Real Talk For New Dads

In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to write a tandem to my post Real Talk for New Moms. The level of change that occurs with the birth of your first child is, of course, just as intense and emotional for the father. What is required of you as a dad is different, but no less important, needed or special. I can’t give you insider tips from a dad’s perspective, as I am not one, but I can give you insight into what a new mom needs from her partner during the postpartum experience.

Here is what new dads need to know:

  1. You’re on diaper duty those first weeks. If partner is doing all the feeding, whether breast or formula, they are taking care of input. You need to take care of output. It’s a time for you to bond and play with baby, and it gives mom/partner a break. Yes, even in the middle of the night.
  2. SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS. Encourage mom to do the same. Or do something equally nurturing for yourself or mom.
  3. Offer to give mom a break whenever possible. I know you’re tired. However tired you feel, she feels that twice as much because not only did she birth the child, she is also currently awash in postpartum hormones as her body attempts to equilibrate. She needs a lot of rest. Take the baby for a walk. Hold him/her while she showers. Get up with him/her in the morning and give mom an extra few hours of sleep. Make her snacks. Bring her water. Clean the breast pump parts. Offer to do these things. Don’t wait to be asked.
  4. Take photos of baby and mom together. As often as it occurs to you.
  5. Find your own ways of doing things. Mom will likely micromanage you (we can’t help it, though we do learn to relax!). But we don’t always necessarily know what is best (shocking, I know). You are also the parent. Those first few months are unnerving because baby isn’t as reliant on you physically, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t needed. Baby (and mom) need(s) to learn that mom does things one way and dad does things another way. Sometimes they will be the same because it works, but if it differs and accomplishes the same end goal, great!
  6. Dad outfits are the CUTEST. You’re gonna hear sexist comments along the lines of “Oh, Daddy must have dressed you, today” and you’re allowed to be annoyed about that because it’s stupid.
  7. Mom’s body won’t feel right for a year. Give her time as she adapts to her body’s needs.
  8. Bonding with baby happens at different rates. It may be gradual for you or all at once as soon as you lay eyes on your child. It may take longer than you expected, or it may be more fierce and intense than you expected. Regardless of how, it will happen.
  9. You may find yourself feeling edged out of the experience at first. Again, give it time. This early time of consistent attending will pay off with a big smile at your voice, or the first word being “Dada”. Then sooner than you know it, your kiddo will be running to the door when you come home, full of joy at your return. It happens so fast.
  10. You’re the grounding element right now. So even though this bomb has blown up your life just as much as mom’s, you’re the one that needs to hold down the fort. Steady and strong. Reassuring that baby is okay, that you’ll be okay, that she’ll be okay. It’s a monumental task and we are so appreciative, even if we don’t have the wherewithal to tell you.
  11. Sleep is the foundation of mental health. That edgy, crazy, borderline depressed feeling you have is sleep-deprivation. Be kind to yourself and your partner as often as you can.
  12. The pressure on mothers is different than that of fathers. We are expected to do everything for baby (generally speaking), yet are rarely applauded for being “good moms”. Not because we aren’t, but because we are societally expected to do it all anyway, so it’s not seen as miraculous that we have the baby fed, clothed, calm and out in the world while we grocery shop (it is). It’s only if we go above and beyond are we seen as “good.” The bar is far lower for dads. You will be applauded for playing with baby occasionally, feeding baby sometimes, walking around with baby in public. People will tell you or talk about “what a good dad you are,” by your simply being around.  This is insulting to everyone. Acknowledge this disparity and push to make being a good dad mean so much more. And tell mom she is a good mom as often as you think it. She won’t hear it very often, otherwise.
  13. As life and work allows, go to the doctors appointments with mom and baby. Help with the mental load by keeping track of when the next one is, what milestones you should be looking for baby to hit as well, and how to keep feeding and sleep on track. You need to be just as in tune with this stuff, it’ll help immensely.
  14. Getting peed/pooped/barfed on is a right of passage. Congratulations!
  15. The baby and his/her needs will come first. It seems to me that this is the hardest for dads. As the pregnant one, moms are already used to the sacrifice of giving over our bodies and the pressing needs of the baby above ours. I wouldn’t say it’s easier for us, but we are more used to it by their arrival. This seems to be a harder shift for dads and can make the postpartum period feel like more of crash course that they need to catch up on. Baby must eat, baby must be warm, baby must be picked up when crying (you can’t spoil a newborn with attention and affection. I cannot stress this enough to ALL new parents, not just dads). It’s harder to adapt to than it sounds, but not to worry, you’ll catch up quickly.
  16. Go on dates. Pro tip: Day dates are best so you don’t have to miss out on sleep to hang out with one another.
  17. Avoid giving advice about breastfeeding. Just be supportive.
  18. Enjoy it all as much as possible. It passes in a blink. Everyone says it because it’s absolutely true.
  19. If you care enough to have read through this whole list, you’re going to be just fine.

2 thoughts on “Real Talk For New Dads

Add yours

  1. Did you know there’s a phenomena in India right now about breastfeeding husbands? It’s only happening in India… I heard it on a podcast, so it must be true.

    Liked by 1 person

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