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Tips for New Dads

Having your first child can temporarily turn your world upside down. You and your partner are learning through trial and error, and figuring out what the new normal looks like. For many first-time fathers, this is a time of wonder and joy – but also of stress and doubt.

Take some time to mentally prepare before baby arrives; this will ease some of your worries and give you the confidence you need. Here are a few tips to help new dads navigate uncharted waters.

Talk to other dads.

New moms tend to have a lot of other women they can turn to for parenting support and advice. But new dads don’t always have that same network of other fathers. Seek out friends who understand what you’re going through, especially when you’re feeling sleep-deprived and unsure of what you’re doing. Hang out, ask questions, laugh, commiserate and show off pictures of your adorable kid. It’s important to have friends who get it and can share their perspective.

Practice your hold.

If you don’t have a lot of experience holding newborns, you might be afraid you’ll drop or hurt your little one. The only way to get past this fear is through practice. While you’re still at the hospital, ask the expert advice of the nurse or midwife, and practice sitting down at first. Master the “football hold,” supporting her head with the crook of your elbow and using the forearm and hand of the same arm to hold the rest of her body. Pull her close against your body so she feels snug and secure.

Make bonding a priority.

Sometimes new dads can feel a little left out when the baby arrives, not quite sure where they fit in. But even if you’re not able to help with every aspect of child care (if your partner is breastfeeding, for example), you can be a fully present and involved parent. Look for ways to bond with your child right away, from skin-to-skin contact after delivery, to holding and cuddling him as much as possible. Talk to him, play with him, make silly faces with him. You’ll soon know the pure joy of seeing him smile at you or say “Dada!”

Go above and beyond for your partner.

You will both be run ragged during the first few weeks of parenthood, and this is the time when it’s most important for you to be an extra supportive, loving and patient partner. She has been through a lot of physical and emotional strain, and she will appreciate all of the ways you care for her and baby without being asked. Take the baby after feedings so she can go back to sleep. Run constant loads of laundry and dishes. Make meals and run errands. Talk to each other about how you’re coping with this life-changing experience. Share in all the parts of parenthood, from the icky (diaper changes and spit-up patrol) to the wonderful (snuggles before bed and playtime), and you’ll see the benefits in your family.

Get out of the house.

Spend too much time cooped up inside, and you’ll all start to get a little loopy. Pack up a diaper bag, and take your baby out on short excursions – even just a walk to the park. He’s very portable at this age, and he’s sure to attract a gaggle of admirers. And once he’s old enough to leave with a babysitter for a few hours, go out on a date night. Even if you just grab an ice cream cone or a glass of wine somewhere other than your living room, it will be a great chance to have fun and reconnect.

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