Congratulations on becoming a new dad, but now what? Becoming a father will probably be one of the biggest and rewarding moments of your life, but it can also be a daunting task. You can do a range of things to be a hands-on parent that will help you, your baby, and your marriage.
With a newborn in the house, you are likely to see an increase in intense emotions, a lack of sleep, and it can have you questioning what to do and where to begin. While women have maternal instincts, you might think your partner has it covered, and it can make you feel unsure of what to do. As a new dad, you will have a significant impact on your child’s life, and the good news is your newborn will arrive ready to connect with you and your partner.
You might have built the cot, painted the baby’s room and purchased the car seat, but there is more to becoming a dad. If you’re about to be a new father and looking for advice and tips on becoming a new dad, read on with the below, hopefully helping make it easier with a newborn in the house.
New Dads – Advice & Tips For New Fathers
1. Get Hands-on From the Start, Try Everything & Chip In Where You Can.
The first tip for any new father is to jump right in and get involved in the daily care of your baby – from nappy changing, bathing, settling, dressing – the best way to increase your skills and confidence as a new father is to try and help out with everything. Helping with the daily care of your newborn is also a great way to bond with your child and a great way to start your life as a new dad.
Remember, parenting skills require practice; you get more confident, and capable the more hands-on experience you provide. Getting hands-on also give your partner a break from the action. Don’t be tempted by household improvements or odd jobs; spending this time with your child is a bigger pay-off in the end.
2. Establish a Routine Early On
One of the most practical tips on the list is establishing a routine and for a good reason. It’s best to establish a newborn routine long before the little one arrives. Having a solid schedule can mean the difference between a baby that sleeps and eats regularly versus one that makes the nights a living hell. The best way to create a successful routine is adapting to your baby’s own routine, which usually settles down at around three months old. Up until five months old, babies will require between 16 and 20 hours of sleep every day, generally sleeping on a fast-paced 20-minute cycle, meaning you should expect crying, noises or wriggling every half an hour. Whilst following the child’s own schedule and adapting your routine, try to develop a nightly sleeping ritual to help with easy sleeping rituals; singing a song, reading, a massage – when trying to create a sleeping routine, try to let the baby soothe themselves versus putting them down when they are already asleep*. When your baby comes out of their fast-paced sleep cycle, fight the urge to pick them, let them reorient themselves and go back to sleep. Helping your newborn get into a sleep routine will help you and your partner get your own rest.
*There is nothing wrong with cuddling a sleeping baby! There is nothing wrong with rocking them to sleep. You do you!
3. Be Attentive and Show Your Affection
Learning your baby’s signals, cues, and body language will help you understand what they need. Again, like tip number one, this takes practice before you’ll learn what your baby needs. Showing your little one affection and responding to their cues and signals helps to release oxytocin (a natural hormone released in your baby’s brain), making them feel good and stimulating brain development. Remember to use strong eye contact, facial expressions, as well as mimicking your child’s expressions – all helping to strengthen the bond and attachment between you and your baby.
4. Connect Through Touch & Learn to Swaddle
It might sound obvious, but physical touch helps your little one feel safe, secure and builds a bond and connection with you. All forms of bonding with your new baby helps to fuel brain development. Physical contact is the most common way of soothing a crying newborn – picking them up, holding them close to your chest and hearing your heartbeat.
Babies like feeling safe and secure, and you will have noticed in the maternity ward that a nurse wrapped up your little one, like a little present, with their head poking out. This is an act of swaddling, wrapping them up to creates a super comfortable feeling for newborns, with the pressure on their bodies mimicking the feeling of being in the womb. It also helps newborns from wriggling around, scratching themselves etc. Whilst there is no specific or special swaddle to buy*, a new dad can make do with one received from a baby shower, from the hospital when discharged or one you may have already purchased. You can also practice swaddling (it’s a four-step process that takes time to master but pays off) before the baby comes, in expectant parenting classes or on your little one when they arrive – giving you real-life experience, tucking in those little arms.
*There are lots of swaddles on the market from the straight out baby blankets (a rectangle of flannelette fabric with a cute pattern) to the new modern swaddles with zips or Velcro helping keep those little arms and legs tucked up nice and tight.
5. Talk to Your Baby as Much as You Can
Whether it’s while changing nappies, soothing them or while carrying them around, talking to your baby helps their development – hearing you helps your little one develop their own voice and language (communication skills). It again increases and strengthens the bond you have with them. As well as talking during daily baby routines, you can supplement this with reading to them, singing, telling stories etc., including during your sleep ritual as mentioned above.
Don’t feel embarrassed or unsure; communicating with your baby in warm, sing-song voices helps your little one feel safe and content, plus you get points for being an adorable dad.
6. Help With Breastfeeding – It’s a Family Event
Yes, breastmilk is the perfect food for your little one, and it might leave you thinking, well, how can I help with that? While your partner is breastfeeding, providing support will help your relationship with your partner, as well as your little one. Whether it’s physical support, i.e., getting a pillow, clearing the couch, bringing your partner food and drink (it’s amazing how hungry and thirsty breastfeeding can make a new mum) or simply being there during the process, showing your support, encouragement, and reassurance can help you both learn about feeding.
Some women cannot breastfeed (lactation consultants are available to assist if mum is struggling and wants support) or you might start with formula from the beginning. No parent should feel guilty about bottle feeding. When commencing bottle feeding (formular or expressed breast milk), new dads can really step up and support their partners with feeding. Whether you are helping with bottle feeding during the day or taking on night feedings, just remember to enter quietly, keep the environment dark and interactions to a minimum – this will help with feeding and getting your baby back to sleep. Most importantly, remember to burp your baby before putting them down again.
7. Spend and Enjoy One-on-One Time
Whilst raising a newborn can be stressful, challenging and trying, remember to spend regular one-on-one time when your little one is active. It creates bonding moments when you are both at full attention, and you can really pick up on your baby’s signals and cues and start to see their personality coming through. As well as strengthening your bond, it gives your partner time for a much-needed break. Being gentle, tolerant and caring with your son or daughter allows for learning, experimentation and enjoyment.
One-on-one time with your baby doesn’t just mean toys and games – it is about interactions, physical touch and stimulation. One-on-one time activities can include daily tummy time, where your little one lies on their tummy with weight on the forearms to help build head, neck and upper body strength. Tummy time is an excellent time for interaction, although tummy time is usually for short periods. From toys to talking, songs to celebrity impersonations, trying to do a different range of activities during this alone time will help stimulate your little one and allow you both to have fun and grow closer together.
8. Be Persistent & Get the Information That You Need
Whether it is baby number one or number four, every baby is different, and there are always new things to learn when it comes to parenting. Browsing parenting websites, talking with other dads and parents, joining parenting groups or even signing up for one of our WHWS Individual Parenting consults, there are a range of ways to stay informed as a new dad and get the information you need. Remember, one of the best ways to get the information you need for your baby is to spend time with them and learn their routine, signals, cues and personality.
Stress, anxiety and challenges can build, and it’s essential to try and be persistent and resist the urge to pass your little one back to your partner. Following the above tips, such as spending one-on-one time and jumping in wherever you can, will help you build your confidence and skills as a new dad and help you pull through the demanding trials of being a new parent.
9. Listen & Accept or Ask For Help
One vital tip for being a new dad is to listen. Many people, from relatives to strangers in the street, will offer you advice, but your partner and your baby are the most important ones to listen to. The more time you spend with your baby, you will learn what they are telling you and what they need. Spending time and supporting your partner, especially by talking through the challenges and how you are feeling, will allow you to know you have your teammates back and vice-versa and help you both as parents not feel overwhelmed.
Also, remember to ask for help when needed. Whether you’re a tried and tested experienced dad, or dealing with your first little once, accept assistance when it’s offered, or ask your family for help, whether it is cooking a meal, doing laundry or helping you or your partner to take a break or an opportune nap.
10. Look After Your Relationship & Embrace Intimacy
Along with joy, happiness and a hundred first-times, having a baby can put extra strain on your relationship with your partner. Remember to try and stay positive, support each other, and communicate as you both learn how to parent together. Learning to negotiate and share expectations is good practice for later parenting; remember that every age of your child brings new challenges and balancing the baby duties and workload can help look after your relationship. Don’t be afraid to get support to help with your relationship, whether it’s from family or a program such as our Pregnancy Support Counselling, which will help support you and your partner on your parenting journey.
As well as sharing intimate moments with your partner and your little one, being intimate with your partner will also come into play. Whilst the general rule is it is safe to have sex six weeks after delivery, it will often take longer than this for both parents to recover and be in the mood. When initiating sexual intimacy, remember to take it slow, be gentle, receptive, supportive, and it doesn’t hurt to be romantic (and don’t forget – plenty of lube!). Also remember that if your partner isn’t up for it, her body has been through a lot, she may be tired, emotional, touched out, recovering or one of many other possibilities – don’t take it personally and don’t sulk!
11. Look After Yourself
Looking after yourself is an essential factor for being a new dad. From keeping your energy up, getting as much sleep and rest as possible to maintaining a healthy life – all of this will help you to look after your baby and support your partner. Looking after yourself, mentally and physically, will also help reduce stress and anxiety and allow you to enjoy the time being a new father.
One helpful way to look after yourself and your family is to be a ‘bouncer’ and say no. With your little one here, there will no doubt be a stream of family, friends and visitors who want to meet the little bundle of joy. Remember to consider how you and your partner feel, whether you are exhausted or stressed etc. Learning to say no can help you have a stress-free environment and welcome guests when you are already.
12. Keep Your Promises
Whether it’s while creating and sticking to your newborns routine or while your child grows, keeping your promise as a dad and a partner is essential for your relationships. These promises of support and being there help form the backbone of your bonds and relationships. It doesn’t mean you need to make unrealistic promises and commitments, but be honest with yourself, make promises where required, and support your little one and partner to help create strong relationships.
13. Be Ready and Responsive.
Hands at the ready? Whether it’s a reach, a cry, a look or a wriggle, your little one will give you cues and being responsive to your baby helps them develop communication, language and social skills. A newborn baby brings a wealth of unexpected events, and being ready for any and all challenges and events will help you improve your parenting skills as well as spending time with your little one. Showing your support to your partner and being at the ready will help your relationships and allow you to discover all the joys and challenges of becoming a family.
Becoming a new parent is not easy; it takes effort, teamwork, strategy, patience and love. We hope you find these tips helpful.
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