Generations gone by may have had clearly divided gender roles. Babies, especially newborns, were essentially a woman’s domain. Today, fathers are expected to and want to play a part in their child’s upbringing. But newborns can be tricky little creatures - they’re delicate, fussy and can be hard to read. Moms usually get more leeway with caregiving as they’re expected to be more biologically and culturally in tune with the infant’s needs. This doesn’t mean, that as a dad, you need to shy away from the tasks at hand for fear of ‘doing something wrong’. Here’s a quick and easy guide for dads to effectively dive into parenting and caring duties for your newborn.
Start Before the Birth
Being informed is the best way to prepare yourself for parenthood.
Read up: There are plenty of books, websites and blogs that can educate you on how to prepare for being a new parent. It’s not just about sterilizing bottles and changing nappies, you should be ready for the emotional and physical changes that may occur between you and your partner as well.
Be Interested: Supporting your partner while she is pregnant can help you understand the changes that they’re going through and keep the lines of communication and trust open even after birth. Make sure you attend prenatal appointments and classes to support your spouse and continue communicating honestly even after the baby is born.
Find Support: New parenthood can be isolating without support. Make an effort to keep in touch with friends and family who can be there to guide you and help out when needed after your little one arrives.
Discuss Changes: Having a baby is life-changing to say the least. Think about and plan how it will affect your day-to-day life in order to prepare yourself for the shift. Talk to your partner about parenting styles, finances and how your personal relationship may change after birth so that adjustments can be made without any ill feeling.
Find A Pediatrician: Babies have pretty strict healthcare routines in the first months after birth - from growth monitoring to vaccines - in addition to regular worries such as fevers and colic. You’ll need a good doctor. Ask friends and family for recommendations of reliable pediatricians before your child is born so that you aren’t scrambling for a doctor after.
Getting Involved After the Birth
After the birth of your baby, it’s important to get involved from the start and seek out ways in which to connect with your infant.
Take Time Off: Paternity leave isn’t always possible but try to take at least a few days, if not weeks, off work to spend time with your newly-expanded family.
Stay at The Hospital: Most hospitals allow for a family member to spend the night. If you don’t have other children to take care of, stay at the hospital to spend time with your spouse and baby until it’s time to go home.
Volunteer Your Help: Though it may seem like it is strictly a mother’s business, especially in the first few days after birth, you should be able to help out with areas such as feedings (if not being breastfed), burping and changing the baby’s diapers. Cradling your child to put them to sleep is also a great way to spend time with them while taking some pressure off mom.
Talk to The Doctor: Babies have a range of healthcare needs after birth - from regular check-ups to immunization. Check with your doctor about these schedules and be informed on what vaccines are needed and when so that you never miss an appointment.
Do It Alone: Don’t be afraid to spend time alone with your baby. Give mom a break with short stints of 20 minutes at first to gain confidence in your caregiving abilities. You will be surprised at how quickly you pick up just what you need for the next time to go more smoothly.
Be Thick-Skinned: Perhaps you weren’t supporting your baby’s head properly or could use a better technique for burping. Don’t feel disheartened or angered when corrected by your partner, healthcare professional or well-meaning family members. Remember that it takes time to get used to caring for a newborn and you will soon get the hang of things.
Becoming a father is a transformative experience. Turn those first few weeks into a positive time by being aware of the challenges that fatherhood brings and making a plan to tackle them while getting involved so as to enjoy this precious time.