Are you about to become a new Dad?
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Having a new baby is undoubtedly an amazing experience — and quite unlike any event in your life. Becoming a dad is different from becoming a mom. Sure you both have a few months of warning to prepare, but many new fathers feel like they might not be doing it right.
This is totally normal, no matter what part doesn’t feel right. The hormonal and chemical changes in a new mother’s body create an instantaneous bonding. Dads don’t always get that same sensation, which may leave you feeling like you’re doing fatherhood wrong.
You’re not — and you’re the only one who feels that way. There may not be a set of instructions to get through fatherhood, but there are plenty of ways you can be a good dad and great husband, whether you’re expecting your first or fifth baby.
Check out these tips for bonding with your new baby and taking care of the new mom in your life.
In the last weeks of your partner’s pregnancy, make sure to take time to be together. A new baby is a big change, and you are not going to have time for a lot of things you’re used to: sleep, date nights, intimacy, even just a normal conversation.
Spend time together. Go out to dinner, watch a movie all the way through, and discuss the things both of you are most afraid of.
For yourself, do a little reading or ask the other dads in your life what you can expect from labor and delivery so you aren’t totally freaked out by the experience.
Labor and Delivery
Labor and delivery are hard and painful. This is the time when you have to be strong and there for your partner.
Stay Calm and Be Strong
Stay calm. Women handle childbirth in different ways, and every delivery is different. Remember you are there for her; not the other way around.
If something unexpected happens, continue to be calm. Make sure you know what your partner wants if things don’t go as planned.
Engage in Bonding Activities
When your baby is born, you may not feel the same strong bond your wife does. That’s okay: It will come. Skin-to-skin contact is a great way to produce oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) and begin building that bond — and it’s not just for moms.
Take off your shirt and hold your baby against you. If breastfeeding is not part of your partner’s plan, take your turn giving your new baby bottles.
Give the new mom the opportunity to sleep when she can. In fact, this should be a recurring theme over the next few months. Whenever you can provide her with a night of unbroken sleep, do so.
If you haven’t had much contact with newborns, take this opportunity to ask as many questions as you can. Have the natal nurse show you how to change diapers and swaddle, the right angle to hold a bottle, how to support that little neck, and how to burp after a feeding.
The First Week
A new father’s most important role is being a support for a new mom. As a dad, you may feel like you aren’t quite as vital in those first few weeks or months. If you feel unessential to the process, know you are absolutely important. Many moms feel just as overwhelmed, and when the two of you enter parenthood as a team, everyone does better.
While only Mom can manage some aspects of your newborn’s first months in the world (like breastfeeding), there are plenty of ways you can be a part of your baby’s life.
Take Your Turn Taking Care of Baby
Change diapers. During spouts of disconsolate crying, give Mom a break and take your turn walking the halls with your baby. Most importantly, if your baby is bottle fed (whether formula or pumped breastmilk), take your turn on the Midnight Meal Brigade. Even one night a week gives your partner the opportunity to get a full night of sleep.
Take Over Other Tasks
Another great way to take some pressure off Mom is to take over other household tasks. If your partner in parenthood generally makes meals, does the shopping, or cleans the laundry (you can expect a lot of that), she may be struggling to balance all of this with the demands of a newborn. Take over as many of these tasks as you can handle — but know that if you can’t accomplish it without her help and input, this may be more stressful to her.
If you already have children, older kids may be feeling a little left out. Pay them some extra attention. You might even take them to the park for a couple of hours — let Mom and Baby take a nap in a perfectly quiet house.
Continue Providing Support
Most importantly, provide your new mommy with plenty of verbal support (this continues for the rest of your lives). The postnatal period can be a struggle. Her hormones can jump around as her body reverts from being pregnant. Support her choices, tell her she’s beautiful, and encourage her as she makes this new transition into motherhood.
Download our Man’s Guide to New Babies and learn more about:
Labor and Delivery
The First Week