Becoming a dad is filled with happiness, but spending time on the unit can also be a daunting time and with all the feelings that come up around Father’s Day it can feel incredibly isolating.

Every dad has a different experience when baby is spending time on the neonatal unit, particularly if mam is being looked after in the hospital too. It is normal for dads to feel a mixture of emotions from fear and confusion about what is going to happen to anger at the situation and being overwhelmed by life still continuing as normal outside of the ward. At Tiny Lives we are here to support the whole family in whatever way we can.

Dads Team

Everyone’s experience is unique and it’s important to talk about what you are going through and how it makes you feel. Our Tiny Lives Dad’s Team is here to bring together men who have experienced what it is like on the unit, and anyone is welcome to join. The group is there to chat and offer support to dads who are currently in the Neonatal Unit with their children and those who are now home. Our Dad’s Team is made up of other Dads and father figures who have all had their own neonatal experience on Ward 35, and who volunteer their time to support other men who are currently on their own journey. Our dads peer support volunteers go onto the unit each week and are there to offer a listening ear. We also have a quarterly Dads Get Together, held in town not far from the RVI for dads on the unit and post discharge. It’s a friendly, relaxed group, where you can have a game of pool and a bite to eat if you want. Its open to any dad whose had a baby on the neonatal unit and new members are always made to feel welcome.

Our Dads Team has a ‘Dad’s Chat Whatsapp Group’ that you can join too so you can chat with other dads who have had similar experiences and ask questions even if it’s just about where to get a bacon roll when your baby is in hospital! Funded counselling and clinical psychologist sessions are also available so you don’t have to feel like you are going through this experience on your own.

Parent Packs

When you are on the ward there can be a lot of information for new dads to take in about baby’s health, but also about any care mam might need. Our parent packs are given out to all new parents and include two reusable cups, a notebook and pen so they can take notes during ward rounds or jot down questions that they would like to ask. We find that a lot of dads find this useful as it is something practical to do and gives valuable input to the neonatal experience.

Kangaroo Care

Kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin, is a great way for dads to bond with their baby while on the unit and the staff team on the unit are on hand to offer advice and support for any new parents who might feel nervous or would like some top tips. Not only is skin-to-skin great for babies, but it can also reduce stress levels in parents and create a real connection.

Spending time on Ward 35 is a stressful and overwhelming experience and it can be difficult for dads to establish their identity as a father and learn what being a dad to a new baby on the unit means. It can be difficult to know what to say, but if you know a dad who is currently on the unit, or has spent time there in the past, there are lots of ways that you can offer support.

Be there to listen – being a dad is tough at the best of times, but spending time in the neonatal unit comes with its own raft of worries and anxieties. Be there to listen without judgment if they would like to talk, or offer to chat about something completely different to take their mind off things.

Offer practical help – life in the outside world doesn’t stop when families are admitted to Ward 35 and there are often lots of admin things to juggle. Dad will maybe still be at work if he is saving paternity leave for when the baby is discharged, and there are often still other children, parents, and homes to be taken care of. Ask what could help, offer to help with life admin or logistics where you can, your thoughtfulness will make a big difference.

Celebrate milestones – milestones may be slightly different in the neonatal unit but they are exciting moments for neonatal parents. Ask Dad questions about babies progress and celebrate each step of the journey.

Our online shop is stocked with Father’s Day cards and gifts and all purchases go towards supporting babies and parents navigating life on the unit.