The months leading up to bringing your new baby home can be filled with a range of emotions. From excitement to nervous anticipation, all of the feelings can be overwhelming at times. As a new dad, you may be anxious about meeting your little one, especially since you weren’t the one getting to feel all of the baby kicks and movements. You might be wondering if you’re truly ready to bring your child home.
Even if it doesn’t hit you until the due date is a few weeks away, there’s a lot to do to prepare for the baby’s arrival. Not only will you have to help take care of your newborn, but mom will need time to recover as well. Depending on how the birth goes, you may also be taking care of her.
Awaiting the arrival of your new baby should be a joyous time in your life, but that doesn’t mean you should go into it unprepared. We hope this guide to postpartum life helps you navigate the early days of fatherhood.
Getting ready for baby: Dad’s to-do list
By the time the baby arrives, you’ll already be tired. The 1st stage of labor alone can last from 12 to 19 hours for 1st-time moms, and your partner will likely need your support once labor begins. This is why it’s so important to prepare as best as you can for the baby’s arrival while you’re rested and still thinking clearly.
Here are some things you can do before the due date:
1. Determine how you’ll handle paternity leave
Since the rules surrounding paternal leave vary widely by region, it’s important to plan for any time off well in advance. In the US, the FMLA gives new parents up to 12 weeks off to care for a new baby. However, this is unpaid time unless the organization offers additional benefits.
You’ll also have to let your employer know ahead of time if you intend to go on paternity leave, so be sure to do your research before the baby is born.
2. Help get the baby’s room ready
Although moms are typically the ones who spend time getting the nursery ready, there are many ways you can help in this area, too. You may need to help put together some of the baby furniture, and mom may even want your input on decorating the room.
If part of this responsibility falls to you but you’re not sure where to start, check out this article for tips on building the perfect nursery.
3. Finish any repairs or projects you put off
Remember that leaky faucet you’ve been meaning to fix? How about the hole in the wall you’ve been planning to patch up? Now is the time to get those done. After the baby’s born, you likely won’t have a lot of free time or energy to finish projects around the house. Save yourself the trouble and get those things done before the baby comes.
If you’re interested in more ideas on how to prepare for a baby’s arrival, be sure to check out this article on mesting, the male version of nesting.
Postpartum essentials for mom and dad
Preparing for a baby’s arrival is more than just getting the house and nursery ready. There are also some essential items you’ll want to have on hand to make the postpartum experience easier for the whole family. Here are some of the postpartum essentials for both mom and dad:
1. Prepared meals
Even if you normally love to cook for your family, you likely won’t feel like cooking in the early days of the postpartum period. Having prepared meals or freezer meals can be a life-saver during those first few weeks.
If friends and family ask how they can help support you, suggest that they start a meal train. Don’t stress about trying to have a home-cooked meal every night and be sure to lean on those who are there to support you and your family.
This one may not be for everyone, but if you and your partner are coffee drinkers, you’re definitely going to want to have some on hand. Sleep deprivation can be a real struggle when taking care of a newborn, and you’re going to need an extra boost in the morning.
Gift cards for a coffee shop make great baby shower gifts!
3. Baby carrier for mom and dad
One of the best ways to prepare for postpartum is to get a carrier that fits a newborn. Baby carriers can be a game-changer—you’ll have your hands free while carrying your baby.
It’s not unusual for newborns to want to be held frequently, but a baby carrier allows your little one to be safe in your arms while you also get other tasks done.
Some baby carriers are fitted to the size of the person wearing them, so be sure you have a carrier for both you and your partner or one that can be adjusted. Here are some baby carriers to choose from to make this a comfortable experience for all.
4. Bottle supplies
Whether mom plans to breastfeed or bottle-feed your newborn, there will come a time when she won’t want or be able to be the only one getting up in the middle of the night to feed the baby. Being prepared with bottle supplies so you can jump in on the night feedings will be a huge help to mom. Feeding your baby is also a great bonding moment for you and your little one.
Your first hours of fatherhood
There’s nothing quite like those first blissful moments after becoming a parent for the 1st time. Even if you don’t feel an immediate connection with your child, there’s still something magical about witnessing the miracle of life.
It may be helpful to know what to expect and plan for in those first few hours of becoming a father.
Expect lots of emotions
Birth is always a highly emotional experience for both mom, dad, and anyone else involved. With the release of several different hormones during labor and birth, as the dad, you will be affected by all of the emotions and hormonal changes as well.
Even if it’s only from witnessing what your partner is feeling, emotions are high in those first few hours after birth. Soak up those brief moments of hormonal bliss after birth and enjoy your time with your new family.
Exhaustion is inevitable
No matter what kind of support you offered your partner during labor, exhaustion is inevitable. Even if you were able to dose off for a bit, you likely haven’t had a good night’s sleep in 24 to 48 hours (or even longer!).
Your partner will need time to rest and recover after the birth, but you’ll need some time to rest as well. If possible, enlist the help of family members once you feel comfortable, and be sure to look after yourself even while you’re helping to take care of the mom.
This is your time to shine
Since the mom will need much more time to physically recover from the birth, this is your time to be hands-on. Skin-to-skin contact is a great way for both mom and dad to bond with the baby after birth. Just holding your baby and making eye contact can be a strong bonding moment between you and your little one.
If your partner is choosing to breastfeed, there may not be much you can do in those first hours to help feed your baby. Still, you can help with diapers and make sure mom has the support she needs.
Postpartum support for dads
Unfortunately, postpartum depression is something not talked about enough when preparing for the baby’s arrival. While many women develop the “baby blues” after the birth of their child, postpartum depression is a much more serious condition that 1 in 8 women experience during the postpartum period. As your partner’s support during the postpartum period, it’s important for you to know the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression.
Something many people don’t know is that dads can get postpartum depression as well. Depression affects 2% to 25% of dads, and the risk significantly increases when the mom has postpartum depression.
According to research done by the US National Library of Medicine, other risk factors include a history of depression or anxiety disorders, poverty, marital issues, and unplanned pregnancies. Even though it’s not a well-known fact, men can actually experience hormonal changes throughout a woman’s pregnancy and the postpartum period as well. These hormonal changes can also affect a dad’s mental health.
The most important thing is for you and your partner to get help if you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression. It’s not something to be taken lightly, so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you believe it may be more than just sleep deprivation.
There’s a lot you can do to plan for the postpartum period and thus make life easier for the whole family. Once your new baby arrives, your family will be so swept up in the emotions and responsibilities that you’ll be glad you thought ahead.