Labor and delivery is primarily focused on mom and baby (of course!). But it’s still a big day for the dad as well – here are some of our best tips for labor and delivery as dad, including what you should bring along.
What to Expect in the Delivery Room for Dads
I (Katie) have written a few posts on what to bring to the hospital – including for dads. However, Forrest wrote this post shortly before Oliver was born, and I thought I should post it. He talks about what to expect during labor and delivery and what to bring! Who better to tell other dads what to bring than a dad himself?!
Katie and I recently thought we were going to be having our baby a few weeks early. I hadn’t put together my bag for the hospital yet, so I tried to remember everything I needed to take as fast as I could.
Of course, I forgot a few things. We didn’t end up having him early, but it is still good to plan ahead of time so you don’t forget things.
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Here is my list of things a Dad needs to accompany his wife, or whatever she is to you, as she gives birth. This list does not include things for the baby or mother.
As with most things birth related, the least important things concern the dad.
I will be referring to mom as your spouse throughout this, just because it’s a mouthful to say every term out there. If mom isn’t your spouse – just replace that with whatever she is to you!
Originally written in 2016; updated in 2019.
Labor and Delivery Tips for Dad
Before mom even goes birth, attend a hospital tour with her. They are usually just an hour long, but they can help you get familiar with where to go when the baby is about to arrive and answer any questions you may have.
It’s also helpful to be able to see what the rooms look like so you and your spouse are able to know exactly what to expect.
Attend Labor Prep Classes
Although mom does all of the work during labor, it’s important that you know how to best support her. Whether she is going all natural or wants an epidural the second she steps into the labor and delivery wing, labor prep classes are important for both mom AND dad.
We highly recommend the Online Prenatal Class for Couples. This is a class you can take from the comfort of your home with your spouse/partner, and it’s designed specifically for couples to take together. It goes over everything you need to know to be ready for the big day. You can use the code CLARKS for 10% off.
Communicate with Mom
An open line of communication between you and the mother is so important. This is a big day for both of you – but a lot of what happens comes down to what mom wants.
Try not to push your will on her – if she doesn’t want your mom in the delivery room, then don’t push it. It’s important to be on the same page as she goes through one of the most difficult things she will probably ever do. Listen to her and be patient.
Know the Birth Plan
During labor, things can get a bit crazy. Katie always was a little bit out of it, and it was important for me to know what she wanted.
Be aware of what her wishes are during labor – but also understand that she might change her mind. If she was adamant about wanting a natural birth…and she’s begging for an epidural – don’t tell her no, she can’t have one.
There are a lot of little things that happen during labor, and she may not always be aware enough to communicate those to the nurse or doctor. Make sure you are paying attention and letting her birth team know about things she wants. Listen to what they say but also advocate for your spouse.
Expect the Unexpected
Even if you and your spouse have a 10 page, typed out birth plan…expect the unexpected. Labor and delivery rarely goes as planned, and it’s important to anticipate hiccups.
The most important thing is that you communicate with your birthing time, ask lots of questions, and that you are able to be supportive of your spouse if things go south. It can get crazy and even scary in the delivery room at times, and while it’s 100% normal and fine to get scared – try and keep your cool and be supportive of your spouse.
Because as scary as things can be for you – it’s like 10x scarier for her. And she needs you.
While you might feel like you are 100% prepared to help your spouse through labor, and it’s not uncommon for dad to get a little woozy – even at the most unexpected times. You will likely be asked to sit down as your wife gets an epidural. If you start to get light headed or nervous, ask for help. It doesn’t make you any less of a man if you choose to stand by your wife’s head as she pushes the baby out.
Be prepared with questions. Know how to help your spouse breathe through contractions. Be an active partner in the labor and delivery process.
While labor can get long – and it’s totally fine to take a nap or watch a show (assuming your spouse is doing the same) – always be ready to help at a second’s notice.
Don’t Be Shy
Be an advocate for your wife! In our experience, labor and delivery nurses are great at explaining what’s going on and answering questions. But that may not always be the case.
Don’t be shy about asking about everything. This is the birth of your child and you have every right to know about every decisions that’s going on or being made.
What Should Dad Pack for Labor and Delivery
Labor can take a really long time. Active labor regularly takes five to twelve hours. It is not uncommon for labor to take over a day. So, from early labor to active labor to recovery, you can plan to be at the for the hospital for about three days.
Of course, that is, if you want to stay. The hospitals I have visited have had pull-out beds of differing quality for the dad to sleep on overnight. They have provided blankets and pillows as well.
Consider bringing your own blanket or pillow if you are picky – hospitals aren’t known for having 5 star amenities.
You should bring deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste and other things you think you might need. This might feel gross, but I wouldn’t plan on taking a shower at the hospital. You can go home and do that, but I think it would be rather weird to use the showers meant for the mothers – and typically you aren’t allowed to.
So, if you don’t want to leave your precious wife and baby, then make sure you can keep yourself from smelling bad.
For some reason, I don’t think hospitals have above average ventilation. If you and your lovely spouse are in a hospital room for a couple of days without showering then your room will smell a little funky. There is no need for any of that.
Honestly, early labor can take awhile, and active labor isn’t usually very quick either. Plus, your wife will need some time to recover in the hospital before she can leave.
Mother and baby will want to spend a lot of time together after the baby is born. Thus, there isn’t a lot for a father to really do other than be supportive and grab some snacks and water.
There will be a lot of downtime – at least, there was in our case. Bring a book, video game, movie, or whatever else you prefer to keep from getting bored while waiting (so long as your wife doesn’t need you – always be there for her when she needs. Katie just wanted to sleep after having her epidural, so there wasn’t a lot I could do).
The hospitals I’ve been to also have TVs with cable or movies. However, you don’t want to have sound playing while doctors and nurses are in your room or your spouse and baby are trying to sleep, so bring headphones. Just keep one out so you can always be ready to help!
(and as a side note from Katie – just in case you think this is saying dads should just ignore moms and watch TV…it is NOT. Forrest was the most supportive dad during and after labor. However, there were several times where I was sleeping during labor, or that I was holding the baby after he was born, that I was 100% fine with him watching a show. He was very supportive and there when I needed him. So make sure you are always available and helping when you can!)
If you bring electronic devices for you and your spouse then you will want chargers. If you plan on sending out updates and pictures to your anxious and excited family then you will want a charged phone.
The hospitals I’ve been to lately finally have good internet speed that will even let you stream video, so you could even binge watch your favorite Netflix show during your downtime.
A portable charger might be something to look into as well, as outlets aren’t always readily accessible in hospital rooms.
5. Something Warm
In my experience hospitals are cold. Your wife may even request it to be so since she basically has a little heater in her body before birth.
It is good to be warm and comfortable while waiting, so you can be focused and ready to help when the baby starts to come.
You might have to help your spouse make some medical decisions, and you don’t want to be a little out of it because you’ve been cold for the last five hours.
So, make sure you have a long sleeve shirt, a light jacket/sweater, or a blanket to stay warm.
The hospitals I have visited have some snacks, but their selection is somewhat limited. I recently brought some of my son’s goldfish, graham crackers, and fruit snacks.
Those were just the things I could think of in a hurry. Some hospitals have a cafe where you can buy food, but I think their prices are a little higher than most places.
Jerky or nuts would be a nice choice to fill you up a little bit. Most of the hospitals I’ve recently visited had some jam and peanut butter, so if you brought some bread you could have a sandwich.
Don’t expect the hospital to feed you. Mom will get all her meals, and if you are lucky, you might get one. When Katie was in labor with Jack, they had an extra tray that they gave me.
Beyond that, I was left to fend to myself (of course – it’s not a hotel!).
Sometimes hospitals will let the mom order a lot of food, so you might be able to share with her (but let her eat first.) Look up nearby fast food places!
And avoid eating a big juicy burger while your wife is laboring. She might not be able to eat, and it probably won’t make her too happy to see yummy food!
Basically, as the dad, you need to take care of yourself. You are one of the least important people, though still important, in the delivery room.
However, you need to make sure you are ready to help, and if you don’t take of yourself then you won’t be completely ready.
Your spouse, the doctors, the nurses, and everyone else will be focused on mother and baby, as they should be.
She will be asked regularly if she needs anything or how she feels.
They’ll bring her food, and everyone will talk to her. If you’re lucky a doctor or two will learn your name, and when absolutely nothing is going on they might ask if you need anything.
Be an advocate for your wife. Talk beforehand about what she wants from labor and delivery, and help her accomplish those. If she wants a natural birth, go to the classes with her, but if she decides to get medicine in the end, support that, too.
If she wants an epidural as soon as she gets there, well, bring some cash to convince the anesthesiologist to come faster (JUST KIDDING). She might get a little loopy, so make sure the doctors and nurses are doing what she likes (but be willing to follow their advice). Just be smart.
It takes just a little preparation ahead of time to make sure you take care of some basic issues: not smelling bad, not being cold, and not being hungry. If you’re fueled and focused then you can be as ready as you can be to help support your spouse and baby during one of the most difficult (but wonderful) days of their lives.