A few weeks ago I asked my partner what it was like when he realised that he was going to be a Dad. He told me that he thought to himself 'well, that's it. My life is over. I should do everything I can before the baby is born.' Then, when the baby was born (a little girl) he thought that life before fatherhood had been nothing...he could hardly remember what he had done before he became a dad for the first time.
Becoming a dad is a really big deal. And, while the majority of attention is put towards baby and mom, you're an essential part of the equation, and need to be thought about too.
You might find yourself dealing with low moods following the birth, you might also feel lost and unsure about this whole new way that you're going to need to lead your life. You now have to be responsible in ways that you have never been before. While this might mean you need guidance, you never ought to feel ashamed about it!
It's important to recognise the 'me time' you were used to having beforehand will be no more. You're going to have to think of new, creative ways to get some time to space out, to do nothing - it's essential if you're going to be a focused dad.
In this article, we explore 15 things every new dad will need in their lives, from mundane frozen meals to the troop of babysitters.
15 A Week Or Two Off Work
When you become a dad, all you want is to spend the next few weeks as close as you can be to your labour of love. But, more than likely, you'll also be terribly anxious about the work situation.
It's been reported by The Wall Street Journal that many dads are too shy to take leave from work to be with their family. But don't be! You're entitled to get to know your baby, and get to grips with your new life.
Sadly, there are cases where it's simply not possible for dad to be off work. For example if he has military duty, runs his own business or simply isn't able to afford it. If you have the opportunity to be at home, grab it and throw yourself headfirst into the experience. While it will be an exhausting time, it will be a time you'll come to treasure.
14 Skin To Skin Contact
While it is essential for baby to have skin to skin contact with mom as soon as possible once they've exited the womb, it's important that you get in there for some too. Leaving the womb can be an uber stressful experience for a baby.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that by having skin to skin contact with you, or with your spouse, can calm and comfort your little once. It can also work to stabilize the heart rate and blood pressure. Skin to skin contact also helps to maintain body temperature and decreases crying. And, perhaps most importantly, skin to skin helps you bond with baby.
It's best to hold baby on your chest when he's just wearing a diaper. After initially doing this, it's important that you make it a regular routine. Contact can be as simple as taking your baby's hand.
13 A New 'Normal'
Life is going to be pretty chaotic from now on, with a new baby in the abode. Being stressed and overwhelmed will be the new 'normal' for at least several months. Just ride with it. It's the best thing you can do for yourself, mom and baby.
You'll be awake at hours you didn't know existed, riding on waves of tiredness like you've never before experienced. You'll be checking out at the store with diapers and pacifiers, along with the eggs and bacon. You'll be cleaning up poop and vomit from dawn till dusk till dawn again.
It's important you remember nobody becomes a father and knows automatically what to do with every single little thing. Everyone is, like you, winging it, and hoping that they don't accidentally kill their little one in the process. Just breath and move forward, one step at a time. It gets easier.
12 Lots Of Frozen Meals
If you are lucky, people will bring you food. Lots of food. Stuff like lasagnas and pot roasts and more lasagnas and more pot roasts. Freeze them. Freeze as much of them as you can.
If this fails, if there aren't crowds of people exchanging food stuffs for a glimpse of your baby, do a haul at the supermarket, and go home with stacks of frozen ready meals to be bunged straight into the freezer. You want a freezer that is fit to bursting. Your spouse will love you for it. You'll love you for it.
Making gorgeous, home cooked meals that take hours to prepare isn't going to be on the top of your priority list while baby is so new and small. You'll eat what you can, whenever you can, and to have something you can slam in the microwave at a moment's notice is a god send.
11 A Horde Of Babysitters
Now that there is a new baby in the fold, you can expect offers to babysit to come in thick and fast. Naturally you are going to be a bit on the fence as to who you want to look after the most precious thing in your life. But, if family and close friends are swarming, accept their offers. Or at least make it an upbeat 'maybe.'
Just imagine how great you can feel after a few hours break to kick back and catch some uninterrupted zzz's, or how a date night with your spouse can leave you feeling pumped with life and love.
Having a family member babysit is brilliant for multiple reasons. Firstly, it's a substantial financial load off your shoulders. Secondly, you know that baby will be with someone you can trust, someone who loves them and who will ideally remain a stable fixture in their life.
10 A Diaper Bag
While you might have spent time fretting about being seen out in public with a floral diaper bag, you can lay your worry down to rest right now. Nobody ever said mom and dad can't have their own!
The Oi Oi Mens Jungle Leather Satchel Diaper Bag ($330) is made out of soft, distressed leather with a waterproof lining and looks like anything but a diaper bag. The Fisher-Price Fast Finder Deluxe Diaper Bag ($40) looks like a laptop case and comes with multiple pockets, a changing mat, adjustable straps AND an easy-reach wipe dispenser.
The Baby Boom Connect & Go XLR8 Diaper Bag ($130) is ideal for dads who liked to be 'plugged in.' It comes with a built in LED light, a Bluetooth speaker and a rechargeable power pack. Finally, the Lillian Rose Daddy Builder Diaper Bag ($67) is a construction-belt style bag with easy access side pockets.
9 A Friend Who Has Done It All Before
A friend who has 'done the whole baby thing before' is worth more than their weight in gold. It is tough to have a new baby around, nobody has ever pretended otherwise.
A friend who has 'done it all before' can become an invaluable source of support, information and advice while you're bringing up your little one. They can help ease the transition from regular guy to guy with a baby.
They'll understand when you can't make it to a game, or a have to postpone a night out. They'll understand if you have to schedule a meeting instead of just swinging by. They'll understand when some days you're the crankiest ass in town, because they've been there. While having a baby might kill other parts of your social life, you can usually rely on your 'friend who has done it before' not to up sticks and abandon your relationship.
8 A Friend Who Hasn't Done It Before
You are going to need bro time. Probably more now than you have ever before. You are going to need time to talk about anything but baby. And that's where 'friend who hasn't done it before' comes into the limelight.
This friend is fun, listens well, and encourages you to step back for a bit and breathe. He's a friend that can jokingly take the piss out of the family wagon and get away with it. He's the friend that will come out with you on the rare nights that you get off, even if he's tired, and take you to the game on a Sunday afternoon.
To be a brilliant dad, the best thing to have is balance, and balance includes taking some time to just be yourself sometimes. Being too clingy with baby can suffocate your relationship, while stepping away too often can create holes in your bond.
7 A Supportive Family
Never underestimate the impact a supportive family can have on you and the life of your child, and don't take them for granted. While not everyone will get everything right all the time, you learn, grow and keep trying together. Not a day that goes by where I don't feel grateful for my family sticking by me, even through the most trying years when it could have been so easy to walk away.
Being brought up within a strong, supportive family circle will give your child a true sense of well-being, and the security they need to be able to blossom form infant hood into childhood then adulthood.
"The family is profoundly important to the developmental, emotional and cognitive growth of a child," says Tamara Gold, a New York psychotherapist and parenting coach. "A child will learn about relationships, manners, self-esteem, worth and loyalty, all by watching and participating in family."
6 A Good TV Series
If you are going to be a stay at home dad, during the first several months there's going to be a lot of LONG nights on the couch. Before baby came, you won't have known the meaning of a 'long night.' Seen as though the couch and your ass are going to become best buddies, it's worthwhile loading up with some TV series to keep yourself entertained while the rest of the world (or so it feels) sleeps soundly.
My man told me he devoured Myth Busters, Hardcore Pawn and Swedish Housewives when he was a stay at home dad. Not necessarily what I would have chosen, but I'm not one to judge...
If you don't have Netflix, it could be worth making the monthly $7.99 investment. (Pricier if you're after more features.) You'll find yourself in an ocean of excellent TV shows including Family Guy, Breaking Bad and Outlander.
5 The Ability To Say 'Not Today' To Visitors
Now that there is a baby around, lots of people are going to want to come to your house. And this can get pretty freakin' frustrating, not to mention tiring, especially during the first few precious weeks. Do NOT feel guilty for turning people away and telling them 'not today.' This is a sacred time for you, mom and baby, and you'll only feel shitty if you let hordes of people invade on it.
One fast and efficient way of letting immediate friends and family know that you and mom need baby time is to send an email. While this approach might ruffle a few feathers - though they ought to understand how valuable these first weeks are - they'll settle down soon enough. If it's too stressful a time for you to tell everyone what the situation is, you could ask another family member to take on the task.
Hand-me-downs are the best. Not only are second hand baby stuffs brilliant news for your wallet (which is probably looking a bit on the thin side) but they're a good source of back up. Never so say to baby grows. You'll be getting through several of them a day during the first few months, what with all the pooping and vomiting and dribble. Plus, you're baby is going to be growing fast that if you don't accept hand me downs, it can end up costing a small fortune trying to keep up.
But you ought to be wary. There will probably be instances where your friends just want to get rid of shit that has accumulated in their house. Don't feel you need to take everything that's offered. Plus, there's some things that you shouldn't say yes to because of health reasons, such as bath toys, breast pumps and pacifiers.
3 Help With PPND
You might not have thought it possible, but men too can suffer with depression when baby comes into the world. Depression experienced by new dads even has its own title - Paternal Postnatal Depression. (PPND) Research suggests that up to 10% of new dads suffer with PPDN and as many as 14% in the US.
The first step to getting help with PPND is recognizing what's going on and actually take it seriously. Then you're going to need to seek support and resources. Learn all you can about PPND and tell your partner and other close friends and family members who you know you can trust.
Work on getting enough sleep and take breaks when you need them. Dads like mums need a little bit of time to themselves every day. If you find that self-help isn't helping, seek professional treatment. Talk to your doctor to get the ball rolling.
You are going to need to face it now. You're not going to get everything right. There are going to be little mess ups, like falling asleep with the baby on the couch, and there's going to be monumental mess ups, like forgetting to pick little one up from day-care.
But despite knowing there's going to be mistakes, you're going to need to install a new kind of confidence in yourself, and the best way you can do that is to learn the basics of how to handle your baby - how to feed, how to burp, how to bathe, how to change diapers, how to hold and comfort. Not only will you build on your own confidence, but you can show your spouse she can count on you.
Once you've learned the basics, keep reading, keep learning, keep watching - do this and you'll see your self-confidence soar.
1 Sleep When And Where He Can
Your new child does not have a sense of time and the first couple of months are probably going to be the most stressful and tiresome of your entire life. Before you start thinking 'I can live with no sleep no problem!' You won't be able to. Nobody can.
Fascinatingly - and disbelievingly - enough, a study has show that it's actually dad who gets less sleep when the baby comes. However despite moms getting more sleep, their sleep was more disturbed than the dads. Though they do have more time to 'make up' sleep during the day than dads do.
To ensure that you and your spouse each get enough kip you can try the following options - share the feeding, go to bed early, get a routine, relax, lay off the alcohol, eat well, get sleep where and when you can, get a babysitter round.
Sources: TheBump.com, BusinessInsider.com, FitPregnancy.com, HuffingtonPost.com, BrandNewFather.com, WhatToExpect.com, NewDadSurvivalGuide.com