We all know that raising a child is hard. However, we would say it’s even harder for new dads to cope.
They don’t get the same amount of sleep, and they have to figure out how to balance work with family life and how to parent in ways that are different from their fathers.
Becoming a new dad can be an exciting and overwhelming experience. It can be daunting, but there are some things you can do to help make the transition easier.
You can take steps to prepare for the emotions and challenges of fatherhood so that it’s less stressful and more fulfilling. Our exclusive range of baby nursery products will help create the perfect baby nursery for your baby.
When You’re Expecting
Pregnant women experience a variety of emotions and life changes. But most first-time dads have their feelings and concerns to deal with, too.
If you feel shocked, panicked, overwhelmed, scared, or like you’re just not ready, you’re not alone.
Like any significant change, this will require a considerable adjustment. And if the pregnancy wasn’t planned — half of all pregnancies aren’t — you may be feeling these emotions even more intensely.
You don’t have to feel guilty or anxious about having mixed emotions; it’s completely normal.
And you can take steps to get more comfortable with the pregnancy, the idea of parenthood, and the preparations that can make both go as smoothly as possible.
Here are a few concerns that may be bothering you and ways to keep them in perspective:
Recognise Sources of Stress
No one said taking care of a newborn would be easy. As a new dad, you might worry about:
Limited Paternity Leave.
Newborns require constant care. On top of feedings, diaper changes and crying spells, parents must find time to do household chores and other activities.
This can be stressful for new parents who are used to a more independent lifestyle.
Newborns challenge their parents’ ability to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation can quickly take a toll on new parents.
The cost of your baby’s delivery, health care, diapers, clothing and other supplies can add up quickly.
The financial strain might be worse if you move to a bigger home or pay someone to take care of the baby while you work — or you or your partner takes unpaid leave or quits work to take care of the baby.
Less Time With Your Partner.
Having a baby means sharing your partner’s attention with a third party. It’s common for a new dad to feel left out.
Loss of Sexual Activity.
Recovery from childbirth, physical exhaustion and stress can take a toll on your sex life, which might strain your relationship.
Research shows that some fathers — like mothers — experience depression shortly after a child’s birth.
Will I Be Capable of Caring for a Baby?
No one is born knowing this stuff, not even your pregnant partner — that’s why there are childbirth classes.
Depending on what’s available in your area, you can take classes as early as the 12th week of pregnancy or one that focuses just on the day of labour and can be taken as late as the eighth month.
And some communities offer classes designed just for first-time dads.
Most classes teach how to change a diaper, hold the baby, feed and burp the baby, get the baby to sleep, install a car seat, and childproof your home.
You’ll also learn where to park your car when you get to the hospital, how to get through labour, and how to care for your baby and your partner when you get home from the hospital.
Along with the lessons, you’ll meet other guys going through the same experience who might be dealing with similar feelings, which can be a huge help.
The nurses and childbirth educators who lead these classes have seen dads in various emotional states, so don’t feel embarrassed or hesitant about asking them for help.
Will I Be a Good Dad?
Remember that you’re not going to have to tackle every part of fatherhood at once.
For the first few years, parenting involves skills taught in childbirth classes and mastered through practice.
It’s much like other new roles that you might take on in your life. If you’re married, you don’t automatically know how to be a good husband. You learned along the way with your wife.
You have plenty of time before you have to set curfews, teach your child to drive, and dole out relationship and career advice. These opportunities to teach your child will feel like a natural progression when they arrive.
If you need guidance, check for resources in the community, including parenting classes.
It may help talk to and spend time with other fathers and discuss issues you may be grappling with.
If you feel like you have issues with your father to work through, try to talk with someone — maybe a counsellor or a family member — before the baby arrives so that they don’t interfere with your relationship with your child.
How Can We Afford This?
Feeding, clothing, and educating another human being will cost money that’s now spent on other things — there’s no question about it.
But you can reduce your stress about the finances.
It may help get a sense of your costs right after the baby is born. Your health insurer, employer, or your partner’s employer may be able to give you an idea of the costs and what is covered.
Many workplaces now offer some paid paternity leave, so be sure to ask.
Consider meeting with a financial planner to get some money-management guidance. You may also want to talk to other new parents you know to get an idea of how they managed and what unexpected expenses cropped up.
You can open a college fund — or any bank account — anytime to save for new expenses.
You may want to start putting away a few dollars each week to fund items like childcare and diapers. That way, you’ll have a headstart on meeting your child’s financial needs.
Remember, you won’t have to pay for certain expenses. For instance, if your partner decides to breastfeed, you’ll save money on the cost of feeding your newborn.
Also, many families share maternity and baby clothes because pregnant women and babies wear a particular size of clothes for such a short time.
How Can I Help My Partner?
Your doctor will probably warn you about things that can go wrong, mainly if you and your partner are older.
And you’ll likely both have various tests and screenings for congenital disabilities and other health problems.
Take Action Before Your Baby Is Born
If your partner is still pregnant, ease any anxiety by actively preparing for fatherhood. As a new dad, you can:
- Get involved. During pregnancy, men don’t experience the same daily reminders that they’re about to become parents as do women. Placing your hand on your partner’s belly to feel the baby kick, attending prenatal visits and talking about the pregnancy with others can help you feel involved. You can also speak, read or sing near your partner’s belly so that your baby will recognise your voice after birth.
- Attend prenatal classes. Prenatal classes can help you and your partner find out what to expect during labour and delivery, as well as learn how to take care of a newborn.
- Consult a financial planner. Talking to a financial planner can help you determine ways to handle the cost of having a baby.
- Build a network of social support. During pregnancy, your partner might get help from health care providers, loved ones and friends. Men need to have a support network during this time, too. Seek out friends and loved ones who can give you advice and encouragement as you prepare to become a father.
- Talk to your partner. Talk about how your daily lives and relationship might change — for better and for worse — once the baby is born.
- Consider what kind of father you want to be. Think about your father. Consider what aspects of that relationship you might want to emulate with your child and what you might do differently.
Stay Involved After Your Baby Is Born
Once your baby is born, look for ways to connect with your newly expanded family. As a new dad, you can:
- Room with your family at the hospital. If the hospital allows, stay with your partner and newborn until it’s time to take the baby home.
- Take turns caring for the baby. Take turns feeding and changing the baby. If your partner is breastfeeding, offer to bottle-feed pumped breast milk — or burp the baby and put him or her to sleep after breastfeeding sessions.
- Play with the baby. Women tend to provide low-key, soothing stimulation for their babies, and men often engage their babies in noisier, more vigorous activities. Both styles of play are essential, and seeing your newborn smile can be its reward. We have a wide range of playpens for your baby right here at My Baby Nursery.
- Be affectionate with your partner. Intimacy isn’t limited to sex. Hugs, kisses and shoulder rubs can help you stay connected while your partner recovers from childbirth and both of you adjust to the new routine. Continue talking to your partner about the changes you’re experiencing and how you can support each other as your baby grows.
- Seek help. If you’re having trouble dealing with changes in your relationship or you think you might be depressed, talk to a counsellor or other mental health provider. You can also talk to your baby’s doctor and ask for a referral. Untreated depression affects the entire family.
Hearing all of this can be not very comforting. But you can do many things to help your partner — and your unborn baby — stay healthy during the pregnancy.
If you know other families with newborns and young kids, it may be helpful to spend time with them.
If you don’t know other new parents, your doctor or local childbirth centre might be able to put you in touch with other families in your area.
Try to go with your partner to doctor appointments, where you can ask questions, gather information, hear the baby’s heartbeat, and see an image of the baby on a sonogram.
You may also want to tour the maternity ward at the hospital or birthing centre where you plan to have the baby.
Start preparing your home for the baby by making any needed home improvements or renovations.
Remember that anxiety about pregnancy and parenthood is like anxiety you might feel about anything. Use stress-relief strategies that work for you — perhaps exercise or enjoying movies, books, music, or sports.
New Dad Tips to Get You Through the First Month
In that intense first month, being a good dad to a newborn is all about working to establish routines while struggling with sleep schedules, nutritional demands, breastfeeding, and safety concerns.
Establish a Routine. Now.
One of the best, most practical tips for new dads is that they start to establish a schedule long before the baby arrives.
A solid, baby-led schedule can mean the difference between a kid that eats and sleeps easily and a kid that makes the nights and days a living hell. But parents can’t simply impose a schedule upon their kid and hope it works.
The trick is in waiting for the kid to establish their routine of sleeping, eating, and alertness. They’ll usually have something worked out around the 3-month mark. Then they’ll abruptly change it up a month later.
This is okay and normal.
Parents need to follow their kid’s lead and adhere strictly to the schedule the kid establishes.
Along with that schedule, parents should develop a nightly sleep ritual that primes the kid for laying down.
Even though they lack teeth, the routine could include some gum massaging, a story or two, and a song.
Kids should be put down while sleepy but not asleep so they can learn to soothe themselves.
Swaddle Your Baby Like a Burrito
An observant new dad will likely have noticed how deftly the maternity ward nurses turned their kid into something that resembled a wrap with a tiny adorable head sticking out the top.
This act of swaddling is super comforting for a newborn.
The pressure on their bodies is reminiscent of the womb, and it keeps them from jerking themselves awake or scratching themselves with hands and fingers that, at this point, have a mind of their own.
There is no need to buy a unique swaddle. A deft dad can make do with the one sent home from the hospital.
Swaddling is a four-step process that takes a bit of time to master but pays off in the end.
New Dads Shouldn’t Sweat the Stinky Stuff.
Even for new dads with the most muscular gag reflexes, the first diaper changes can be pretty disturbing, that’s because the initial few poops a kid takes do not resemble the average adult loaf in any way.
Rest assured that the first black meconium stools are entirely normal.
And as a baby grows, their diaper will contain a rainbow of colours and textures, particularly over the first months. The only time you truly need to worry is if you see red in the diaper.
Feeding Is a Family Event
For the first months, a newborn baby is either invested in boobs or bottles.
While breast milk is recommended for at least the first three months, some women cannot breastfeed and use formula.
Nobody should feel guilty about that. Whatever the kid has in their mouth, dads can help their partners with feeding.
This is a bit easier when bottles come into play, but new dads can help provide comfort while assisting with troubleshooting, research, and lactation snacks, even for breastfeeding mothers.
When it is time to get into the bottle game, fathers that take on night feedings are the real MVPs.
One helpful piece of advice for new dads, in this case, is to make sure they come in quiet, keeping lights dim and interaction at the minimum.
But most importantly, dads need to burp that babe before putting them down again.
When Babies Cry
A baby’s cry is distressing because evolution made it so. It is an alert, but it doesn’t always mean the same thing. Some believe that a baby’s cry can even be decoded.
That might be true! It also might not.
Whether or not a parent decides to go to the effort to translate a baby cry, some ways to try and make the crying stop.
Parents can hold the kid in their arms so that they are positioned face-down or on their side. Long shushing noises may also work because it is essentially white noise.
A slight swaying or jiggling could create calm, but so too would a quick car ride.
Sleep Is Everything
For the first five months, a baby will require 16 to 20 hours of sleep per 24 hours. But parents need to help them learn night and day, as there wasn’t such a thing when they were in the womb.
Now that they’re outside, the days should be bright and active, and the nights should be dark, boring, and quiet.
Parents also need to know that babies are active sleepers and sleep on a fast-paced 20-minute cycle that might have them wiggling and making noise every half-hour.
It’s essential to fight the urge to pick them up. They’ll likely reorient and sleep again.
Cribs should be free of blankets, bumpers, or stuffed animals, though a taut fitted sheet on the mattress is fine.
Children should be dressed in warm, comfortable, but not loose clothing. Parents should also fight the urge to fall asleep with their child on their chest.
Many infants have died after a parent has accidentally rolled over their child while sleeping on a couch or after the infant was trapped and suffocated in couch cushions.
Encourage Playtime Early!
Many new dads might not feel the kid is doing anything exciting over the first five months, but there is a ton happening in their little noggins.
And dads who interact during this critical time are giving their children a fantastic gift.
One of the best ways to make sure a kid’s brain keeps cooking is to talk. Like, all the time.
Parents can talk about what is happening in the house, naming smells, colours, and objects. They should use funny voices and a variety of emotions.
They can even quote scenes from a favourite Tarantino movie. Babies during this time should also be read to. It’s a massive step to literacy, even if they’re gumming a board book.
Introducing Your Baby to the Outside World
In the first couple of weeks, parents will notice people clamouring to get in and see the new kid.
They will be best served by keeping the house locked down as much as possible.
One tactic is to ask the new grandparents to coordinate travel schedules, so the family has a couple of weeks to get situated at home before they arrive.
But as for non-relatives, many families look to a close friend to schedule visitors, so they don’t have to think about it.
When these folks arrive, parents need to make sure they request that visitors don’t stay for long and bring some food with them.
There’s no need to keep the house clean. There’s also no need for parents to look put together.
It’s also important to note that it will be essential to get the hell out of the house at some point in the first five months. Parents shouldn’t be shy about taking babies to restaurants. They need to plan the outing when the kid is dormant, look for a place with space enough for a car seat, and ask for the check to come with the food.
Travelling further afield during this time can be easier than when the kid gets older. Babies will often sleep through flights and road trips as long as the itinerary is built around their sleep schedule.
The important part is that parents shouldn’t feel tied to their home.
Look. It’ll happen again. The general rule is that it’s safe to start again six weeks after delivery, but it often takes longer for everyone to fully recover, be in the mood, and stay awake.
Take it slow. Be gentle. Get romantic. Use lube.
Talking About It
Communication can be a challenge for expectant couples.
Even before the pregnancy shows, moms-to-be have potent physical reminders that a baby is on the way and life will change dramatically.
So your partner might want to talk about the pregnancy while you’re still adjusting to it.
If you’re not ready to talk to her yet, you have other options. You may be more comfortable confiding in friends, relatives, and other new dads, who can offer reassurance and helpful suggestions.
Many hospitals and childbirth centres also have professionals who work with new parents and can speak with you confidentially.
Remember that billions of guys before you experienced — and survived — fatherhood.
There’s no secret handshake, and you’re not supposed to know how to be a good dad instinctively. My Baby Nursery has the biggest range of nursery baby monitors for you to choose from.
Just do your best to prepare for the birth, know that what follows will be on-the-job training, and reach out for the many resources that can help.