Being a new Daddy can feel overwhelming and finding your role in this new family set up can be a challenge. Yet, it can become the most exciting and fulfilling job of your life with a little planning – and here’s some ideas to start you off!
Bond before birth
Did you know that your baby can hear you even before they’re born? By the third trimester they’ll be able to clearly listen to your voice and start to recognise it. Some Dads find that when they read the same stories regularly through the third trimester, those stories help to soothe their babies after birth!
Enjoy that skin to skin contact
Skin to skin contact between babies and their caregivers helps to keep them calm and relaxed. It can also regulate their temperature, and their body’s blood sugar – and it just feels amazing! There’s a good reason for this – it’s biology triggering hormones within us which help us to bond with our little ones. When the baby’s mum holds her baby skin to skin after birth it helps her uterus to contract and reduces the chance of heavy bleeding (those hormones again – this time triggering uterus contractions as well as helping bonding) but if she’s not able to, or if she’s wanting a shower or a break, you may really enjoy slipping off your shirt and holding your baby next to your chest, with a blanket over the top to keep them cosy.
Wear your baby!
Babywearing means to carry your baby in a sling or carrier. Babies often relax and sleep in the sling, so it’s a great way to keep them calm and happy. There’s nothing more wonderful than going for a stroll, enjoying the outdoors and having your baby’s head right next to you, close enough to kiss. This is one of the real joys of new parenthood, so don’t miss out!
Understand infant feeding
It’s been shown that when fathers support breastfeeding, that’s when it’s most likely to work out1. Instead of reaching for the formula if she’s having challenges, reach for the phone and call one of the . In fact, have the numbers stuck to the fridge before your baby is even born! Get to know what is normal in breastfeeding. Babies can’t wait for three or four hours between feeds, for instance! And if her nipples are sore the latch isn’t ok even if she’s told “it looks fine”. Most breastfeeding problems can be overcome with the right support, and you are one of the most important support people she has.
If your partner has decided to bottle feed either breastmilk or formula, whether exclusively or partially, then you can take on the task of keeping the ever-needed flow of clean, sterile bottles coming. Know how to safely make up formula or re-heat breastmilk (not in the microwave!) and keep track of the stock of formula, and know your baby’s brand, to make sure you don’t run out.
Day and night parenting
Newborn babies are really hard work, and when you have to get up to work yourself it can be crippling. But, if your partner is at home on maternity leave it’s no holiday for her, either. Sharing those opportunities for sleep is only fair – but these moments can also be truly magical.
Rather than feeling frustrated by the night time waking, try reframing it as treasured time that you and your baby are spending together while the world is at peace. If your partner is breastfeeding you can help by changing your baby’s nappy, if it needs it, or bringing baby to her if you’re not sharing a bed with your child. If your baby is bottle fed then one of you cuddling them while the other makes up the formula makes the whole task much faster and calmer.
Don’t be a babysitter!
Parents aren’t babysitters! By calling yourself the babysitter, for instance if your partner goes out for the evening, you’re reducing your own importance in this parenting partnership. You are not just minding the baby, you are actively parenting them. So, take the time to enjoy your time together and build your bond in this precious one to one time.
Invent your own rituals
Can you think of little games or songs that someone special played with you as a child? Or regular treats that you enjoyed? As your baby grows you can invent your own. Perhaps that evening walk with the baby in the sling will lead to a regular trip to the park as they grow into a toddler. Or maybe Wednesdays will become ice cream night! Perhaps the night time story is your time together. The world is your oyster and the fun is out there for the finding.
Being a new Dad is wonderful! Although some new baby life changes, such as night waking, are hard and exhausting, trying to look at them positively and find the moments of connection can make them feel special and even enjoyable. There are so many ways to joyfully bond with your baby, creating unbreakable connections that will last a lifetime.