So, your partner is pregnant. First thing’s first, that means some congratulations are in order. You’re about to become a dad for the first time. As exciting (and scary) as that may be, it’s important to remember that men have been navigating these uncertain waters since the beginning of time. You’re not alone!
As natural and amazing as becoming a dad is, we could all do with a few tips here and there. Whether you’ve just found out that you’re expecting or the due date is already fast approaching, this new dad cheat sheet is going to help you ace those first days, weeks, and months. We’ve endeavored to answer all those panic-inducing questions that pass through the anxious new-dad mind. From how to change a diaper to how to be a supportive partner and everything in between. Sit back, grab a beer, we’ve gotcha.
How should I prepare for labor and delivery?
As a dad-to-be, the first thing on your might is probably the birth. If you’ve never experienced labor and delivery before, this can be a very daunting prospect. Your partner may be the one giving birth, but dads are allowed to feel nervous too.
One of the best things you can do with your partner to alleviate some of those nerves is to tour the hospital in advance. Ask to view the labor and delivery area, read-up on the labor and delivery process, educate about your options as parents, and come up with a provisional birth plan (but prepare for this to change).
By doing this, when the big day arrives, you’ll already be familiar of your environment and have an idea of the process ahead. Knowledge is power, after all.
Want more info about labor and delivery? Why not check out this great book by Theresa Halvorsen. The Dad’s Playbook to Labor & Birth is a basic guide for men who want to help their partner through labor. If you want practical advice without studying obstetrics then this is the book for you.
The Dad’s Playbook to Labor & Birth is available at Barnes & Noble and other reputable bookstores. Click here to check it out.
Should I take paternity leave?
As a father you are entitled to take some time off work when your baby arrives. In the United States employees are entitled to twelve workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Having a baby is a lot. It’s a monumental lifestyle adjustment. Taking parental leave gives you and your partner the opportunity to adjust without having to worry about your other professional responsibilities.
By taking paternity leave you’ll have time to bond with your baby, support you partner, and enjoys those very special first moments. If you can, we say go for it!
And how do I actually change a diaper?
For novice parents, the word newborn often sparks one very specific image. Diapers. We hear stories of diaper dumps all the time and dads changing diapers are the butt of countless jokes. But eventually, the time comes when every new dad will actually have to change a real baby with a real diaper…for real, and chances are you’re not quite sure what to do.
Don’t you worry.
We’re here to help.
To change a diaper, you will need:
- A clean diaper
- A baby wipe or moist flannel
- Diaper cream
- A changing matt or towel
- A trash bag
Now, here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Lay the changing matt or towel on a flat surface (if you’ve got a changing table then that’s perfect, but a sturdy table will do just as well).
- Lay your baby on the changing matt and open up the diaper tabs.
- Remove the dirty diaper by lifting your baby’s ankles with one hand and gently pulling away the diaper with the other.
- Dispose of the diaper in the trash. Or, if you’re using reusable cloth diapers then put them in the wash pile for later.
- Use baby wipes or a soft, moist cloth to wipe your baby’s bum and genital area.
- Dry the skin.
- If you notice any redness or irritation apply some diaper cream to the area.
- Put on a clean diaper and close the sides securely using the diaper tabs.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
What should I pack when I go out with baby?
This is a great question. Prior planning prevents a lot of stress. When the day comes to take your bubba on their first excursion, you’ll want to know what to bring with you. It might seem obvious, but you wouldn’t believe the number of new parents who get caught out by this one. So, to avoid being diaper-less, wipe-less, or bottle-less (that’s a mouthful), miles away from home, make sure you always back these diaper bag essentials.
Pack these things in your diaper bag:
- Diapers (of course)
- Baby wipes (for all those poop explosions)
- At least one change of clothing for baby (again, for all those poop explosions)
- A change of shirt for mom and dad (chances are you’ll get vomited on eventually)
- A burp rag (perfect for wiping up milk dribbles and sneezes)
- A wet bag (if you’re using disposable diapers)
- Formula feeder (if you’re using formula)
- Water (you may need this for some concentrated formula powders).
- A pacifier (or two)
- A changing pad (especially if you’re travelling on the road)
- Hand sanitizer (to keep those germs at bay wherever you are)
- Baby toys/ books (bubba’s going to get bored – especially on long journeys)
Not sure what kind of diaper bag to get?
There are tons of super stylish and practical diaper bags on the market today. The rucksack-style diaper bag is particularly popular at the moment. With amble pockets for organizing baby’s essentials, you’ll be able to store everything you need on you back.
There are some really elegant diaper bags for dads out there. We love the Eddie Bauer Bridgeport Places & Spaces Back Pack Diaper Bag. It’s got 8 pockets, a spacious main compartment with separate storage, 3 exterior pockets, padded, adjustable shoulder straps, zip-close bottle pocket, and comes with its very own changing pad included. This great bag is perfect for new dads and retails for $43.99 at Target. Check it out here.
What is swaddling?
Do you keep hearing people in the baby bubble talking about swaddling? Don’t worry if this term is completely unfamiliar. Swaddling is simple a way to keep your newborn feeling cozy and safe. Swaddling is essentially wrapping your baby up like a burrito using a blanket. The idea is to emulate the feeling of being in the womb. Swaddling is perfectly safe as long as you use the right technique. It can make it easier for your baby to settle, sleep longer, and can prevent a newborn from being woken up by their own startle reflex.
This is how to swaddle your baby correctly:
- Spread baby out on a light blanket with the top corner folded down
- Lay your baby face up with their head over the folded corner
- Fold the right corner over baby and tuck under the left side
- Fold the bottom corner up and over baby’s feet
- Fold the left corner over baby and tuck securely under the right side
- Check that the swaddle isn’t too tight and that baby can still move freely
Top tips for safe swaddling:
- Use light blankets and avoid wrapping too tightly to prevent overheating – a muslin cloth or lightweight cotton baby blanket is ideal. There are also many purpose-made swaddling blankets available designed specifically for easy baby burrito-ing.
- Stop swaddling when baby learns how to roll over
How do I soothe a crying baby?
It’s the golden question that’s plagued many a parent throughout the ages. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this one. Trial and error will be your best friend. That’s mainly because babies cry for all sorts of reasons. If only they could talk, right?
However, there are a few methods that tend to work. Start with these, and if you’re still struggling to find a way to soothe your newborn then we recommend getting in touch with your healthcare provider.
Top ways to soothe a crying baby:
- Feed them (babies get hangry too)
- Burp them (trapped air is uncomfortable)
- Change their diaper (nobody wants to sit around in their own poop)
- Check their temperature (are they too hot or too cold?)
- Rock them gently (sometimes contact is all it takes)
- Take them out for a walk in the stroller or sling (a bit of fresh air is always good)
- Sing a lullaby or read a story (your dulcet tones will soothe baby into slumber)
- Give your baby a warm bath (you could even take a bath together)
If none of these methods seem to work for you, try not to get too overwhelmed. A crying baby is emotionally draining, so take all the help you can get and remember to contact a professional if the crying persists long-term.
How do I bond with my child?
When a new child is born, a lot of attention is placed on the mother. But as the father in this scenario, it’s just as important for you to try and bond with your newborn. In the early days, weeks, and months, after the birth, everything can seem a little frantic. Once you’ve got your bearings, make sure you’re taking the time to bond with your child. Bonding can be as simple as holding your newborn skin-to-skin and talking to them. There are so many activities that you can engage in to help nurture that bond.
- Blowing bubbles
- Rocking them gently
- Moving their limbs gently (this also encourages muscle development)
- Reading stories
- Talking or just narrating your day as it unfolds
As your baby grows into a toddler, there will be even more activities for you to enjoy together. Reading will become more interactive, and you’ll start to have some real conversations. Let your creativity go wild, play games, and heck… why not camp out in your living room?
How can I be the most supportive partner I can be?
Last, but not least, here’s an important point to end on. First-time parenthood is tough on both partners in different ways. Mom will be recovering from the emotional and physical birth experience and all the changes that come with life postpartum. This can be a tough period for new moms. Postpartum depression and/or anxiety is very common. So, it’s really important that partners pull their weight and try to be as supportive as possible.
We get it. Sometimes, even if you want to help, it can be hard to know what to do. What is actually helpful in X, Y, or Z situation? We recommend sitting down with your partner and having and open and honest chat about how one another is feeling and what you can do to help support each other through this new phase in life.
As a general rule, supportive discourse never goes amiss. So, shower the compliments, affirm her worth, tell her you love her, and be as encouraging as you possible can be. Most importantly, be patient. It can take months to recover from the physical side of birth.
You’re ready to go!
So, there we have it. We hope we’ve answered some of your most burning dad-to-be questions. You’re now ready to ace fatherhood and be the best, most-supportive partner ever. If in doubt, remember this cheat-sheet is always here to help you out. Happy parenting!