New fatherhood can be an exciting, overwhelming and life-changing experience. By recognizing and planning for the challenges ahead, you can ease your stress and spend more time enjoying your new family. Here are some ways you can prepare for fatherhood.
Recognize sources of stress
- Limited paternity leave: It may be difficult to keep up your regular work schedule while spending enough time with your baby.
- Financial strain: The cost of your baby’s delivery, health care, diapers, clothing, child care and other supplies adds up quickly.
- New responsibilities: Finding time for other things on top of feedings, diaper changes and crying spells is a big change for new parents used to a more independent lifestyle.
- Disrupted sleep: Sleep deprivation can take a toll on mental health.
- Less time with your partner: Having a baby means sharing your partner’s attention.
- Loss of sexual activity: Recovery from childbirth, physical exhaustion and stress can take a toll on your sex life.
- Depression: Research shows that some fathers — like mothers — experience depression shortly after birth.
Take action before your baby is born
- Get involved: Attend your partner’s doctor visits, and talk about the pregnancy with others. Feel when the baby kicks, and talk or read or sing near your partner’s belly so that your baby will recognize your voice after birth.
- Attend prenatal classes: Learn what to expect during labor and delivery and how to care for a newborn.
- Consult a financial planner: They can help you determine ways to handle the cost of having a baby.
- Build a network of social support: Seek out friends and loved ones who can give you advice and encouragement as you prepare to become a father.
- Talk to your partner: Discuss how your daily lives and relationship might change — for better and for worse — once the baby is born.
- Consider your parenting style: What aspects of your father’s parenting do you want to emulate or do differently with your child?
Stay involved after your baby is born
- Room with your family at the hospital: If the hospital allows, stay with your partner and newborn until it’s time to take the baby home.
- Play with the baby: Seeing their smile can be its own reward.
- Be there for your partner: Intimacy isn’t limited to sex. Hugs, kisses and shoulder rubs can help you stay connected while your partner recovers from childbirth and both of you adjust to the new routine. Continue sharing the changes you’re experiencing and how you can support each other as your baby grows.
- Take turns caring for the baby: If your partner is breast-feeding, offer to bottle-feed pumped breast milk or burp the baby and put them to sleep.
- Seek help: If you’re having trouble dealing with changes in your relationship or you think you might be depressed, talk to a counselor or other mental health provider. You can also talk to your baby’s doctor and ask for a referral. Untreated depression affects the entire family.