Take action before your baby is born
If your partner is still pregnant, ease anxiety by actively preparing for fatherhood. As a new dad, you can:
- Get involved. During pregnancy, men don't experience the same daily reminders that they're about to become parents as do women. Placing your hand on your partner's belly to feel the baby kick, attending prenatal visits and talking about the pregnancy with others can help you feel involved.
- Attend prenatal classes. Prenatal classes can help you and your partner find out what to expect during labor and delivery, as well as learn how to take care of a newborn.
- Consult a financial planner. Talking to a financial planner can help you determine ways to handle the cost of having a baby.
- Build a network of social support. During pregnancy, your partner might get support from health care providers, loved ones and friends. It's important for men to have a support network during this time, too — especially if the pregnancy was unplanned or you've heard negative stories about parenting. Seek out friends and loved ones who can give you advice and encouragement as you prepare to become a father.
- Talk to your partner. Talk about how your daily lives and relationship might change — for better and for worse — once the baby is born.
- Consider what kind of father you want to be. Take time to think about your own father. Consider what aspects of that relationship you might want to emulate with your own child and what you might do differently.
Stay involved after your baby is born
Once your baby is born, look for ways to connect with your newly expanded family. As a new dad, you can:
- Room with your family at the hospital. If the hospital allows, stay with your partner and newborn until it's time to take the baby home.
- Take turns caring for the baby. Take turns feeding and changing the baby. If your partner is breast-feeding, offer to bottle-feed pumped breast milk — or burp the baby and put him or her to sleep after breast-feeding sessions.
- Play with the baby. Women tend to provide low-key, soothing stimulation for their babies, and men often engage their babies in noisier, more vigorous activities. Both styles of play are important, and seeing your newborn smile can be its own reward.
- Be affectionate with your partner. Intimacy isn't limited to sex. Hugs, kisses, shoulder rubs and other types of physical contact can help you stay connected while your partner recovers from childbirth and both of you adjust to the new routine. It's also important to continue talking to your partner about the changes you're experiencing and what you can do to support each other as your baby gets older.
- Seek help. If you're having trouble dealing with changes in your relationship or you think you might be depressed, talk to a counselor or other mental health provider. Untreated depression affects the entire family.
Becoming a new dad is a life-changing experience. By recognizing and planning for the challenges ahead, you can ease your stress and spend more time enjoying your new family.
Mar. 22, 2012
See more In-depth
- Weitzman M, et al. Paternal depressive symptoms and child behavioral or emotional problems in the United States. Pediatrics. 2011;128:1.
- Genesoni L, et al. Men's psychological transition to fatherhood: An analysis of the literature, 1989-2008. Birth. 2009;36:305.
- Halle CC, et al. Supporting fathers in the transition to parenthood. Contemporary Nurse. 2008;31:57.
- Premberg AA, et al. Experiences of the first year as father. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences. 2008;22:56.
- Condon J. What about dad? Psychosocial and mental health issue for new fathers. Australian Family Physician. 2006;35:690.
- Ramchandani PG, et al. Depression in men in the postnatal period and later child psychopathology: A population cohort study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2008;47:390.
- Parenting corner Q&A: Fathers. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.aap.org/publiced/BK0_Fathers.htm. Accessed Dec. 1, 2011.