Becoming a parent – especially for the first time – is an exciting time, not only for the mother but the father as well and it’s understandable to feel just a little apprehension in the weeks and days leading up to the birth.
However, preparation for the new arrival can take a lot of the stress out of the eventual birth. Despite what friends and family might say, and the tales of nightmare infants – the sleepless nights, constant streams of dirty nappies, colic and more – the truth is, being a dad is surprisingly straightforward.
As a new dad, there are a few things to bear in mind to ensure a new baby – and mother – are well looked after. While you might feel helpless during the birth itself, you can certainly help make life easier for all concerned.
Firstly, in the run up to the birth, it’s a good idea to attend the pre-natal classes with your wife or partner. These classes provide in-depth information about all aspects of childbirth, from the labour itself to caring for the baby afterwards, and help the father to feel involved in the birth and after-care. Common concerns and advice about baby-care can be obtained and there’s the opportunity to meet other fathers-to-be.
For additional help and advice, consider joining and contributing to some of the parenthood forums and blogs that are available on the internet. This way, you can share experiences, stories and advice with other new fathers which can be invaluable, not only ahead of the birth, but also once the baby has been born.
After the birth and the baby has returned home is where the real fun begins, and as a new father it’s important to support the mother as much as possible. For example, for the first few weeks, the baby will likely wake several times during the night for feeding and this can take its toll on both parents. Help out by offering to take your turn during the night to feed the baby so that the mum isn’t left doing all the work. All told, the baby may only wake for around an hour each night so it may help to go to bed earlier in order to counteract the effects of lost sleep.
Although it might not seem like it at the time, doing so can help to build a strong bond between father and baby, as can partaking in other activities which help reduce the burden on the mother on a day-to-day basis. Taking turns to change dirtied nappies; bathing the baby; going for walks, or simply holding the baby are all excellent ways to develop a bond. What’s more, with more contact with the baby you’ll quickly come to recognise the baby’s cries and have a better idea about their wants when they are upset.
You’ll also have to plan financially, as having an extra mouth to feed can be a real drain on your income, especially if the mother’s maternity pay is less than her normal salary. This can be augmented by government benefits, however. You might also want to put some spare cash aside for the baby’s future and the UK government presents each child born after 1 September 2002 with a voucher worth £250 which is invested in a child trust fund , and which can be topped up by the parents throughout the baby’s life up to a maximum of £1200 per year.
There are other considerations to take into account, even when you’re not around the baby. If you have a car which is fitted with airbags, you’ll need to take care where you position the baby’s car seat. The baby will also need to be registered with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages within 40 days of the baby’s birth.
Fatherhood is an exciting, if demanding time, but there are few greater rewards in life than caring after your newborn and helping them develop. Relax and enjoy the time you spend with your new family addition and try not to worry!