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Should Dads be allowed to stay on maternity wards?

There is a debate raging right now in hospitals about what happens to Dad once the baby is born.In the American Movie version of your birth experience the new baby is tucked up in a nursery to give Mum and Dad a well-earned rest and Dad is ‘allowed’ to stand at the reinforced nursery window and coo as his new born son or daughter is held up by a neatly attired nurse.


So… that’s not what happens. 

The day your child is born is long, emotional, exhausting and finally they are here! You are a Dad! Congratulations, you are probably exhausted and starving! (Ssssh don’t say that in front of Mum!)

Hospitals in the UK tend to follow the World Health Organisation’s Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative from 1991 – which means that healthy babies and Mums should wherever possible be kept on the ward together but the burning question is where should Dads be, should they be encouraged to stay, especially that first night?


Different maternity wards have different rules about whether Dad can stay or not. Some wards are pretty Dad friendly, and Ninewells Hospital in Dundee hit the news last week for offering “Lazyboy-style” reclining chairs for new fathers to sleep on. Many Dads though will have had the experience of being asked firmly to go home overnight, often leaving them feeling guilty as they leave their exhausted partner and new baby to cope alone.

On that first day your new baby has some really important work to do to start feeding and begin bonding with their primary carers. Skin-to-skin contact is an essential part of this process and privacy and a calm environment is important for new families. Women left on the ward by their partners can often feel lonely and abandoned and stripped of the support they need from their partner. Overloaded ward staff could also benefit if Dads can pick up some of the slack of Mum and Baby’s non-medical care. Partners sent home can feel guilty and are missing out on an important time to bond with their new child.

Practically of course, sometimes Dads have no choice but to go home, other children might need to take priority. However if they want to stay wouldn’t it be best? 

Well, there is a counter argument and this is tough because some Dads seem to have spoiled it for the rest of us. Some Dads haven’t behaved very well on the wards causing midwives concern about how having partners on the ward impacts their work. They are also worried that new mums might be embarrassed to breastfeed or get changed if there are too many men in the postnatal unit. The principal of families being together is lovely but it isn’t completely simple when four bed bays are standard in a maternity unit. Conditions can be cramped, midwives have to react fast in emergency situations and need space and hospital designers didn’t consider Dads.

If you do stay with your partner overnight. You are there to help, so be a good visitor and read this list of suggestions for Dads based on a midwife’s experience of running a maternity ward (She prefers to remain anonymous! You can see why!!!)

1 – Don’t go to sleep in the hospital bed and leave a Mum recovering from labour with the chair!

Yes that happens! This midwife has had to wake Dads and ask them to use the reclining chair so that a Mum recovering from Caesarean could be in her bed. If you are so tired that you just are going to sleep anyway then probably best you go home, get rest and come back. If you stay, you are there to help. On a side note, that also means don’t sleep on another empty bed on the ward. They are there for new admissions and if you snuggle down the sheets will need changing which causes delays and extra laundry bills!

2 – Don’t use the buzzer like it’s room service.

If you need a cup of tea (a common occurrence) go get your own, there is often a self-service tea trolley somewhere on the corridor, get your partner one too. Remember if you are staying, you are staying to help.

3 – Don’t constantly complain you are too hot/too cold.

Focus on your partner’s comfort.

4 – Don’t expect your meal to be provided.

Yes we know you pay your taxes, and yes those taxes pay the staff’s wages. Don’t tell them this… they have heard it a lot and don’t need you to go over that ground. Meals are for patients, you aren’t a patient so…

5 – Don’t take your clothes off!

This midwife says it is a common occurrence to find Dads walking round topless, even in nothing but their pants. She has even had a Dad strip off naked and take a wash in the ward bathroom with the door unlocked, which gave everyone quite a fright!

6 – Don’t constantly come and go.

If you are a smoker and need a cigarette overnight remember every time you press the buzzer you are waking up an exhausted new Mum and taking up the time of over stretched ward staff. Don’t, whatever you do, lean on that buzzer, just wait patiently!

7 – Don’t snore, Don’t listen to movies without headphones or talk loudly on your mobile.

If you are staying be a good guest and don’t give anyone cause for complaint.


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