The most obvious answer to the question of “how to be a first-time dad?” is “have a child.” All sarcasm aside, first-time dads often feel completely overwhelmed. They’ve watched their significant other grow their baby, and now that the child is here, they aren’t sure what to do.
After all, they can’t breastfeed the child, and some dads may feel as though the baby is very fragile and breakable.
First-time dads often need guidance in order to be the best possible supportive significant other and father that they can be. But we’re here to help! Following these tips will certainly help get you off to a good start, because while many find parenting to be completely natural, others struggle a bit at first. But not to worry, you’ll get in your parenting groove soon enough!
Listen and Offer Encouragement
Your significant other will no doubt be stressed out, extremely tired, in pain, and so on, right after they give birth. It’s not your job to judge them or give them advice (that is, unless they ask you to Google the answer to a specific question). Instead, you simply need to listen and offer them plenty of encouragement.
They will state their concerns about your baby, complain about how tired and in pain they are, and you’re just there to give them a hug and helping hand when needed. Be the best possible partner just by being there with your ears and eyes (and even arms) open.
Just Hold the Baby
Sometimes, all you need to do is just hold the baby. If your significant other is napping and the baby is awake, just pick them up and hold them. If your wife needs a moment to herself, is in the shower, is doing laundry, or just doing some self-care by reading a book or surfing the internet because she needs a break, simply hold the baby.
Holding your newborn not only provides a bonding opportunity between you and your little one, but it also shows your significant other that you care enough to help her out. And after all, you’re in a partnership that just grew a little by adding another person to the mix. You want to do your part, right?
Prevent Unwanted Guests When Necessary
When a new baby arrives, everyone wants to see your new bundle of joy. It’s no secret that your house will receive plenty of well-meaning visitors, and your phone will be ringing off the hook. But as the first-time dad, it’s your job to act as a gatekeeper of sorts to keep people out.
Of course, you’ll want to welcome in some visitors, such as the new grandparents and a new aunt and uncle or two, but for the most part, visitors, no matter how well-meaning, need to be kept at bay. Why? Because you don’t want to disturb the routine that you’re settling into with the baby, and you need to keep any foreign germs at bay, as your baby’s immune system isn’t fully functioning yet.
Learn How to Handle Parenting Tasks
Things like preparing bottles, feeding the baby, and changing diapers are going to fall on you at times, so you want to be ready for your mission. Yes, your significant other will be doing quite a bit of the job, but in order to be a good dad, you’ll have to step up to the proverbial plate as well. This means that many child-rearing tasks, including those handling those stinky, poopy diapers (hopefully with a sleek diaper bag in tow), cleaning up spit up, and doing many loads of laundry, may fall on you.
No one said that parenting is all fun and games. There’s plenty of unpleasantness to go around as well. But not to worry, the good news is that it all balances out.
Realize That No One is Perfect
You won’t do everything perfectly every single time. That’s a fact, because no one is perfect. And that’s completely ok! You’ll make a number of mistakes, from putting diapers on wrong to forgetting to place socks over your child’s hands (which keeps them from accidentally scratching themselves), but you simply need to roll with the punches and keep on moving.
As long as you accept this fact, everything will be all right. Your home will be messy, you’ll be upset and sleep-deprived at times, and you’ll make mistakes. It’s all a part of the beautiful journey we call parenting.
Learn How to Function on Very Little Sleep
If you think that you know what sleeplessness is, then you haven’t had a baby. The second that your little one arrives, your sleep schedule is completely disrupted. There isn’t enough coffee in the world to help you when you’ve only received two hours of sleep and a few 20-minute cat naps.
When your significant other isn’t sleeping because of the baby, you aren’t as well. This means that you’ll need to learn how to function properly (and not grumpily) on as little sleep as possible, as well as how to fall asleep quickly, almost on cue, because every second of slumber counts. When the baby sleeps, mommy sleeps (and sometimes, daddy too)!
Know How to Pack the Diaper Bag
This is key! What goes in a diaper bag? This isn’t a task that falls solely on your significant other. Instead, it’s something that you need to know how to do as well. You’ll need to step up and make sure that the diaper bag is filled with all of the essentials that you need for travel with your child. For example, things like bottles, a breast pump, extra clothing, toys, snacks, diapers, diaper cream, wipes, plastic baggies (for holding wet clothes and soiled diapers), and more need to be placed in your trusty diaper bag.
Your significant other will appreciate it if you tackle the task of packing the diaper bag for them, as it’s one less thing that they’ll need to do and worry about when trying to get out of the house. After all, they have their hands full with your precious little nugget.
Understand How to Install a Car Seat
Before your baby is born, it’s important to spend some time figuring out the car seat situation. This can be a head-scratcher for many first-time dads, but don’t worry because you’re not alone. You’ll need a car seat for each vehicle that you plan on transporting your baby in, as well as a possible extra in case the baby’s aunt or grandparent offers to watch the baby at their house for a short period of time.
Waiting until your baby is in the process of being born (which is stressful enough) is not the time to look at those car seat instructions. Instead, go over them beforehand, so those car seats are expertly installed right when you need them to be. Your local fire station can also help with installation if you choose. Remember that you won’t be able to bring your little one home from the hospital without a car seat!
Have That Camera Ready
Did you know that the second job of a father (on top of helping care for the baby, of course) is to serve as the photographer? You’ll be present for all of those wonderful and funny moments, whether your little one is smiling for the first time or has spit up all over the dog.
So, jump right in to your new role! Have your cell phone camera or other device handy to capture all those magic moments while your significant other holds the baby. You’ll be happy that you did when you have a lifetime of entertaining memories in photo form to look back on for many years afterwards.
Buying What You Need
For the first few weeks, while your significant other recuperates from giving birth and gets into the routine of caring for your child, you may end up being the one who does all of the shopping. (With that said, ordering delivery of things that you need is a very popular option if you don’t feel like heading out to the store.)
This means that you’ll need to know exactly what your baby needs, from what size diapers to the preferred type of diaper cream. It’s on you to make sure that you’re properly stocked with all of the supplies that you need not only for your partner and your baby, but also yourself, since many times you’ll be the one making dinner as well.
Having a baby is literally a crash-course in how to be a dad. You’ll end up learning a lot as you go, making plenty of mistakes (don’t worry, it’s natural) in the process. Don’t be afraid of asking questions, doing plenty of Google searches, and reaching out for help when you need it. With that said, if you want to be the best dad possible, you’ll need to support your significant other in every possible way, from allowing her to sleep while you feed the baby, heading out to the store when needed, and being ready with that camera.
Don’t be alarmed if the act of being a dad doesn’t feel natural at first, because it may take a bit of time for you to adjust. In the end, what matters most is that you love your new precious baby and want to do everything possible to ensure that all of their needs are met. First-time dads don’t sweat it - you’ve got this!