7 June 2018

Dads in the delivery room

The first 1,000 days of children’s lives are the most significant for their growth and development. Fathers play a critical role in this process.

The first three years of life have a profound effect on a child’s future, and fathers play a fundamental role in that development. The fathers featured here all want the best for their children, and all are taking on the responsibility to be more involved in their children’s upbringing — becoming true co-parents. UNICEF urges governments to implement national family-friendly policies that support early childhood development to give parents the time, resources and information they need to help their children survive, grow and thrive.


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“I came to see my baby’s face,” says Supidej Jaithon, cradling his newborn son, Matt, and crying with joy in Lerdsin Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. “My boss didn’t allow me to take the day off because I had lots of work, but I don’t care, my family comes first.”

Supidej read about fatherhood in the months leading up to his son’s birth.

“I don’t expect much. I just want him to grow up to be a good person. I want to spend time with my baby, because my dad was away when I was a child.”
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Sai Tlen meets his newborn daughter, who was born via caesarean section at the Health Promotion Centre Region 1 in Thailand’s Chiang Mai Province. She is his second child.

“At this hospital, dads can go into the delivery room, except when it’s a c-section, so I waited outside” Sai says. “It is a bit of a shame that my baby isn’t that healthy, so I have not held her yet. I only touched her a little.”
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First-time father Somsak Hameyai bathes his two-day-old son, Sailom, during a parenting class at the Health Promotion Centre Region 1 in Chiang Mai.

“I was so happy when I found out I was going to be a father,” Somsak says. When he held his child for the first time, he was overcome with emotion. “The baby looked at me and smiled. It’s hard to explain the feeling. I feel love. I feel I love him so much.”
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José Santos Valdés Maldonado, in Veracruz State in Mexico, arrives home in Tlaixco with his newborn daughter, Deniss, and his wife. When fathers nurture their children in their earliest years of life — by providing love and protection, playing with them, and supporting their nutrition — their children will learn better, have fewer behavioural issues, and become healthier, happier human beings.

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Support from fathers can come in many forms. Gabino Macuixtle Macuixtle helps his wife — Alberta Clemente Zepahua Namicle — dry her hair while she breastfeeds their newborn daughter at IMSS Prospera Hospital in Zongolica Municipality, Mexico.

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Gerardo Brito Rodriguez holds his 13-day-old premature newborn daughter, Diana, against his chest in Instituto Nacional de Perinatología Hospital in Mexico City. Diana is his second child.

“She is bedridden because she was born with breathing difficulties,” Gerardo says. “For my children, I wish more than anything that in their life, they are happy.”
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Damien Armes brings toast to his wife, Tamzin Lines, who is in a birthing pool during labour in the maternity ward at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in England.

“I was overcome with emotion the first time I held him. This experience would make the hardest man cry.” Damien says after the birth of his son Louis. “I hope Louis lives a great life.”
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“It’s so incredible to have something so precious so close to you, it’s an overwhelming happiness,” says Alex Edmonds Brown, holding his 25-day-old son, Harley James, in Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

Alex’s son was born premature, and this is his first day out of the incubator.

“Knowing that I’ve got someone that’s dependent on me, that’s the most important thing — it’s the role of being a father and looking after him,” Alex says.
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Paul Barnes holds his one-month-old son, Archie, also born prematurely, against his bare chest in Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital’s neonatal unit.

“I’ve been here every day, I’ve been doing skin-to-skin, it helps him relax, it helps his brain function,” says Paul. “I feel this connection with him, we are communicating through skin and our feelings, it’s a true bonding experience.”
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Aissatu Seidi, in painful labour in a hospital in Canchungo in north-western Guinea-Bissau, leans against her husband, Mamudo Queta, for support. When he entered the delivery room, he assisted his wife very closely. This is the first time he was been present for any of his children’s birth. Asked later how he felt when he first held his child, Mamudo replied that he was very happy, and is looking forward to playing with his baby.

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Juelmo Tchana Ncus holds his newborn baby for the first time in Mother Teresa of Calcutta Maternity Hospital in the town of Bula, Guinea-Bissau. Concerned about the health of his wife and child during birth, he felt immense joy and relief when the delivery went well. For Julemo, the most important aspect of fatherhood is to take care of the child, to know each other, and to guide the child in all aspects of life.

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In Canchungo, Mamudo Queta (left), is on his way back to the hospital with food from home for Aissatu following the birth of their son. He is also bringing his four-year-old son, Moustapha, with him so that he can meet his new baby brother, who is the couple’s sixth surviving child. Mamadou plans to make sure he has time for his child, before and after work.

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A nurse brings four-day-old Nepes, wrapped in white silk blankets, to his waiting parents Shageldi and Ogulhally at the Mother and Child Health Centre in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. A once small-time tradition of fathers ‘bringing the baby home’ has rapidly grown into a widespread ritual in the country. It starts when a baby is ready to be discharged from a health facility.

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Parents Nazik and Eziz get ready to leave the Mother and Child Health Centre with their four-day-old son, Abdylguly.

“I’m so proud to be a father for the second time. He’s my second son,” Eziz says. “I haven’t slept for two weeks, I was so nervous. Now the baby has arrived we can celebrate and relax. This celebration is the father’s role. It creates memories that you can look back on in years to come.”
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A decorated car arrives at the Mother and Child Health Centre in Ashgabat. As part of the celebration, fathers arrive at the health facility in a car decorated with balloons, toys, banners and stickers to bring their newborns home. Both parents play a vital role in early childhood development; and the importance of a father’s role during the first years of his child’s life should not be underestimated.


Learn why #EarlyMomentsMatter

Read about photographer Adriana Zehbrauskas’ photographic journey into the world of fatherhood.