What does your baby need?

Transcript: Hey Dad​

When your wife, partner or girlfriend is very unwell, you may have to take over all the caring responsibilities for your baby at short notice.

This may happen when they are admitted to hospital and there is no mother and baby facility available, or they are being treated at home as an outpatient.

Being the main caregiver for your baby in this situation can be very challenging. For example, having to bottlefeed your baby when they've only been breastfed.

Don't worry if the way you care for your baby is different to the way your wife, partner or girlfriend took care of the baby. You will naturally find your own way of doing things.

Here are some resources to help you look after your baby. If you are unsure about anything, contact a NSW child and family health nurse.

Feeding the baby

The importance of babies receiving breast milk is well documented and supported by NSW Health, however not all women can breastfeed when they are mentally unwell or in hospital.

Usually, a psychiatrist or lactation specialist (midwife) will talk to you about the benefits versus the risks of breastfeeding, taking into consideration:

  • the mother’s mental, emotional and physical health, including need for undisturbed sleep and rest
  • the mother’s treatment plan - for example, medication effects such as sedation and interaction with breast milk
  • the baby’s health and nutritional needs
  • the woman’s preferences
  • bonding needs between mother and baby.

A lactation consultant or midwife will advise you on the best way to feed your baby.

There are a range of options, including:

  • breastfeeding only
  • expressing milk, then bottlea-feeding (by nurse or partner)
  • breastfeeding and formula bottle-feeding at the same time
  • bottle-feeding with donor or formula milk.

How to videos

Raising Children is an Australian parenting website. It has many helpful how to videos on care for your baby, including:

Talk to a nurse

You can speak to a child and family health nurse if you have questions, need support or want advice about your baby.

NSW child and family health nurses

You can also contact your local maternal child health nurse to ask for some practical advice. Use this interactive map to find the closest one to you.


You can also call the Tresillian Parent's Help Line any day of the week from 7am to 11pm by calling 1300 272 736.


Call the Karitane Careline on 1300 CARING (1300 227 464) or on (02) 9794 2350. They are available:

  • Monday to Thursday from 8am – 9pm
  • Friday from 8am – 4.30pm
  • Saturday from 9am – 3.30pm

Benefits of caring for your baby

When you are involved in the early care of your baby

  • a strong emotional attachment forms and has an enduring and positive impact on your baby's development
  • it increases your confidence in caring for your child
  • it gives health professionals a more complete picture of your baby's development.

Related links

Bonding with newborns and babies: in pictures

​​Although this resource is aimed at dads, the information is helpful for all new parents and carers regardless of gender, who are coping with perinatal mental illness.

Current as at: Tuesday 15 November 2022
Contact page owner: Mental Health