Getting involved

The day you bring your baby home will probably be one of the biggest moments of your life. It can be pretty surreal when you carry them inside for the first time – what happens now?! 

The best way to build your confidence as a dad is to get stuck in and give it a go. This will also help you work as a team and take some of the load off your partner.

1. Get hands on from the beginning

Take responsibility for daily baby care – stuff like dressing, feeding and bathing your baby, changing nappies and settling them down. ‘Learning by doing’ is the best way to develop your skills and confidence.

It’s also important to have some one-on-one time that’s about just you and your baby. Give them your full attention, you’ll have theirs, and you can really tune in to each other. This gives the two of you a chance to connect and bond.

2. Share the load

Some dads assume that their partners are just naturally better at baby-handling skills. But caring for a baby is really about practice – and your partner might have more opportunities to hone these skills. That’s why it’s so important for you to get involved.

You’ll get more comfortable handling your baby and feel like a natural in no time.

3. Remember that it’s okay to be a dad (not a mum)

As you get into your role as a dad, you might find that your style of parenting and how you interact with your baby is very different from your partner’s. Dads can have different ways of bonding, nurturing and caring for their kids – and this variation is really good for babies.

Having different ideas about how to do things can cause tension for some couples. And given that most of us are hard-wired to think our way is best, this can take a bit of negotiation and compromise. Babies are pretty adaptable, so don’t get too hung up on doing everything the same every time.

4. Talk about what’s changed

However much you’ve planned things out in your head or imagined what it’ll be like when your baby arrives, nothing can really prepare you for the vomit-splattered reality. The first few weeks can be especially exhausting as you’re both learning and adjusting to your baby’s needs (and each other’s) while also trying to hold things together on zero sleep.

You might find some more subtle changes too – these may include your changing identity, how you feel about your work, and your relationship with your extended family and friends.

Take the time to talk with your partner about these big changes – what each of you miss about your old life, and the ways in which your new life is harder than you expected. Having this conversation doesn’t mean that you’re not good and willing parents, but it gives you an opportunity to acknowledge the changes you’re both grappling with.

5. Be patient - bonding can take time

Many dads don’t feel an instant bond with their baby. It can help to view it like any other relationship you’ve been in. Closeness takes time. You’re still getting to know your baby – and they're still getting to know you.

Besides, it can be hard to feel close to someone when they're screaming in your face.

When things don’t go as planned

Having a difficult or traumatic birth or needing more medical intervention than you’d hoped can be distressing for both parents. Some dads have vivid memories of seeing their partner in pain or feelings of distress that are hard to shake, but think they have to push these aside to support their partner. These feelings may not go away on their own and can intensify over time, and it’s OK to talk about it.

Debriefing with someone you feel comfortable with or a health professional can be a helpful way of processing what has happened.

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