Celebrating Dads in the Delivery Room
Nursing News June 14, 2016

By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor

Celebrating Dads in the Delivery Room: L&D Nurses

A labor and delivery nurse and baby care expert helps new fathers step into their role

Long gone are the days when dads-to-be would sit idle in the hospital waiting room, catching a few Zs before a labor and delivery nurse taps them on the shoulder to introduce their bouncing bundle of joy. These days, dads are an integral part of the entire birthing process--which has also changed the way they interact with L&D nurses and the entire health care team.

Yet, for some men, the idea of accompanying their partner through labor and delivery can seem strange and intimidating.

So, what’s a new dad to do? We talked with Carole Kramer Arsenault, RN, IBCLC, a labor and delivery nurse, founder of Boston Baby Nurse and author of The Baby Nurse Bible: Secrets Only a Baby Nurse Can Tell You about Having and Caring for Your Baby, who offers advice for dads heading into the delivery room.

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Three things L&D nurses suggest for fathers-to-be:

1. Do a dad’s due diligence

Don’t just rely on articles and books on first-time fatherhood; take part in some hands-on instruction, as well. Many hospitals and third party companies are now offering classes specifically geared to the father’s role in the labor, delivery and postpartum after-care process.

Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, Calif., is one of several facilities across the country that offers Boot Camp for New Dads--covering everything from what to expect in the delivery room to baby care basics. The hospital encourages fathers to attend one to two months before the baby’s arrival so they have time to soak up important information.

If looking for references, Arsenault’s book, The Baby Nurse Bible, continues to be at the top of the list of doctor-recommended pregnancy/postpartum books. “We have plans to release a revised edition which will include many updates, including a section for new dads.”

2. Be prepared

“My advice to dads is to really get to know what is going to happen in the delivery room, and be prepared for some unexpected things, too,” Arsenault said. “And of course to always be supportive.”

Dads can help their spouse or partner take care of the various tasks leading up to the birth--whether it is a planned C-section or vaginal delivery. That means things like helping to pack a hospital bag, ensuring the mom-to-be has some hard candies or sugar-free lollipops to suck on during the birth or even packing a cooler filled with cold compresses infused with her favorite essential oils. Reading material for both expectant parents can also be a good idea for those early hours of labor.

3. Get involved

One growing trend in labor and delivery is the “family-centered cesarean” approach, Arsenault said.

“Dads have always been welcome in the OR for cesareans, but now, it is even a bigger experience for them, as they can actually see the birth, and get really nice pictures immediately after the birth. And, just like the mom, they can interact with the baby much sooner.” And, for both cesarean and natural births, dads and babies can begin to bond immediately after birth, during what many hospitals now refer to as the “magical hour,” “golden hour” or “miracle hour.”

“Part of this also involves advocacy for early skin-to-skin contact, so that is another role that dads are finding they are helping with. In fact, we now do skin-to-skin between baby and dad!” she said, adding, “It’s very cool to have a dad cuddling up with close skin contact, even in the OR during a cesarean delivery.” She noted that not all hospitals will allow this, especially in the OR, but some major birthing hospitals will.

Witnessing the miracle of birth is an event that will remain seeped in a father’s memory forever. L&D nurses should continue to embrace the active participation of dads in the delivery room, and work together to bring about the best outcomes for mom and baby--and dad, too.

Happy Father’s Day--especially to all of the new dads who are lucky enough to help usher their babies into the world!

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