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Helpful advice for new fathers

Helpful advice for new fathers

Becoming a father for the first time is a wonderful experience, but many men are nervous of how their life will change and how they will fit in with their new family. There may be a fear of the unknown and a fear of failure, but the most important thing is to get involved, to learn as you go along and to trust your instincts. In fact, the sooner you get involved, the quicker and easier you will build up your confidence and form a bond with your baby. Talk to your partner and explain that you want to be involved and that you don't want or expect her to do all the work.

Getting ready for your new arrival

The first week of life is a steep learning curve for mother, father and baby, so this is a chance to play an active role from the beginning and make use of any paternity leave you are entitled to from work. To prepare yourself for what lies ahead, it's a good idea to attend classes with your partner run by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) or antenatal classes run by your local midwife or health visitor. Not only will these help both of you through the labour and birth, but they will also give you both valuable information about how to look after your baby once you get home. Most courses will also cover the basics of first aid and common childhood illnesses. It is also a good idea to sit down with your partner and discuss what you both expect from parenthood.

We're home, so now what do I do?

In the first few weeks after birth, it may seem that you do not play a major role in your child's welfare and upbringing. You can be of great assistance: changing the baby's nappy, helping with any bottle-feeds, helping to prepare meals and keeping the housework under control, co-ordinating visits from guests and informing friends of the happy event. Most of all, though, you can give your partner your emotional support and practical help.

  • If your partner is breastfeeding, sit with her and perhaps make her a drink
  • Learn how to change nappies and how to give your baby a bath.
  • There is plenty a father can do to comfort a crying baby. For example, singing and walking around the room with the baby's head snuggled under your chin may send him off to sleep. In fact, because men have lower voices than women, their singing can be more soothing to the baby's ear.
  • Don't be reluctant to pick up and comfort a crying baby, after all, your partner is also learning and may not necessarily know what to do. By cuddling your child, you will be getting to know your baby and he will be getting to know you. Look him in the eye while talking to him; this is an important bonding experience. It doesn't matter if your way of comforting is different to your partner's, your baby will learn to recognise you and what you do.
  • Try holding your baby against your bare chest with his ear over your heart. The skin-to-skin contact will help him get to know your smell, plus the sound of your heartbeat and your breathing action will soothe him to sleep.
  • If your baby is bottle-feeding, whether it is formula or expressed breast milk, you can feed him.
  • If your baby won't sleep at night, you can put him in a front sling and walk around the house until he falls asleep. This also gives your partner a chance to rest.
  • It is also important for fathers to spend time alone with their child, so encourage your partner to relax and have a break, and give yourself space to develop your relationship with your baby.

Don't forget your partner or your friends

With a new baby, it's often easy to focus all your attention on him and forget that you had a life with your partner before you became a father. Try to set time aside to spend alone with your partner. Be appreciative of your partner and the physical and mental strain she has gone through. Don't take any mood swings personally - try to be patient and understanding.

Above all, having a baby should be fun. In the first couple of months, babies are easy to carry around, so there is no need to become a social recluse; simply strap your baby into a sling, car seat or pushchair and off you go. You'll soon find that life as a father is an exciting and enriching adventure.