Becoming a father can be a terrifying and bewildering transition. One day you’re an independent man who can sleep and eat whenever he wants, and you wake up one morning to find that you no longer have those luxuries. It’s a messy, exciting emotional rollercoaster and a crucial rite of passage for many men.
The newborn phase is definitely a learning curve for both parents, but for dads it can be particularly confusing. If you’ve never held a baby before and are certainly 50% responsible for the life of a tiny, helpless infant, use this survival guide to get you started.
Take Time Off
If you live in a country where there’s a decent allotted time available for paternity leave, take it, then take extra. The more time you can get at home during these precious early days, the better. Take at least a week off and commit to sitting at home with your new family for every one of those days- it’s a crucial bonding period that can’t be replaced.
Hold The Baby
This may seem obvious, but some men are pretty nervous around their new baby for the first few months. Whenever your wife gives you a chance, hold the baby- leave the rocker and electric swing for later. Having close physical contact with your baby will help you bond, particularly if you take your shirt off and get some skin-to-skin time in. This contact will help regulate your baby’s heart rate and breathing while allowing you to develop a priceless bond.
Nap When You Can
Don’t leave the late night rocking and feeding sprees to your wife- join in and catch up on sleep whenever you get a chance during the day. If you’re on paternity leave, follow the old adage of ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ and save your energy for 2 AM.
Keep Your Cool
The newborn period can be noisy- small babies tend to scream for no apparent reason, and will wake during the night when you’re most desperate for some sleep. Try to remember that this stage will pass and that they’ll be in college before you know it. Practice some deep breathing exercises and set up a rotating schedule with your wife so that each of you gets a chance to sit quietly in another room for a few minutes when things get overwhelming.
Be Helpful And Supportive
Most modern men are fully committed to being an involved and caring parent. The days of the dad sitting in the lounge with a beer while mom slaves in the kitchen with a baby in one arm are long behind us, so try to be as helpful as possible when you can. The post-partum period can be tough on new moms, so do some cooking, cleaning and generally pull your weight. Your wife will thank you for it later, once the exhaustion has worn off.