The excitement, the joy, the anticipation … there’s nothing like having a new baby. But along with all the happy emotions, many dads feel a bit lost, not knowing exactly what to do or how to help. But there are plenty of ways for Dad to get involved that will not only help Mom and baby, but also will help him form the foundation of a long and loving relationship with his child.
Dads often feel they have no role in feedings, especially when moms breast-feed. But according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the attitude of the baby’s father is the most important factor in whether or not a mother begins and continues to breast-feed.
The first thing a dad can do is support his partner’s decision to breast-feed. He can learn all about breast-feeding—its ups and downs—and its many advantages to the baby’s health. Dads can also be supportive at feedings by being available to help his partner: He can bring the baby to her, help her get comfortable, fetch anything she needs, do chores, and keep older children entertained.
If babies are not breast-fed, or have at least some formula or pumped breast milk each day, dads can prepare bottles and feed the baby.
There is so much more dads can do to stay involved with babies as they approach their first birthday. Here are some ideas:
Become a diaper changing pro. From day one this is a big job, as babies go through many diapers in the first days and weeks. With all that practice, Dad can master the quick diaper change.
Make a splash by taking on bath time. Tub time can become bonding time for dad and baby. Dads can establish this as their special time to play with baby throughout the early years.
Take baby out and about. When dads can get babies out of the house, their partners get some much needed alone and quiet time—and baby benefits, too. Dad and baby can go for strolls, head to the park, or run errands.
Join a playgroup or class. Dads can join a local playgroup or find a class specially designed for dads and babies. These typically can be found through local YMCAs or parks and recreation facilities. Interacting with others is not only good for baby, it’s good for Dad, too!
Be active in all areas of baby’s life. Dads can attend doctor’s appointments and meetings with child care providers with or without their partners.
Read to baby. Reading from the start fosters a life-long love of reading. And it’s a special bonding time, too.
Play! Dads can read up on infant development and then engage in age-appropriate activities with their babies. For example, at two months, babies begin to interact more, and dads can engage them with colorful toys and rattles.
However dads decide to get involved, it’s important to make the most of these special moments with their babies. After all, they’ll be toddlers before you know it.