New service supporting dads with babies in neonatal care

New dads with babies in special care are coming together to talk about their experiences.

New Edinburgh and Lothian service supporting dads with babies in neonatal care
Dad Ryan with baby Luca at the neonatal unit

A service designed to help dads with babies in neonatal care has launched in hospitals in the east of Scotland.

New dads are coming together to share their experiences in weekly online group sessions hosted by NHS Lothian and charity Dads Rock.

Ryan Rowen’s son Luca was born 11 weeks premature and has had multiple issues including blood clots. He now attends the neonatal unit at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Ryan says the experience of having a baby in the unit was overwhelming at first.

He said: “I don’t think you can ever really be prepared for it if I’m honest. You do need the support and it’s easy for the mum to take control but at the same time the dad needs support as well.”

Around 6,500 babies are admitted to Neonatal Care in Scotland every year, with around 4,000 of those needing special care. 

Scott Parker is someone who has also had experience with a baby needing specialist support.

His daughter Zara, now three, was born prematurely. She didn’t breathe for 10 and a half minutes after being delivered and also contracted sepsis.

Scott, 30, says there wasn’t a lot of support for dads going through what he did.

He said: “I knew nothing about neo natal or premature. There was some support but I feel it was mainly geared towards the mums,” he said. “It felt like the priority was to get mum breastfeeding, to get skin-to–skin, whereas we are left sitting there.”

Dr Melanie Gunning who is a clinical psychologist at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary said: “Oftentimes dads see themselves as needing to be the rock for the family and to stay strong and so sometimes that can come as a cost to looking after their own wellbeing.”

Dads Rock says it wants to change that.

Launched 10 years ago, the charity helps new dads experiencing anxiety and needing support during pregnancy and when their baby is born.

The service has been developed with support from a small grant awarded by the Edinburgh and Lothian’s Health Foundation and will run for two years in the first instance alongside regular evaluation. 

The sessions currently run weekly on Tuesday evenings and are hosted by a trained Dads Rock facilitator who will receive regular clinical supervision from the MNPI clinical psychology team. 

Thomas Lynch, Service manager and co-founder of Dads Rock, said: “We’re thrilled to be working alongside NHS Lothian to deliver this new weekly group for dads to come together.

“Being in the Neonatal unit can be very overwhelming, and we all need time to look after ourselves. That’s exactly what this dads group is about. It’s brilliant to have this in place for new dads, giving them the right support from the start”. 

Scott has expressed his support for the new service.

He said: “I wished there had been a group for dads when I was in the unit. The staff were amazing, but it’s still a scary time to see your child in there.

“Speaking to other dads who were going through the same experiences would have really helped me. I’m so glad this service is in place now.”