If you’re a new dad, you know a lot of attention is put on the new mom and baby, and rightly so. You know mom and baby deserve lots of care and attention, but being a new dad isn’t easy for you either. There’s no handbook on what to do, and your partner may not be able to tell you what she wants or needs. While it’s not exactly a handbook on being a new dad, we have some tips to help you through this new season of your life.
- Get hands on. A lot of new dads may not have any real experience with babies, and that can be scary. The best way to build your skills (and confidence) in this area is just to dive in headfirst. The more diapers you change, bottles you give, and the more times you put baby to sleep, the more confident you’ll feel. Not to mention, this will take some of the load and stress off of your partner, which will likely help your relationship in the long run.
- Learn baby’s cues. Believe it or not, babies do communicate with you. They can give you cues or signals through their behavior and body language. If your baby rubs their eyes, that’s a cue that they may be tired. If you notice them rooting around like they’re trying to nurse, that’s a good sign they’re hungry.
- Bond with baby. Taking care of baby, doing skin-to-skin, and talking to your baby as much as you can are great for bonding. Not only does it help the baby to develop and build trust with you, it helps you build that relationship and get used to this new person too.
- Help with breastfeeding. You may be scratching your head at this one, but believe it or not, there are ways you can help. Breastfeeding is great for mom and baby, and it’s easy for dads to feel left out or even useless. Something simple like bringing mom a glass of water, a pillow, or a snack while she’s feeding baby are all ways to help and encourage breastfeeding. If mom chooses to exclusively pump, help out by giving the baby bottles. If breastfeeding is not a good option for you and your family, you can share in preparing and feeding baby bottles of formula.
- Talk to other dads. Men aren’t always the one to share their feelings or struggles, but being a new parent can be hard. There are lots of dads who remember those days of little to no sleep, a crying baby, and arguing with their partner (mostly because of sleep deprivation). Find those dads and talk to them. They can help offer advice or just be a listening ear.
- Ask for help. New parents in general may struggle to ask for or accept help, even when they need it. Talk to your partner about what kind of help you’ll ask for or even accept before you have the baby and continue doing this after the baby’s born. If you’ve never had much experience with babies and feel overwhelmed, ask for help from hospital staff before you leave, friends, family members, and your partner.
- Make time for your relationship. When the baby is born, mom is going to focus in on taking care of the baby. This is only natural, and between that and the lack of sleep, it can start to feel like your relationship is a little strained. Talk to your partner about how things are going and try to help out as much as you can. Planning a stay at home date night or a date night out with a trusted family member or friend to watch the baby can help both you and your partner get some much needed adult time
- Take care of yourself. This can be easier said than done when you have a new person relying on you, but self-care is important. Taking care of yourself helps you take better care of your baby and offer more support to your partner. Get as much sleep as you can by trading off with your partner and/or napping during the day. Tell your partner if you need a few minutes to yourself and do the same for her when she needs it.
Best of luck! You are going to be a great Dad!