Wondering what you have to expect from life as a first-time father? Our experts and dads-in-the-know share their advice so you can better manage these first few months with your newborn.
Your first days home with baby
Tired and excited, you and your partner have just arrived home with your beautiful new baby. The first couple of weeks will be filled with lots of firsts. Here’s what to expect and what you can do.
What it will be like:
Your partner will be exhausted, sore and possibly in pain the first few days after birth. If she’s had an episiotomy or a C-section, she may also need to take pain medications. In addition to managing her own bodily changes and challenges, she’ll be focusing on feeding and caring for your newborn.
What you can do:
- Be sensitive and perceptive of mom’s and baby’s needs. Your partner and baby are both going to require lots of attention and rest immediately after labor and delivery. Being able to be present, responsive, and helpful will be incredibly helpful during the coming weeks.
- Help with mom’s medication. Help administer mom’s pain meds, stool softeners, and any other medicine her doctors prescribe. “Keep track of when she takes them, write it down, and make sure she eats something when she takes the medicine, and drinks lots of water,” says Seth D. Ginsberg, a new father and co-founder and president of Global Healthy Living Foundation (GHLF.org) and a contributor to U.S. News & World Report (usnews.com/topics/author/seth-d-ginsberg). Ginsberg noticed a lack of information for pregnant women’s partners, and, as a result, has written several articles outlining pointers and must-know essentials for dads-to-be.
- Stock up on toiletries. “Keep the bathroom provisioned with all of the supplies mom requests,” Ginsberg adds. Be sure to have pads, moistened towelettes, soap, lotion, and hot and cold packs on hand.
- Make sure you and mom eat right. Prepare snacks and meals. Stock the fridge with prepared meals, fruit, veggies, and snacks. You’d be surprised at how difficult it can be to cook a meal with a new baby in the house. You may need to work solo on meal planning for a bit, until mom is back on her fee.
- Split duties. Take turns getting up at night to feed and change baby. By sharing the duties of bathing baby, laundering soiled baby clothes and bedding, and picking up around the house, chores won’t seem so daunting.
- Help mom rest. “‘I&rsqƒuo;ll get up with the baby tonight’ or ‘Go take a long nap’ are two of the most magical, most welcome phrases you can say to your wife,” says Dr. Jason Guichard, a cardiologist and father of three. Add ‘Go take a nice, long shower’ to the list above!” he suggests.
Caring for your newborn
Holding, changing, bathing, feeding, and dressing your newborn can all seem a little overwhelming to new dads. Here’s what you can expect and what you can do to help keep your baby happy and well.
What it will be like:
“You may feel woefully under-prepared, like you can’t believe that somebody actually let you take this baby home from the hospital,” says Greg Johnson, a frugal living and lifestyle expert at Club Thrifty (clubthrifty.com), and a dad of two little girls. “But newborn care isn't hard at all,” he assures.
What you can do:
- Soothe your crying baby. If babies are crying, it typically means one of three things: They're hungry, they need their diaper changed, or they need to be held and cuddled. “Learn how to feed your baby, change the diaper, and give lots of love and you're doing great!” says Johnson.
- Change diapers. “Dad can expect to log lots of time at the changing table,” says Ginsberg. Changing diapers is one of the best and easiest ways to care for your baby — and bond with your child, too. If you’re nervous about this task, “it helps to make a checklist so you never forget the important things — like sanitizing hands before you start,” suggests Ginsberg.
- Focus on the basics. Remember what your partner’s birth team has told you and be perceptive to the sensitivities of your newborn. There are only a few things that your little one absolutely needs right now. At the most basic level, your baby simply needs: food, comfort, rest, clean diapers, and your love.
- Relax! “Half of the stuff you worry about is probably no big deal,” says Guichard. Speak with your pediatrician if you have any parenting or baby care concerns, and try to remember that with practice comes confidence. The more time you and baby spend together, the easier baby care will be.
You’re going to be great!
As you settle into your new role as a father, you’ll find a beautiful balance and newfound confidence. These simple tips can help you be the best dad possible.
What you can do:
- Embrace your new life. “Enjoy your time with your newborn. It's amazing to watch them grow and learn. Everything you show them, everything they hear and see is a new discovery. People always say that they grow up so fast … and it's true. They'll only be this little once, so soak it up while you can!” says Johnson.
- Go with the flow. “Life changes for everybody once baby comes home, but it is a wonderful change. Yes, you'll be tired. Yes, you'll need to learn new skills. But, every time you look at your new baby, you realize that it is all worth it,” says Johnson.
- Take time for you. Just like mom needs some time to focus on herself and taking a break now and then from caring for baby, you too need to set aside special time for you. Take a walk, grab a book, meet a friend for a cup of coffee; be sure you take care of you!
- Bond with your partner. Even if it is sneaking in a quick meal together after baby’s gone to bed, or cuddling on the couch — set aside time for you and your loved one to catch up as a couple.
- Celebrate and love your new family! “As much as you love baby now, he is only going to become more lovable and more fun as he grows,” says Guichard.
Your new family unit is cause for celebration; revel in your new life and enjoy your growing family.
Image : Getty