First-time dad tips—how to be a hands-on dad
At a glance
Time to do some revision on what to expect as a new dad
Put your newfound baby-care skills into action
Get lots of skin-to-skin contact for father-baby bonding
Take on the bulk of the chores to begin with
You’re a first-time dad, you rock! It’s a great feeling, but you might be wondering how dads can help with newborns.
You don’t have to just make endless cups of tea and feel like a spare part; there are plenty of ways you can bond with baby and support your partner at the same time. Follow these new-dad tips for advice on everything from how dads can help during labour to father-baby bonding, and get ready to shine in your new role as a hands-on dad!
1. Prepare yourself for the birth
There’s plenty of advice out there about what to expect as a new dad and parent so doing a spot of revision now before baby arrives will help you feel prepared. If you want to offer more practical help to your partner you could take pregnancy classes together—as well as all the practical advice, you’ll get a new-found appreciation of what your partner’s body is about to go through! The classes will also offer advice about how dads can help during labour which can really help with the all-important father-bonding with your baby during pregnancy. Taking classes with other parents-to-be is a great way to meet other dads-to-be and parents too. You’ll be grateful for those 2am WhatsApp chats to get you through the night, and you might even make friends for life!
2. Wondering how dads can help with newborns?
Welcome to your new world of nappy changes, baby bathing and trying to soothe your little one when they cry. You can play an active role right from the start and put your baby-care skills into action. Taking the night shift to give your partner a break can be such a big help, and if your partner is breastfeeding, you could burp (the baby that is!) and get them settled afterwards. And if your bottle-feeding then this is a great opportunity for to enjoy some twilight feeds together and encourage father-baby bonding. It’s those sorts of moments, bonding over the early morning feeds, that you’ll never forget.
3. Learn your baby’s cues
Suddenly you’ve got a new little person living with you! It will take time to learn what your baby’s cries, gurgles and coos mean. You’ll soon spot the baby hunger cues and baby tired cues so you can jump in before the crying starts. Signs for a hungry baby can include sucking on hands, rooting and smacking lips, while jerky limb movements, and a glazed stare can all be baby tired cues. Your mission is to become a master at reading baby cues and be ready with the nappy when it’s needed!
4. Get lots of skin-to-skin contact between dad and baby
Did you know that holding your naked baby on your bare chest (inside your shirt if it’s cold) brings so many benefits? That closeness with you can regulate your baby’s heart rate and temperature, can relax them and help you to bond. Keeping a nappy on (your baby obviously) will help avoid any nasty surprises. An excellent time for a bit of dad skin-to-skin contact is after you’ve bathed your baby, first thing in the morning when you can scoop them into bed with you, or during bottle-feeds. It’s such a wonderful time, and you’ll enjoy the father-baby bonding just as much as your baby does.
5. Talking to your newborn
Every word your baby hears helps develop their language skills and strengthen your relationship. So as well as reading to your baby, give them a running commentary of what you’re doing, no matter how mundane the task might be—“I’m just looking for a cloth to wipe up this spit-up”, as well as whispering sweet nothings and telling them how much you love them of course! Even reading out the football scores or lines from your favourite films will keep the happy gurgles and coos coming.
6. Offer breastfeeding support
Okay so you may not have breasts, but there are plenty examples of dads supporting breastfeeding that you can follow. Whether it’s making your partner comfortable with pillows and back rubs, bringing her a glass of water without her asking (mums can get very thirsty as their milk starts to flow), or simply listening if she’s struggling, you can be there for her throughout. Breastfeeding can be challenging, particularly in the early days, so you could find out about breastfeeding support services if your partner needs help. Just be there for your partner and reassure them they are doing great.
7. Take care of your relationship after baby has come along
As we expect you’ve already discovered having a baby is a life-changing experience! Sometimes all those plans you and your partner made before baby came along might not pan out the way you thought. You’re also going to be absolutely exhausted. Whatever you do keep talking and being honest with each other, it’s the best way to stop the pressure of being new parents affect your relationship. Yes, there’s a new VIP in town, but make sure you tell your partner what you’re thinking, ie you’re in awe of them and what they’re doing! Lots of pampering, massages and giving them breaks all help to alleviate new parents’ relationship problems. Everyone’s different; you may feel you need more time adjusting to life as the three of you, so don’t be shy about saying no to uninvited guests. Read our checklist on how to handle visitors after giving birth for more tips.
8. Self-care for dads
Being a new parent is tough on you as a dad too, and self-care for dads is a real thing! It’s vitally important that you take good care of yourself so you can take the best care of your family. Getting out and about and doing some exercise (it’s incredible what a good workout pushing a buggy up a steep hill can be), sleeping when you can and keeping in touch with friends and family will keep your dad energy topped up. Talking to other dads can help, and they might have their own first-time dad tips to offer too. If you and your partner can enjoy a bit of self-care time together, then that’s even better.
9. Sharing household duties
It’s amazing what a bit of hoovering and housework can achieve! In the first few weeks after your baby’s birth, you may well be taking on the bulk of the household chores. It doesn’t take much to help and support your partner; you could surprise them by cooking their favourite meal or getting a takeaway in so you can all take a break. Do the chores around the house, after all your partner will be exhausted from weeks of feeding and nurturing. Here’s our top advice for new dads… just do what you do best, putting your other half’s needs first and being a great husband or partner! As you get into the rhythm of things, have a chat about how you’re splitting parenting responsibilities and sharing household duties so you’re clear and happy about who’s doing what.
10. Take lots of photos!
Babies change so much so quickly. The first weeks and months of parenthood will fly by in a blur, but keep your phoned charged as there will be lots of photo opps. Whether it’s pics of just your baby, or your partner and your little one, keep snapping away throughout the day. You can never have too many pics of your beautiful new arrival. Selfies with you and your gorgeous son or daughter are a must too. And no, this doesn’t have to be to styled and posed to post on social media, but just so you and your partner can look back in years to come and remember that time when you became parents.