How To Be A Good Labor And Delivery Partner
Labor and delivery is hard work - but it shouldn’t just be the mother’s job to bring a new baby into the world! Spouses, partners, friends, or family members can be great assistants during a mother’s labor, and it’s important to rally around a mother as she faces the momentous task of birthing a baby. Whether you have your spouse, mother, or friend by your side during labor, choose a support person who you know will have your back!
Support person duties before labor:
1. Figure out the birth plan.
Being prepared is everything when it comes to childbirth. In the weeks leading up to the mother’s due date, take some time to write out a birth plan. Figure out what pain relief the mother is comfortable with, whether or not she wants an epidural, if she wants to walk around or bounce on a ball during labor, what relaxation items she wants to bring, and when the hospital bag needs to be packed and ready to go. Figure out how long it takes to drive to the hospital at different times of day, and arrange for childcare for older siblings.
2. Help pack the hospital bags.
By the end of pregnancy, moms are tired, worn out, and mentally exhausted. Help a mother out by assisting in packing the hospital bag. There are many checklists available online for ideas on what to pack, but really all you need are a few essentials (clothes for you, clothes for the baby, phones and cameras, snacks, toiletries, and nursing accessories). Hospitals typically provide most items that you’ll need, including diapers, wipes, rash cream, a nasal aspirator, swaddle blankets, hats, nursing supplies, and toiletries. Don’t forget to pack chargers and memory cards for your phone, computer, and camera!
3. Install the car seat.
You will need to install your baby’s car seat before going to the hospital (even if it’s just the base), so be sure to leave yourself time to read the car seat’s instruction manual, watch a few how-to videos, and install the seat before the mother goes into labor.
4. Know when it’s time to go to the hospital.
Discuss with your partner what to look for when labor begins. True contractions (not to be confused with “practice” contractions called Braxton Hicks) occur in a pattern and grow closer together and more painful over time. Discuss with your doctor what to do if your water breaks, and ask how close together the contractions should be before heading to the hospital.
5. Research the stages of labor and know what to expect.
Learn the difference between early labor and active labor. Early labor can last from hours to days (or even weeks), so don’t stress out the minute the first contraction occurs. Discuss with the mother when to make the call to head to the hospital, but usually doctors recommend coming in if the contractions occur every 5 minutes, lasting for 1 minute or more, and occur in this pattern for at least 1 hour.
Support person duties at the hospital:
1. Help fill out paperwork.
Most hospitals require parents to register ahead of time, but if you haven’t done this already, you’ll have to fill out paperwork once you arrive at the hospital. Since the mother will most likely be having painful contractions, it’s best that the support person takes over completing any forms that need to be filled out.
2. Get a copy of the birth plan to nurses or doctors.
If you’ve written out a birth plan before arriving at the hospital, be sure to give a copy to any doctors or labor and delivery nurses that will be assisting. If the birth plan isn’t in written form, take a minute to speak with doctors and nurses about the mother’s wishes for her labor and delivery process.
3. Advocate for the mother.
The mother will most likely be very distracted by the aches and pains of labor, and might not be able to speak up for herself when she needs something. Be her advocate and be prepared to ask for things on her behalf. Don’t be afraid to ask why doctors are using a certain intervention, why things aren’t progressing the way you envisioned, or why the anesthesiologist hasn’t arrived to do the epidural yet. Don’t worry about bothering hospital staff - they are there to assist you!
4. Offer encouragement.
As best you can, try to sympathize with the mother. Ask her if she wants to watch TV as a distraction, ask her if she needs ice chips to munch on, and ask her if she needs a massage. Periodically offer encouragement and tell her she’s doing a great job. Let her know you can see how intense and close together her contractions are, and praise her for overcoming the pain. Help her focus on the end goal: bringing your new little one safely into the world.
5. Practice relaxation techniques.
There are many ways to calm the body during labor, so be sure to research a few before arriving at the hospital. Some mothers like gentle back massage, others like aromatherapy, some like listening to music, and others like practicing rhythmic breathing. If the mother is able to get out of bed, rocking or bouncing on a birthing ball might help ease some aches and pains. Do your best to figure out how to keep the mother calm and collected, so she can relax and let her muscles contract properly to move the baby safely through the birth canal.
Support person duties during delivery:
1. Support the mother during pushing.
Whether it’s holding the mother’s hand, helping prop up her leg, or simply being a cheerleader standing on the sidelines, it is important for the support person to be involved in the pushing process. The mother’s only job is to concentrate on getting the baby out as safely as possible, so the support person should be there to handle whatever else she might need at that moment!
2. Take plenty of pictures.
The mother will be very busy and distracted by all the commotion of giving birth, so you will be in charge of being the photographer for this momentous occasion! Take lots of pictures of the experience, close-ups of the baby’s features, and important moments throughout the labor and delivery. These will be photos the mother will treasure forever!
3. Cut the cord.
After the baby is delivered, the doctors will allow someone to cut the umbilical cord, and oftentimes the support person is responsible for this job. It can be a special moment, especially between a father and a baby, because this is the first hands-on parenting experience he’s had after the mother carried the baby for nine long months.
4. Hold and talk to the baby.
After the mother delivers the baby, she’ll be encouraged to do skin-to-skin immediately if no health issues are observed. However, it’s important for the support person to hold and bond with the baby, too! Skin-to-skin contact can be a great bonding experience between a father and his child, so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask nurses for assistance in how to do so. Talk to the baby, rock the baby, and help assist the mother in whatever she needs. Thank her for doing the amazing work of bringing your precious little one into the world!
Having a support person is so important to the labor and delivery process. Labor can be a long, painful, emotionally-taxing process, so having someone by your side to cheer you on can be a huge help!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.