GP for help.
Try to make time to attend Antenatal Education classes with her as well, as these are specifically tailored to assist you both on this exciting journey.
Connecting with your baby in the womb and beyond
The relationship you build with your baby is very important. Babies require loving, safe and peaceful environment to help them grow and thrive. How we care for them and meet their needs, from the very start, will shape their brain development and the future. This process starts during pregnancy and will continue after your baby’s birth. The first two years of your baby’s life are the most crucial as this is the time when the brain is developing very rapidly.
Attachment is the process by which baby and you build your close relationship. As new parents, when we give our babies lots of responsive, loving care and attention, it helps them feel secure and safe. Feeling safe and secure will help babies learn how to manage their emotions and feelings, which in turn will help them develop healthy relationships in the future.
Bonding describes the feelings of love and the attachment between you and your baby. Some parents may feel this connection develop immediately and it will start to develop during pregnancy, but for many others it grows over time. Partners in particular, may find the process of bonding more challenging than mums-to-be. You may find it easier to bond with your baby after birth by playing, communicating and caring for them. However, during pregnancy we encourage you talk, read and sing to the bump as this will help you start the process of connecting with your growing baby. You may feel silly doing this at first but try not to worry- the baby loves to hear your voice. Gently massaging and touching your partners bumps will also help you feel more
Employment rights advice from NI Direct
As a partner, you are legally entitled to unpaid time off work to attend two antenatal appointments. A “partner” includes the spouse or civil partner of the pregnant woman and a person, of either sex, in a long-term relationship with her. The right applies whether the child is conceived naturally or through donor insemination.
Attending antenatal appointments is a fantastic opportunity to get involved with the pregnancy and bond with your growing baby.
Tips for supporting your partner during labour and birth
Being present at your baby’s birth is an incredible experience. You may feel a mixture of emotions such amazement, relief, a rush of love and even surprise. As a birthing partner, you also have a great opportunity to support your partner during this life-changing event. Here are so tips on how you can make a difference and be involved on the day:
- During pregnancy, you can support your partner in preparations for birth by attending Antenatal Classes with her, and helping her consider and discussing her birth choices. Every birthing experience is different, so knowing her wishes will help you feel more prepared to help out.
- In the early stages of labour at home, your role could be to simply keep your partner company and help to past the time. You could offer to massage her back and shoulders, help her adapt different active birth positions or run a warm bath for her.
- Labour is a time to offer lots of encouragement and help her stay positive, especially as labour progresses and contractions get stronger.
- If your partner has learned any breathing and relaxation techniques, such as hypnobirthing, remind her to use them and perhaps breathing with her may help too.
- Offer her physical comfort where you can by wiping her face/brow with a cool cloth, giving sips of water or by simply holding her hand
- Be an advocate for your partner and support her decisions, even if they are different from what you both had initially agree on, in your birth preferences- remember not all plans go to plan.
- Ask questions on your partner’s behalf and encourage good communication between you and midwives/doctors. This will help you feel more involved and in control of your care.
- Respect her wishes if she asks you to stay quiet or if she would like to be left alone to help her focus.
- Your partner may wish for you to tell her what’s happening as the baby is being born as she may not be able to see herself.
- Consider your option to cut the umbilical cord after the baby is born-please talk to your midwife on the day about this as this may not be possible in certain scenarios.
How to support your partner with breastfeeding
- Offer lots of encouragement and support. While your partner is learning the new skill of breastfeeding, giving her lots of reassurance and praise will help to boost her confidence and self-esteem.
- Listen to her wishes and talk honestly about how both of you are feeling as new parents- early days and adjustment to parenthood can be a stressful time so supporting each other is key.
- Be actively involved in caring for your baby’s needs such as skin-to-skin contact, play time, winding after feeds, baby wearing in a sling or a carrier, changing nappies or bathing. Chat your way through your day- babies love to hear your voice and interact with you. Eye contact and sociable interaction are fantastic for bonding with your baby and their brain development.
- Offer practical help around the house with household chores so your partner has the time to focus on learning the new skill of breastfeeding. Remember- it is perfectly normal for newborn babies to feed often.
- Encourage your partner to rest and relax during the day- whether that’s a nap, a bath or deep breathing/mindfulness activities. Don’t forget to rest yourself!
- Your partner doesn’t need to follow a special diet while she is breastfeeding but encourage her to eat a healthy, balanced diet and to keep well hydrated. Ask your extended family for help with cooking and meal prep ahead of birth if you can- a well-stocked freezer can be a lifesaver in those early weeks.
- If your partner is having difficulties and struggling with breastfeeding, encourage her to reach out for help. There are number of different ways to get support- for example your community midwife, health visitor, peer support workers and helplines. Please see our Breastfeeding page for contact information (clickable link).
- Later on in your journey, and once your partner and baby have got the hang of breastfeeding, you can help out with feeding by offering expressed breastmilk via a bottle.
- Your support is invaluable-try to remember that with your involvement and assistance, breastfeeding will quickly become just another part of your family life.
Support for you
- Aware NI support group for expectant and new parents – https://aware-ni.org/mood-matters-parent-and-baby and https://aware-ni.org/support-groups/
- Mellow Dads
- Becoming a Dad- Written in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation, this new guide for expectant and new fathers aims to help men make sense of what’s happening to them, look after themselves and the others around them, and do the best possible job of becoming a confident father. We’re making it available free to fathers, via our new Time with Dad campaign. Here’s the link: https://mailchi.mp/fatherhoodinstitute.org/becoming-dad