There’s no denying that being a parent is equal parts challenging, terrifying, and utterly rewarding. Ask any parent anywhere, and they will likely tell you the same thing. Being a father, in particular, comes with its own set of worries and fears that are uniquely different from a new mother’s worries and fears. This is especially true if you’re a first-time dad with zero prior experience with children.
Fear not, fathers. We’ve compiled some tips for first time dads for you to add to your dad checklist. We hope our advice will help alleviate some of your concerns and help you mentally prepare for the newfound adventure awaits you in fatherhood. After all, forewarned is forearmed and we know most of you dads like to be armed to the teeth.
You’re the First Line of Defense
It’s exciting when a new baby arrives. Friends and family want to meet him, they want to check in on you and mom, and plenty of them will offer well-meaning advice, even when you didn’t ask for it. Since mom is still recovering from, you know, giving birth, it’s up to you to hold the line.
If things get overwhelming or you’re both not really ready for company yet, tell them politely but firmly you’re not taking visitors right now. Once mom has recovered some strength, you can re-open the revolving door, but in the meantime, she’ll be grateful you’re running point with family and friends.
Pitch In, Mom Needs You
First time dads can sometimes feel a tiny bit useless with newborns. Mom is often the focus and if she’s breastfeeding, virtually the provider of all your newborn baby’s needs. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t also provide. Mom can pump so that you can share in bottle feedings and you can both take shifts during the night.
You can also help change diapers, rock the baby, and keep him occupied so mama can get a much-needed nap. Don’t make the mistake of thinking she doesn’t need your help because she does, and your engagement with your little one is equally as vital as hers.
Relax, Baby Bonds Can Take Time
Sometimes it feels like mom’s bond with the baby happens so effortlessly. Meanwhile, you’re over there thinking when will you ever feel that kind of connection to that squalling, wriggling, tiny human that keeps pooping everywhere? Bonding doesn’t always happen instantly. Sometimes it takes some time and unfolds over several days.
Consider holding your newborn baby each day skin-to-skin to help that bond, and make sure you spend plenty of time feeding, changing, bathing, talking to, and interacting with him. It’s through all of those day-to-day interactions that bonds are formed. Just give it some time; you’ll be smitten before you know it.
Diaper Changes Aren’t Forever
Diaper changes can start to feel like they might never end, but we assure you dad, they will. Babies are funny creatures. They eat and sleep a lot, but they also potty a lot. What’s most frustrating is when you’ve just changed your baby and he immediately soils the next diaper in a catastrophic manner! But eventually, your little one will grow out of diapers and you might even find yourself missing those diaper days. We know, perish the thought!
Crying isn’t Forever, Either
Okay, maybe it’s a little like forever. But as your baby learns to speak and communicate, crying will become less of a thing. Then it turns to whining, which is equally as fun. But when your baby first arrives, crying is how he tells you what he needs. As you learn to decipher what his cries mean, life tends to get easier.
However, be forewarned. Baby’s cries aren’t the only tears you’ll have to contend with. Mom will likely cry on your shoulder a few times too during this new experience. Just hug her, pat her back, and cluck to her, just like you do with the baby. It works, we swear.
White Noise is a Gift from God
Think about it. Babies that are ensconced in the womb are surrounded by white noise. They are hearing things like mama’s heartbeat, the rush of blood, the swish of fluids, and the garbled sounds of voices and life outside mom’s belly. When they arrive home, many parents make the mistake of keeping the house super quiet while the baby sleeps.
This can backfire because then he will be sensitive to even the tiniest of noises that can wake him up. There’s nothing worse than taking a much-deserved nap while baby naps, only for him to awaken because the doorbell rings. White noise, like a fan or air purifier or even music or the TV on low sound can give your baby the comforting noise they need, so they sleep without interruption.
Baby Poop is Grossly Intriguing
You might find yourself disgustingly fascinated by what comes out of your little guy. It colors that diaper so well. Baby poop can spew forth in a rainbow of shades, depending on his diet. Especially if mom is breastfeeding! You just never know what color you might find. However, we highly recommend guarding your face and mouth when diaper changing, lest the baby projectile poop into places you definitely don’t want it and cause an unfortunate daddy meltdown.
Take Advice with a Grain of Salt
Your friends and family may believe one of the best expectant dad gifts they can give is advice. But, your baby is your baby. There’s no one else in the world that can be a father to him the way you can. The same goes for mom. However, there will be lots of well-meaning friends and relatives who want to offer you parenting tips and advice.
It’s fine to listen to some of it if you want, but be discerning. Not all advice for first time fathers (or mothers) is good advice and you and mom alone are the judges of what’s best for your child. Take the tips and advice you’re given with a dash of salt and discard what doesn’t fit your parenting style.
Let People Help You
Some of the best newborn advice for dads we can think of is if you have friends and family that are offering to help out tidying the house or preparing meals, by all means, let them! The first few weeks after the baby comes home can be a whirlwind and you will both be too exhausted to do much of anything “normal.” It can feel pretty amazing to wake up after a long, rough night with the little one, to discover a clean kitchen and a casserole warming in the oven! You’d be crazy not to take advantage of it.
You’re Not a Babysitter, You’re a Dad
Dads can sometimes feel like they aren’t integral to their baby and his needs during the early months. It’s common, especially with younger dads, to think of themselves more like a babysitter than a dad. However, you’re not babysitting your child, you’re parenting him. Everything you do for him, every interaction, that’s all part of being his father. Never underestimate the power of your influence in your child’s life, from infancy on into adulthood. You matter and you are not and never will be merely a babysitter.
Life Can Feel More Dangerous
For many men—and women, too—before having a first child they can feel pretty invincible. Especially if you’re a young parent. Life feels big and exciting and adventurous, and nothing feels too dangerous to try once. However, once you become a dad, you might find that you have a hyper-awareness (and even a possible aversion) to risk in all its forms.
You’ll get a glimpse of your own mortality and wonder what might happen to your child if something were to happen to you. These are things you might have never even considered before becoming a father, but having a baby puts a weight of responsibility on your shoulders that ramps up your sense of caution and self-preservation. You might even decide that having that crotch rocket your wife wasn’t keen over isn’t worth the risk after all!
Don’t Rush the Moment
The arrival of a newborn into the house is a disruption of the status quo on steroids. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle as you’re trying to navigate these new waters and forget to pause and just enjoy the moment you’re in. It will be over in a blink and you won’t get it back.
Hopefully, our parenting tips for first time fathers have been helpful. Though the journey of fatherhood can be challenging, it’s exciting, too. Enjoy it, savor it, and take a step back every once in a while to marvel at the amazing human you helped bring into the world.