First Time Dad? Our 21 Tips For Surviving (And Thriving!) | Kidadl

Becoming a dad for the first time is one of the most magical experiences any of us go through.

But, as with any life-changing event, you're going to have anxieties and questions. That's natural, and working through those concerns is all part of becoming a good dad.

Here, we've gathered together 21 tips that should be helpful to any dad-to-be. We've included advice to span the period from maternity through to toddler years, and even thrown in some first time dad jokes. You're going to be the best father!

If you are going to be a dad for the first time, you might also find these [Mothers' Day ideas for your wife], and [baby shower ideas for a daddy] useful.

1. Join In With Antenatal Classes

Being a first-time dad starts long before the baby arrives. You'll want to support your partner through the pregnancy, attend scans and help adjust to the changing circumstances. Dads to be should also attend antenatal classes along with mom. You'll feel much better prepared for the birth and first weeks, and even learn practical skills like changing a diaper. You and your partner will also meet other first time parents, who can become lifelong friends and part of your support network. Plus, you'll have a ready-made pool of babies for your own kid to play with.  

2. Make Sure You Have Your Own Support Network

Sometimes, the new dad can feel a little left out. Much of the fuss and attention of the occasion is (rightly) centred on the new baby, and on how mom is getting on. Not many people think to ask how the new dad is faring, even though you've also just gone through one of the most stressful situations of your life. Huge new responsibilities loom. Sleep is a rare luxury. You'll have a lot on your mind. Don't feel guilty about this. It's important to look after your own mental wellbeing as well as supporting your partner and baby. Make sure you've got a set of friends or family beyond your immediate group who can offer advice and a listening ear. Other new parents you might have met on antenatal classes are a good option, as they'll be going through this at a similar time.

3. Be Prepared For More Housework

Whatever share of the housework you did before, expect to do more. Everything multiplies with a new baby: more laundry, more dishes to scrub, more cleaning and sanitising... it never ends. And make sure you know how to do everything around the house, including tasks usually done by your partner.

4. Plan Ahead For C-Sections

Birth by natural means will take a heavy toll on most new mothers, but those undergoing C-section are likely to have a longer recovery. It's vital for new dads to be as supportive as possible during this period, not just looking after the newborn, but looking after mom too. It will take weeks for her abdominal muscles to heal, making bending painful, and ruling out any heavy lifting. Driving is also not advised. If your partner is planning on a C-section, think ahead to how this might affect family life. The new dad will need to do most if not all of the housework, take care of any heavy grocery shops and generally be around to help with any tasks that involve stretching or lifting. Make sure the home is ready for someone of limited mobility (as well the baby). Even stairs can be a struggle in the first week after a C-section. Remember, 15-20% of births are unplanned (emergency) C-sections, so make sure you've considered the possibility.

5. Don't Worry If No One Says Baby Looks Like You!

One of the best first time dad tips is to build a strong support network.

Any friend or relative who meets your baby is likely to compare to the parents. "Ooo, she's got your eyes!," or "He's got daddy's nose!". These comparisons aren't always flattering. How many times did I hear that my newborn son has more hair than me! Worse than that, though, is if all such comments compare baby to just one parent. You can feel left out, jealous and delegitimized. It's important to not take such comments too seriously. People usually make them in jest and don't mean to imply anything. Besides, the average age of a new dad in the USA is 31... you're naturally going to look very different to someone who's a few days old.

6. Close Body Contact Is Important

A baby will form close bonds with their parents in many ways, but, fresh out of the womb, they particularly crave close body contact. Years ago, this was considered the mom's role, through breast feeding and soothing roles. But holding your baby close is also part of being a good dad. Try taking your shirt off and holding your baby to your chest for some skin-to-skin contact. If bottle feeding, you could try doing this topless too.

7. Talk To Your Baby

A baby can hear more than you might think while in the uterus, so your little bundle of joy will likely be familiar with the tones of your voice even before birth. Talking to your baby can feel a little strange at first, given that they have no idea what you're saying, but you soon get used to it. Speaking in a calm, even voice will help them feel secure and relaxed, it may even put them to sleep.

8. You Don't Need All The Gadgets

It's tempting, in those long months up to birth, to go on a big spending spree, picking up baby stuff. Much of it is unnecessary. Many families get by quite happily without the need for electric nail trimmers, baby video monitors, buggy parasols and the like. Ask yourself "do I really need this" before making a purchase.

9. You Won't Break Them

Every new father has anxieties about holding a baby. It may be the first time in your life you've ever done such a thing. Newborns look so fragile, with their oversized, wobbly heads and tiny limbs. You'll soon learn to relax into it. The chances of dropping the baby are pretty much zero, they're so light that, if you make a slip, you'll quickly recover. The key thing to remember is to support the head with one arm.

10. Read A Book To Your Baby

One of the most soothing ways to talk to your baby is to read to them. Infant books are specially designed to contain simple, pleasing sounds your baby will love. After a few weeks, their eyes will be strong enough to focus on pictures, and they'll take more interest in a book as a physical object. Look out for stories with strongly contrasting colours, or black and white images, which they find most appealing.

11. Ask For Help

Few moms and dads go through the early stages of parenting on their own. Most get help from friends and family, who are often only too happy to lend a hand. Don't be shy of asking for tips, help round the home, child care assistance or professional advice.  

12. Take As Much Time Off As You Can

The first weeks and months of parenting are a steep curve. You have to learn to do everything with a little person in tow, while showing love, caring and understanding. You have to adjust to new sleep patterns and meal times. The last thing you need is the stress of work on top. Take as much leave as you're able, and consider taking extended paternity leave if that's an option. The first weeks of parenthood are the best of times and the worst of times, and they need your full attention.

13. Be Prepared To Sleep Flexibly

Every daddy to be knows that he's not going to get as much sleep once baby arrives. But the reality can come as a shock to the first-time parent. Kids can wake and sleep almost at random, and you can't just ignore them. Talk through the possibilities with your partner before the birth. You might consider sleeping in separate rooms, taking it in turns to share with the baby. This can help by making sure at least one of you gets a decent sleep each night. If mom is exclusively breastfeeding, though, she's going to bear the brunt of things. Help as much as you can by giving her time to catch sleep during the day.

14. Try These Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep

Newborn babies are notorious for not sleeping when you want them to.  Motion seems to be the best way of pacifying them. A trip out in the buggy (or up and down the hall in bad weather or at night) worked best for us. A drive round the block is another great method. Simplest of all, lay baby on your knees and gently rock them side-to-side, perhaps with a lullaby.

15. Share The Feeding Responsibility

Bottle feeding your baby is a great way to bond.

If you're going down the bottle-milk route, then there's no reason why the father can't do as much of the feeding as the mom. But even with breastfed babies there are options. Mom might consider expressing milk into a bottle, which can be stored in the fridge for several days. It's a great way for dads to take their turns when mommy needs a break.

16. Don't Panic Over Every Rash And Scratch

No baby ever reached toddlerhood without developing a rash or five, acquiring some pretty impressive bruises and covering themselves in scratch marks. You're not a bad parent if your child gets a minor bump or two. (Though be sure to seek urgent medical advice for more serious injuries.)

17. Don't Be Scared Of Poop!

Babies are messy little things. They have no control over their bodily functions, as you'll soon discover. Use a doll to practice changing a diaper ahead of birth, so there's no mystery when the time comes. And don't worry about the yuckiness factor. Infant poop isn't all that smelly, really. I know several parents who became fascinated with the changes in colour, consistency and odor.

18. The Same Goes For Baby Vom

Dads quickly learn to get used to baby sick. It happens at least once a day in the early weeks. Your kid will usually erupt shortly after feeding, so what you're getting is pretty much just returned milk. Always put a cloth over your shoulder when burping a baby, and try to avoid doing it over a carpet or other stainable surface.

19. Changing A Boy: You Will Get Wet!

We all want to treat baby boys and girls exactly the same, but there is one difference that people don't always talk about, and it happens on the changing mat. Taking off an old diaper sometimes causes the newborn to urinate. When it's a girl, that's fine... the leak drains down onto the diaper or mat. When it's a boy... well... have you ever dropped a garden hose under high pressure? You soon learn tips and tricks to limit the spray. I'd just recommend not leaning over to closely as a first step.

20. It Will Get Easier

The first few weeks of life with a baby are frenetic. But it will calm down. Changing diapers, orchestrating a bath, preparing bottles, clearing up sick... all become second nature within days. Babies throw up new challenges all the time, but after a few weeks, you'll have hit a steady rhythm. And always remember that there are many support networks out there if you need professional advice.

21. Remember, The Rewards Are Huge

Becoming a new dad is challenging and frequently exhausting, but don't lose sight of just how rewarding it is too. The bonds we form with our kids are impossible to describe in words. Sometimes, just staring into those big baby eyes is enough to bring on tears of joy. Being a dad for the first time is the best feeling in the world. Our eldest is now five, and we still pinch ourselves every day and say "we've got one of these!".

If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at [what to do if your baby won't nap], or [your baby won't sleep in crib]?

Author
Written By
Matt Brown

Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.

Read The Disclaimer

Was this article helpful?