Five ways to help first-time fathers feel involved

One dad shares his secrets for bonding with a new baby, as well revealing his ‘what not to do’ list.

My wife refers to my first year as a father as “that year you went missing”. I was unprepared for just how much I would feel like a spare wheel when it came to my time as a first-time dad. 

In that first year, it seems like your baby needs nothing more than its mother and a million wet wipes. I thought the best thing that I could do was to stay out of the way – you know, at gigs and in pubs with my mates. But disappearing is not the answer – what new dads have to do is get their hands dirty and be a support to their partners who, like it or not, will probably still be doing the lion’s share when it comes to baby.

Here are five ways to make first-time fathers feel more involved.

The family that shops together…

It is tempting to leave the baby shopping to mum. You can rationalise that they know more, will use it more (initially, at least) and make better decisions than you, but if you get involved early with the decorating, the baby equipment (there’s a lot of gadgets) and the set up of your child’s room you will feel more confident about doing things for your newborn and parenting will be more of a partnership.

Make a plan before the birth

Sit down with your partner and make a plan for when the baby comes home – then make sure you scrunch that plan up and throw it in the bin, ‘cos your baby will have other ideas. 

Still, as a first-timer you will feel better having made a plan that goes off the rails than having no plan at all. 
Pregnant woman and her partner

Communicate clearly

Both sides need to talk about what needs to be done and who is doing it. 

Remember that the two of you are both new at this and once there is someone in your bedroom that wakes up every two hours screaming it is a lot harder to have a calm chat about splitting baby duties. 

Go solo early on

I still remember the first time I looked after my first-born without his mother in the house. He was only a few weeks old and she came home to find me sprawled on the couch with my sleeping son on my stomach. I was covered in vomit (his) and pizza (mine, having eaten laying on my back while he slept). He needed a change but I was too scared to move. Nothing went right from the moment she left, but once everything had gone wrong there was nothing left to be afraid of.

Find a ‘thing’ that’s yours

On top off all the essentials, read a book to your child, tell them a story or go for a walk, something that helps you bond with them.

This is a stressful time – your baby places a lot of demands on you and your partner, so remember to look after yourself. Stay active, eat well and sleep as much as your new addition will allow. You should even make time to see friends and to talk about the challenges you’re facing – just don’t go missing!
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