Congratulations! You are going to be a dad! I bet you would like to know how you can help once your baby is born? No worries, I have your back.
#1 Take Time Off From Work
This can be done differently for each family, as each has different circumstances. Decide together with your partner if it would be better to take a few days off at a time over the first month, or a solid week or two as a block of time. Use this time to bond with your newborn, bond with your partner, and figure out the beginnings of parenthood. There will be lots of poop, plenty of spit up, more laughs than you ever expected, and emotions that will overcome you.
If taking off work means a pay cut, try to use the time during pregnancy to save money. Your partner may decide not to go back to work, so saving money throughout the pregnancy is a great idea no matter what.
Throughout infancy, skin to skin care is greatly needed, but especially during the first few months. Letting your baby snuggle bare-chested against your chest helps regulate his body temperature, increases his sense of security, regulates his breathing and heart rate; not to mention it increases the bond of father and child – and gives Mommy a 30-minute nap time.
#3 Hold the Baby Whenever Possible
It is easy to let Mom hold the baby all the time, but you need a turn too. Her ‘Mother’s Instincts’ will immediately kick in after birth, and she will be able to live on zero sleep and be able to hear the baby breathe 3 miles away. But she does need a break, and you need to hold your baby. Some dads are scared of breaking a baby, but I assure you that is quite rare. The Art of Manliness created this great chart to help you with holding positions (please read through their article on fatherhood, as it is worth every minute of your time).
Breathe that baby in. Make silly faces, sing nursery songs, read books, and take a thousand pictures. This time is fleeting, and fatherhood will change everything in the best way possible.
Encourage your partner to enjoy a bath, take a nap, or sip a glass of wine, all while you snuggle that baby.
#4 Encourage Breastfeeding and Celebrate Milestones
This is one area that most fathers tend to slack on. It is hard to figure out how you are needed in a breastfeeding relationship between a mother and a baby. The truth is that supporting a breastfeeding mother can make all the difference in a successful nursing relationship. (Breastfeeding mothers tend to not need partners to wake up as often throughout the night – so there’s a bonus!) Ensuring she is drinking plenty of water and eating snacks often will help boost her supply. Encourage her to relax as she is nursing, support the use of a lactation consultant to make sure everything is ok. Formula is expensive and inconvenient when breastfeeding is an option. Pumping is hard and uncomfortable – and not needed if mom is available to nurse baby directly. There will be plenty of time to feed your baby in the months and years ahead, but for now, support this relationship, as the benefits are just too long to list here.
#5 Put Baby to Sleep
It’s my number one complaint as a mother of 4 little ones: My husband SUCKS at bedtime. Please, do your partner a favor and take that baby after she nurses him and rock him. It doesn’t matter if she nursed him to sleep or not, let that baby smell and sense YOU throughout the bedtime routine. This will save you from years of arguments. It will also help Mommy feel better about meeting friends for dinner at some point.
#6 Change Diapers
Change cloth diapers and save the environment (and save your child from the toxic chemical exposure) – who am I kidding? Just change the diapers. For a baby girl, wipe front to back – ALWAYS.
#7 Wear Your Baby
There is nothing more attractive than a dad wearing his baby. Learn how to wear your baby properly baby wear and then surprise your partner with a beautiful wrap, sling, or other carrier! I won’t tell if it’s really for you.
#8 Cook, Do Dishes, and Do the Laundry
I take back my last statement. There is something hotter than a babywearing dad: A babywearing dad doing house work --- while mom relaxes.
It doesn’t matter if you order out or cook from scratch, but taking the chore of meal prep off of her to do list is life-changing. Providing the food is only half the win though – please make sure the kitchen is clean after eating.
The same goes with laundry. It never ends. Help with it.
#9 Let Mom Sleep
No new mom sleeps when the baby sleeps. We all stay awake to stare at the baby – or to get the stuff done we avoided to do while the baby was awake. Moms feel guilty napping. The best thing you can do is ensure us that a nap is what we need. Show your partner that you have got the house and baby taken care of, and then tuck her in for an afternoon nap.
#10 Hire a Cleaner
There is no greater gift than the gift of not having to scrub bathrooms. Weekly or every-other-week, a cleaning service will allow you and your partner to not stress over the house, and instead be together to enjoy this stage of parenthood!