You’ve been waiting to be a dad and now is your time to shine. It’s exciting and overwhelming all in one - knowing the responsibility of caring for this new baby is now half yours. So how do you best approach your new role as Dad in a way that puts your baby at the center while also giving your partner the support she needs? Today we’re giving you our top advice on how to best bond with your newborn as a father while also taking on your fair share of the parenting.
Raising a Baby is a Team Effort
We know that little human you helped create is the best thing that ever happened to you, but for any parent, it’s also a huge shift from what your life once was.
Some dads may feel like the mom has it all covered, but the fact is that she wants you by her side. Making the effort to form your own special bond with your baby while taking on the exhausting work that comes with having one will serve to make your family stronger.
Ready to tackle this parenting gig as a team? Here is our best newborn advice for dads on what you can start doing right now to be the hands-on Pops you always wanted to be.
Top Tips for Dads of Newborns
1.) Maximize Paternity Leave
We know not all dads get paternity leave and that’s a shame. But according to Biz Journal, as of 2019, 40 percent of employers offer paid parental leave for both the birth and non-birth parent...and that number is growing. So how do you ensure that you are maximizing the time you are given to care for your spouse and your new baby?
Start by actually taking the leave.
This may sound crazy, but many new fathers don’t end up taking advantage of the paid paternity leave they’re provided. A large percentage will take a few days to be around for the birth and then get mom and baby settled at home, only to be back to work in less than a week (even when they're given much more time). Unfortunately, there is a stigma around dads being away from the workplace for too long and they may fear taking the time they need to be with their family will reflect poorly on their commitment to their work.
We have to change the idea in our society that only moms should be caregivers and that only dads need to build their careers. A sentiment bökee co-founder Andrew Doan shares in his piece "Take the Damn Leave."
So if you’re given paternity leave, feel lucky that you have it and use this time to build a stronger bond with your partner and baby.
2.) Take Care of Nighttime Feeds
Not sure where to begin with how a dad can help with a newborn? We suggest starting with taking over at least one nighttime feed.
This is the perfect way to both bond with your baby AND give your spouse some much-needed rest. According to a study conducted by the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, the “chance of depression in women with poor sleep quality was 3.34 times higher than those with good sleep quality.”
Even if you’re in a position where you’re working full-time, so is she. (It just looks different.) Taking over even one nighttime feed can make a difference in your partner’s sleep quality, which will in turn help her overall mood and health. And that’s better for the entire family.
3.) Split the Work
Of course you’d love to just hold your baby while your little family snuggles on the couch watching Netflix, but the fact is that there is a lot of “dirty” work that has to be done when you’re a new parent. Neither of you wants to spend hours doing laundry or changing dirty diapers. But that’s just part of having a baby, and it’s important to share the load.
What we do recommend is finding ways to make all of this a bit easier. Are there tricks out there that make the behind the scenes go more quickly and make it more bearable? Bottle prep is one example. Feeding your baby is usually a very enjoyable experience, but the prep to get there is often a lot of messy work.
The bökee is an example of a product that will cut down both time and stress. You can hold your baby in one arm (you’re on Daddy Duty after all) while easily and quickly getting the bottle ready with this one-handed bottle prep tool.
We love the bökee and any other product that can cut down prep time, because that just means you’ll have more time to be with your baby (and hopefully also get some sleep.) Check out our post "9 Genius Products You Need for Your Baby" for more ideas!
4.) Bond with One-on-One Time
Making special time that’s just you and baby is an excellent way to bond and create the type of relationship you want to have with your child. It’s never too early to start making a lasting connection.
Additionally, this also helps your partner get some much needed alone time. Chances are that most of her waking hours are spent with the baby and it’s easy for moms to forget to include the self-care they desperately need. Encourage your spouse to get out and do something she enjoys, or if she would much prefer an hour or two of uninterrupted silence, there’s no reason you can’t take your baby with you out on the town.
5.) Wear Your Baby
There are certain periods in infancy where your baby will probably cry a lot. The world can get pretty overwhelming at this young age and that kind of overstimulation can easily put your baby into a tailspin. One of the best cures for this is to hold them.
Even if it seems as if your baby “prefers” their mom, this is a result of more time spent in their arms and being comforted by them. But you can get your baby just as used to you.
One of the best ways to do this is by wearing your baby. More and more you’re seeing dads wearing their little ones in baby carriers, and we’re so happy to see it! There’s no reason that mom needs to be carrying the baby all the time; this is a perfect time to split the responsibility.
Plus, you’ll be amazed by how much of a bond is created by holding your baby a lot and wearing them for an extended period of time, as this study confirms.
6.) Read a “Dad” Book
Chances are your baby mama has already taken in a great deal of information about what to expect during the newborn stage. She’s also probably making sure she knows what’s coming next because young babies develop and change rapidly in the first year. So a big piece of advice is to not lean on her for every bit of information.
As one of two parents, it’s also up to you to know what milestones are coming up, if your baby is on track with their development, and how to help your baby when they may be struggling. It’s a huge weight off a mom’s shoulders when she feels like she can bounce ideas off of you in knowing you’ve been reading up on what to expect with your little one.
7.) Ask Your Spouse What She Needs
We know Dads often want to help but may feel like they're stepping on their partner’s toes who appears to have it all under control. (Newsflash - she doesn't.)
Whether women are actually more natural nurturers or it’s just that society has come to expect this is hard to say, but either way, that doesn't mean Mom should do it all.
We know that it takes a village to raise a baby (even if that's just the two of you) and she’s counting on you for help. It’s OK to not know where you best fit, but it's not OK to sit idly by. So when in doubt, ask! It’s amazing what a little bit of communication can do to help you and your partner be the best parents you can be to the newest addition to your family.
We could not be more excited for your newly updated status of Dad! And though we’ve offered a lot of advice on how you can step up to be there front and center for both your baby and your spouse, we know this is a big change for you. Don’t forget to make caring for yourself a priority, too.