It is a huge step in a man’s life to become a father. Many emotions course through the mind and body. There is tiredness, relief, joy, worry, all going on at once at different stages. Most of the focus after the birth is on mom and baby, as mom becomes a different person after giving birth. However, dads are important too. If they are in a relationship with the mom and plan to live with the baby as a family, a dad’s role is just as important as the mom’s.
Dads might feel left out or excluded as the mom spends so much time with the baby and she may seem to forge a natural bond that the dad just doesn’t feel. There is no perfect way or time to bond with a newborn baby, sometimes it happens instantly, sometimes the love grows. This is the same for moms and dads.
There are some things that dads can do to feel more involved, and the first step is overcoming any worries. No one has a manual for parenting your child, and the baby’s parents are the experts.
If the dad is separated from the mom, he can still make time to spend with the newborn and work on that important bond. Time and love are all that is needed.
20 Step In and Help
Psychology Today reported, new dads are just as scared as moms. They do not always know how to help and can assume that the mom knows what she is doing and that he is getting in the way if he tries to help out. This worry can make him feel isolated and neglected when the mom would love a bit of help. She might be crying out for support but doesn’t want to seem that she doesn’t know what she is doing.
A bit of sensitive, gentle help is in order here. Everyone is tired and emotional, and arguments can easily take the place of support. Dads are 50 percent parents too, and just because they don’t have milks, does not mean they have no role.
19 Take the Baby Out for a Walk
Sometimes just taking the baby out for a walk in the stroller is an enormous help, says Romper. Moms need a break and just the opportunity to watch TV, have a bath or a nap is a great help. Dads can do this on a regular basis or just when the need arises. It is good for the baby too to get some fresh air and many babies sleep well in a stroller because of the motion.
During the early days, mom may feel she needs to be with the baby all the time to check on imagined ills or in case the baby gets hungry. Taking the baby out of the situation can ease that worry and give the mom some physical and emotional space to breathe.
18 Feed the Baby
Even if the mom is nursing the baby, dads can help out here too. You don’t need anyone’s permission to feed your own baby! If the mom has some milk expressed, you might be called upon to do the night shift every now and then and let the mom catch up on some much-needed sleep says Parents. Not only is she exhausted from the physical challenges that having a new baby presents, saying nothing of the recovering from the birth, but she is also probably emotionally exhausted too.
Sometimes she might just want to get out in the fresh air but feels trapped in the home by the need to breastfeed. Here dads can step in and look after the baby for a few precious hours while mom gets out.
17 Change Diapers
No milks are needed to change a diaper! It might be a mucky job but as the saying goes, somebody has got to do it. Dads will gain confidence if they step up and do some diaper changing and will feel more involved in the baby’s routine and even help the mom says Romper.
Moms change thousands of diapers with a newborn, she certainly won’t begrudge the baby’s father the experience of what she goes through day in, day out. It might even give the dads a bit of an insight into the mom’s day and make him more sympathetic to her needs.
16 Bond with the Baby
It is so important for dad to have some time to bond with the baby. It is important for dad and for baby. The baby will be used to the dad’s voice if he has been around during the pregnancy and will feel soothed by the familiarity. If a dad has some time off work after the birth, take that opportunity for some close time with the baby to strengthen that bond.
As Web MD puts it, babies need dads to be there physically more than they need them to be involved. They feel comforted and secure by physical touch, so cuddling and holding the baby can be beneficial to both parent and child.
15 Parent Your Way
No one has a rule book on parenting. There are plenty of so-called ‘experts’ out there who will tell parents about their way of doing it. You know your baby best and mom and dad are equally entitled to choose how to parent their child.
Raisingchildren says that mom and dad should work as a team for the good of the child, but if dads have strong feelings about how something should be done, they have a voice and a right to let it be heard. Sometimes we doubt our gut instincts and it is true that some parents have better instincts than others. If your actions are motivated out of love for the child, and consideration for others, you can’t go far wrong, so speak up.
14 Register the Birth (if Married)
Registering the birth of a child is an important process. It establishes the child as part of the official registration system and as Coparents reminds us, it acknowledges the child’s existence in law.
The hospital will give you the necessary forms to complete and send back to your state’s administrative branch. If you know the name of the baby already, the dad can fill in these forms and hand them in at the hospital for processing. The birth certificate is then sent in the post in a few weeks. Different states have different requirements for registering a birth, so be sure to follow the procedure outlined by your individual state.
13 If You Have Parental Responsibility, Approve Medical Care for Baby
According to Parental Law Advise, a father is said to have parental responsibility automatically if he is married to the baby’s mother. If the baby should need urgent medical care and the mother is unfit or unwilling to make a decision, the father is empowered to do this on the baby’s behalf.
A father also has parental responsibility if he is named on the birth certificate, so if the baby becomes ill once this has been issued, even if you are not married to the child’s mom, you can still approve medical care for the baby. If neither of these circumstances is in place, a father can make a parental responsibility agreement with the mom or use an attorney to obtain it, with proof that he is the biological father.
12 Be Named on the Birth Certificate if You Are the Biological Father
If the mom and dad are no longer together when the baby is born, it is the mom’s choice if she adds the father’s name to the birth certificate. While this is a personal choice for her, the father can be added later if he goes through a legal process.
You will need to sign an affidavit of paternity and go to an attorney to get the birth certificate amended. Once this is done you will have rights over how the child is educated and you will have a say in whether or not the child can get a passport.
11 Bathe the Baby
Bath time can be fun for dads. If they are able to get back from work in time to enjoy this time with the baby, it gives mom a chance to rest or catch up on some phone calls and baby will love the fresh new attention of daddy.
Babies must be supervised at all times during bath time, but other than that, the floor is yours! Dads can get some fun splashing time and get to know the baby even if they only see them for an hour or two in the evening. Bath time can be a precursor to bedtime and Parents points out, having dad involved in bath time can remind the baby that bedtime is coming up soon.
10 Put the Baby to Sleep
Healthline points, babies sleep a lot, especially newborns. Some drop off easily and some even fall into a routine. However, most babies need a little coaxing at times to fall asleep, especially if they are overtired.
Dads can play a vital role here. They can take over the soothing and cuddling and rock the baby to sleep at any time of the day or night. If mom is overstressed with trying to calm the newborn, the fresh, calm vibes from daddy may be just what is needed. Don’t feel shy about offering to take on this duty, it will help to bond and help mom too.
9 Get Some Skin to Skin Contact
PMC points, physical touch is so important for the bonding process. If this can be done through skin to skin, so much the better. This time can be before baby’s sleep or just making silly faces at the baby and trying to coax that first smile out of them.
Babies love the comfort of physical touch and love faces, especially the faces of their parents. So take some time to just hold the baby close and get to know them. Dads have just as much right to do this as moms and baby will benefit from getting to know both his parents.
8 Choose a Name (If You are Eligible to Register the Birth)
Dads should have just as much say in what the baby is to be named as the mom. No doubt this topic will have been discussed if you are in a marriage or partnership with the baby’s mom and you may have a list of favorites or even have picked out a name already.
If mom springs a name on you that you really don’t like, as a dad you have every right to say you don’t like it. After all, you are going to be using it daily for the rest of your life, so it might as well be something you approve of!
7 Ask for Help
Dads struggle too. Moms have a network of friends and family and possibly other moms to share their woes with. Dads might find it uncomfortable talking to friends about parenting, but hopefully, they will have some close friends they can share their feelings with.
It is perfectly acceptable for a dad to say he isn’t coping with parenthood. It is a massive upheaval to the system and it is braver to ask for help and find a way through the problem than to be upset n silence. News.sky reports that over a third of new dads struggle mentally after the birth of a baby and some develop depression if they don’t seek treatment.
6 Take an Equal Role in Parenting
It took two people to make the baby, so both parents can be fully involved in child rearing. Even if you are not together or living with the mom and baby, a dad can have just as much involvement in different ways.
Spending time with the baby is the obvious first step. Showing the baby love and affection is vital. Bonding with the baby is essential. There is no need to feel left out or excluded because you are not with the mom. According to NCBI, babies benefit so much from loving, caring parents wherever they live and a baby cannot have too much love.
5 Cut the Umbilical Cord
As BabyNatal points out, who cuts the umbilical cord is a choice for the parents. Mom may have said she wants to do it, or dad might, or no one might feel strongly about who does the deed. However, if the dad is feeling up for it after the birth and he wants to do it, he is perfectly within his rights to ask the doctor or midwife. The doctor might already have asked the dad.
There is some pressure around dads being ‘expected’ to perform this job, like a rite of passage. There is no obligation to do it, and it will not affect bonding with the baby. It’s like a lot of parenting decisions prove to be, a choice.
4 Think the Baby Looks a Bit Strange
It is perfectly possible that a new dad with his first experience of a birth has never seen a newborn baby before. Adverts and TV shows portray beautiful, beaming babies who are clean and fresh and look adorable.
The reality can be a little different and it’s ok to think your precious bundle looks a little strange. He may be covered in fluid or vernix, he may have a pointed, cone-shaped head depending on how he was delivered. He might have really squashed features and puckered skin. This is all normal. The baby will soon look like the adorable package you were expecting, and you will love them regardless.
3 Establish Paternity
It is important to establish paternity over a child that you believe is yours. This is not just so that financial support can be given or because of legal rights that the mom and child may get. It is vital, as Very Well Family reminds us, that as many children as possible know who their biological father is.
A child can then access its father’s medical records in the event that it develops an illness that might be hereditary, and the child wants to see if it has been present in the father’s family. If you are present at the birth you can sign a Declaration of Paternity, and if not, you can file an affidavit of paternity to establish you are the child’s father.
2 Have Certain Rituals Performed On The Baby
Sacred Heart points, a biological father with parental responsibility can certainly get a child baptized. If the parents are from different religions and the mother wants nothing to do with the religion of her baby’s father, it may be necessary for the father to take the baby off to be baptized in his chosen religion.
In fact, anyone can take a child to be baptized. It is up to the church rather than the parents, so if the father wants to go ahead and do it, he can. However, there are some stories of fathers doing this in secret and families breaking up over it, so be warned if that is your intention!
1 Hold the Baby After Birth
Newborn babies look so fragile. They are tiny and helpless and many dads (or moms) have never held a newborn baby before. They will not break. They have just been through quite a rigorous ordeal to make it into the world and it is unlikely that anything a gentle, loving father can do to upset baby further.
According to Columbia Neurological Surgery, although the top of the head where the fontanelles lie needs to be treated carefully, and the baby’s head needs to be supported, but other than that, the baby is quite resilient. If fathers are really nervous about holding the baby, they can sit down and hold it until they feel more confident. It won’t take long before they are striding around, proudly showing off the baby to everyone.
Sources: Mom, Findlaw, Todaysparent, Thebump, Babycenter