The role that fathers play in birth and beyond

Fathers also experience a life transformation on the day that their children are born. Here’s how to make it a positive one. 

8 January 2018
3 minute read

Father with baby laying on chest

This blog is part of our Weaving Wisdom series aimed at informing expectant parents about birth choices and encouraging proactive management of both the pregnancy and birth periods. 

Byline: Louïne van der Vyver and Karin Steyn

A sense of unity between mom and dad is important.

“Parenting is like a chronic disease. Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it for life, and you’ve got to learn to manage it.”

So says Alan Hosking, publisher of HR Magazine and author of the book What Nobody Tells a New Father. He calls birth “a massive transformational life event”, and in order to prepare for this change, a sense of unity between mom and dad is important.


“If dads can develop their relationship with the mother and the baby in pregnancy, it enhances a sense of closeness. Dads need to recognise that they are a part of it and it is their baby, as much as it is the moms’.”

Alan recommends that dads get into the headspace of “I am going to be a father”:

  • Start the conversation with yourself and your wife – what do you think it means to be a dad? This is the most important thing a man can do to prepare for becoming a father.
  • Touching, sitting down together and talking – this is needed to validate your partner and meet each other’s needs.
  • Pregnancy can also be an uncomfortable experience for fathers and your emotional experiences can sometimes be denied. Try to express your feelings and allow your wife to listen and react to them.
  • Learn to apologise and get rid of the emotional baggage between you and your partner before the birth, because a positive relationship between mom and dad is one of the very important factors of creating a positive birth experience and assisting healthy postnatal adjustment.

“New fathers have to recognise that parenting is a team sport from awareness of conception, throughout pregnancy, birth and beyond. It is about the oneness of the team, the unity, team spirit and being together. It is about the relationship with the mother of your child. Each party needs to be recognised for the different things they bring to the game, the strengths and abilities. Thus they complement each other and work together on developing the game plan,” Alan says.

Is there such a thing as father’s instinct?Alan believes yes, and it includes all the things that fathers do naturally without anybody telling them to or showing them how to do it. The instinct to protect is one of them. Recognise it and embrace it. Fathers have a tendency to play a bit rougher with their kids and throw them into the air. This is important to the vestibular development of children, building trust and courage.

“Through playing fun and friendly games that involve an element of fear – such as the bear chasing the little child and catching him with tickles and cuddles to follow – this loving experience of play vaccinates children against real-life fear and enables them to handle fear much better later in life.”

According to Alan, a fathers’ touch is different and offers unique tactile and sensory experiences to the child – they are a little bit rougher and firmer and their hands are a bit larger and harder. Children need both types of touch – that of a mother and that of a father. A father’s relationship with his daughter is one of the only relationships a girl will have with a member of the opposite sex that is physically warm, but has no sexual pressure. Fathers inadvertently teach their children about patience, delayed gratification and calming themselves down by keeping them waiting or starting a game and then ending it prematurely.

“You do not have to be the expert or best looking dude, the biggest or the strongest to be the best father that your child could ever have. You do not realise what you are doing for your child by just being present in their lives. Every human being has an insatiable need to be loved by a father and the father’s role is irreplaceable.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.

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