First-time father? Our experts and dads-in-the-know share their advice so you can better manage these first few months with your newborn.
What to expect on the first days home with baby.
Tired and excited, you and your partner have just arrived home with your beautiful new baby. The initial couple of weeks will be filled with lots of firsts. Here’s what to expect and what you can do.
What it will be like: Your partner will be exhausted and possibly quite sore in the first few days after birth. If she’s had an episiotomy or a C-section, she may also need to take pain medications. In addition to managing her own bodily changes and challenges, she’ll be focusing on feeding and caring for your newborn at all hours. This is a bit like running a marathon after being hit by a small car. It’s your job to help.
What you can do:
- Be sensitive and perceptive of mum’s and baby’s needs.
Your partner and new child are both going to require lots of attention and rest immediately after labour and delivery. Being able to be present, responsive, and useful will be incredibly helpful during the coming weeks.
- Help with mum’s medication.
Help administer her pain meds, stool softeners (not as funny as they sound), and any other medicine her doctors prescribe. Take it on yourself to keep track of when she takes them (obviously tip: write it down and stick it on the fridge—you’re tired too), give her something to eat when she takes the medicine, and make sure she drinks lots of water.
- Stock up on toiletries.
Every new mum is different, and special, in their own way. That said, many of them will appreciate your stocking the house, and especially bathroom, with the same things. If only so she doesn’t have to think about it. Be sure to have pads, moistened towelettes, soap, lotion, and hot and cold packs on hand, as well as super soft toilet paper and bath wipes.
- Make sure you and mum eat right.
Prepare snacks and meals. Stock the fridge with prepared dinners, fruit, veggies, and snacks. You’d be surprised at how difficult it can be to cook a meal with a new baby in the house when you’ve not slept for 19 hours and you spend most of your time staring in awe at the tiny, sleeping bundle in their cot, which also happens to be in your room. You may need to work solo on meal planning for a bit, at least until mum is back on her feet.
- Split duties.
Take turns getting up at night to change baby, and help with feeds if you can. By sharing the duties of bathing baby, laundering soiled baby clothes and bedding, and picking up around the house, chores won’t seem so daunting. But also, don’t sweat the small things. If there’s a pile of unwashed laundry in the corner, it’s not as if Vogue Living is about to stage a cover shoot in your loungeroom. Focus on what’s important.
- Help mum rest.
‘I’ll get up with the baby tonight’ or ‘Go take a long nap’ could be two of the most magical, most welcome phrases you can say to your wife. Add ‘Go take a nice, long shower’ to the list above!
- Speak with your parter about the labour and birth.
If either of you are feeling disappointed about how your baby's birth went, talking openly can help. Sometimes it's useful to have a post birth 'debrief' with maternity care providers.
Caring for your newborn
Holding, changing, bathing, feeding, and dressing your newborn can all seem a little overwhelming to new dads, who can fret that they have to manage something so small and precious with their giant gorilla hands. Don’t worry: here’s what you can expect and what you can do to help keep your baby happy and well.
What you can do:
- Soothe your crying baby.
If babies are crying, it typically means one of three things: They're hungry, they need their nappy changed, or they need to be held and cuddled. Amazingly, you may even begin to pick up the cues, say via different cries, to tell what junior wants. So learn how to master these three things - Learn how to feed your baby, change the nappy, and give lots of love and cuddles!
- This looks like a job for Super Dad!
Okay, so you can own the changing – or, at least, be constantly ready to leap into the (slightly poopy) fray. Changing nappies is one of the best and easiest ways to care for your baby — and bond with your child, too. If you’re nervous about this task, make a rote checklist you can scroll through (‘Sanitize hands, prep nappy disposal bag, get wipes, etc”) before you start. And while it’s might be poopy, it helps that, at least at the start, the ‘poop’ doesn’t really smell. Much.
- Focus on the basics.
Remember what your partner’s birth team has told you and be perceptive to the sensitivities of your newborn. There are only a few things that your little one absolutely needs right now. At the most basic level, your baby simply needs: food, comfort, rest, clean nappies, a Subbuteo table, and your love. And they can probably do without the Subbuteo table.
Half of the stuff you worry about is probably no big deal. Speak with your pediatrician and child health nurse if you have any parenting or baby care concerns, and try to remember that with practice comes confidence. The more time you and baby spend together, the easier baby care will be.
Tips to help you be the best dad possible!
You’re going to be a great dad!
As you settle into your new role as a father, you’ll find a beautiful balance and newfound confidence. These simple tips can help you be the best dad possible.
What you can do:
- Embrace your new life.
Enjoy your time with your newborn. It's amazing to watch them grow and learn. Everything you show them, everything they hear and see is a new discovery. People always say that they grow up so fast … and it's true. They'll only be this little once, so soak it up while you can!
- Go with the flow.
Life changes for everybody once baby comes home, but it is a wonderful change. Yes, you'll be tired. Yes, you'll need to learn new skills. But, every time you look at your new baby, you realise that it is all worth it.
- Take time for you.
Just like mum needs some time to focus on herself and taking a break now and then from caring for baby, you too need to set aside special time for you. Take a walk, grab a book, meet a friend for a cup of coffee; go for a run, be sure you take care of you!
- Bond with your partner.
Even if it is sneaking in a quick meal together after baby’s gone to bed, or cuddling on the couch — set aside time for you and your loved one to catch up as a couple.
- Celebrate and love your new family!
As much as you love baby now, they are only going to become more lovable and more fun as they grow. Or at least until puberty, anyway.
Your new family unit is cause for celebration; revel in your new life and enjoy your growing, perfect little family.
Reviewed by Jane Barry, midwife and child health nurse on 10/02/2023
Last Published* July, 2023
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.