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December 09, 2005

tips for new fathers

You may be having your first child next week, or it may be years off, but here are some tips from a new dad that I hope you may find useful. All you dads out there (and mums too) please add your own tips.

1. Take all advice, including this, with a big grain of salt - trust your instincts and feelings. Get really good at coping with lots and lots of out of date, conflicting advice. Develop a strategy of thanking people for their input, no matter how annoying (one colleague of my wife's pointed out it was not a good idea to be sick while pregnant - thanks for that, how could I have been so selfish, what was I thinking). I suspect people mean well. But you'll get sick to death of it.
2. learn as much as you can about pregnancy, labour and early childhood. There are plenty of times when your partner/wife will be sick, in pain, exhausted, over it, etc. It's up to you to step up to the plate - she can't be looking after you, herself, and after the baby is born the baby too. For as long as it takes, it's not about you.
3. Be as flexible as possible with everything - don't try to follow rules. Don't have in your mind the one way things should be. Don't have an ideal labour in mind. Don't have an ideal baby in mind. Nothing is likely to go smoothly, and if you are fixated on specific outcomes (drug and intervention free labour, a child who sleeps when you put them down for the night, whatever) then you are only going to make it harder on yourselves. Yes it might happen. That's a bonus. Be flexible.
4. Your wife/partner has most likely been through nine pretty unpleasant months, then a recent traumatic experience with labour (regardless of how well both those went, they will take a lot out of her). Do everything you possibly can to make her life easier. Particularly if she is breastfeeding (which in our experience is really really worth working at to do) that takes a lot of effort, and will interrupt sleep a lot, so it's not good enough for you to "help out", or even "pull your weight".
Can you cook? Get a copy of Jamie's Dinners, get together a repertoire of say 5 dishes to start with that take little effort or time, and get good at cooking them quickly. Pasta and salads are a great place to start. Anyone can cook. Then you can take it from there.
Do you know how to use the dishwasher? Seriously, find out NOW.
Do you know how to use the washing machine? Find out NOW.
5. Get as fit and healthy as you can during the pregnancy. It will stand you in great stead - babies are heavy. I used a pedometer the other day and found out I walk many kilometers a day with a 4.5 kilo baby in my arms. I am pretty fit, but my legs and arms are pretty tired.
6. Learn all you can about settling babies. This DVD and book have some great simple techniques. Being able to settle your baby, and not get frustrated and stressed out is perhaps the best thing you can do for all of you.
7. Take as much time off as you possibly can, and can afford, when the baby is born. Annual leave, unpaid leave, family leave. Can you organize to work from home for a while? - you'll be able to do stuff at all times of the day and night while settling your baby, perhaps not a full workload (at least try to have a couple of weeks completely focussed on your new family if at all possible). Do your level best to do this for your sake, for your partner's sake and for the babies sake.
8. Get wifi and a wifi laptop - if the web is important to you and your work - you may well be spending a lot of time on the couch settling your baby, so if you can use the web, email and so on, you might feel a little less isolated.
9. Write things down and take photos - create a free Flickr account, upload the photos there to share with friends and family. More personal ones you can keep private. In years to come, you and your family will have photos of the baby, but also your life together in these really special early days. Take photos of your pets, the weather outside, your living room. We quickly forget things we think we never will. Write your thoughts down too - perhaps start a blog, or just save a text file - how are you feeling today, what did your baby do?
10. Regardless of how nice and helpful other people think that their visiting might be, its a real strain often at this stage. You must learn to be firm with people - your new family needs all the rest and time together it can get. New babies can easily get unsettled and over stimulated. You have to deal with this after the visitors have gone.
Its OK to say no to visits, or even cancel them at the last moment.
Advice for those visiting new families - take meals. Offer to do their washing, dishes, shopping, anything that might help. It really will be appreciated. Forever.
11. Get sleep any time you can - if baby is sleeping, get some sleep. Share the sleep - if baby won't settle, then no point in two of you being awake. Take it in turns to settle the baby and sleep. Dad - offer to take the first settling shift. Always.
12 .Lastly, to repeat #3 - do what it takes for you. Be flexible. Be outcome oriented (peaceful, rested, well fed baby, some sleep each for mum and dad) not process oriented (feeding at specific intervals, sleeping for certain periods at certain times).

All the best and please add your thoughts and experiences


December 9, 2005 | Permalink


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You forgot the most important rule:

Choose your co-parent wisely. Definitely the best decision I ever made.

Posted by: Sara Lander | Dec 9, 2005 11:03:12 AM

Great stuff, as a new dad of 6 months i can *totally* relate to *all* of this!

And even with all the conflicting advice, sleepless nights, frustration, stress and obsessive photo taking, remember to take a step back from the madness once in a while and spend a moment or two pondering on the general 'amazingness' of it all... then get back to it!...

Posted by: Mark Hadley | Dec 9, 2005 11:45:10 AM


You're pretty organised to have picked up on these already - it took me three goes to figure some of them out!

As the father of three babies who grew into teenagers overnight (well, it feels that way), here's my two cents worth:

1. Tips 1 and 3 above are really important. No-one else has ever been or will ever be the father (or mother) of this child. Advice is nice, but the real fun is learning from your child how to be a parent. Also, its amazing how many bad news stories people want to tell you when you are expecting or have a new baby.

2. Tip 9 is really important too. Looking back, I probably never took enough photos (although there was not such thing as digital cameras, web,etc back then!)

3. Enjoy your child no matter what the age or what they are doing. Don't look back with regret or longing, don't look forward with apprehension. Even in the middle of your worst day (and there've been a few tough ones), always remember that this is infinitely better than when they were not there.

4. Marvel at every change. Remember, everything they grow in to doing and being came from literally nothing, and is happening right before your eyes.

5. This ties in with Tip 7 above. Forget about "quality time" - that phrase is a real cop-out. Quantity time is what counts. Include your child in as much of your activities as you can (OK, maybe not moutaineering and lion-taming), take them everywhere you can - they learn by watching you and hearing your voice.

Posted by: Anura | Dec 9, 2005 5:01:23 PM

So glad to be reading this stuff, thanks. Not a dad yet, but working on it...

Posted by: Andrew Francois | Dec 9, 2005 7:45:45 PM

So glad to be reading this stuff, thanks. Not a dad yet, but working on it...

Posted by: Andrew | Dec 9, 2005 7:45:59 PM

Anura: 'Forget about "quality time" - that phrase is a real cop-out. Quantity time is what counts. Include your child in as much of your activities as you can (OK, maybe not moutaineering and lion-taming), take them everywhere you can - they learn by watching you and hearing your voice.'

Can I second this. I think the term "Quality Time" was invented so people who had more "important" things to than spend time with their kids didn't have to feel guilty about it.

Spend as much time as you can with them - you don't have to be doing anything special, but they do learn by observing you. And if you're not around they'll just learn by observing someone else. Like people they see on TV. And you don't want that!

Posted by: Jason | Dec 9, 2005 9:44:08 PM

And if you are a parent of twins, as I am, take a deep breath, learn some relaxation techniques and go buy some antacids. Forget about sleeping for a while. Besides that, don't let your mood and lack of sleep stop you from enjoying your kids. Enjoy them all you can, every moment, because they grow way too fast.

Posted by: Nelson Rodríguez-Peña | Dec 10, 2005 4:10:09 AM

Ditto on 7 and 9. Did both.

Posted by: Kim Siever | Dec 10, 2005 4:21:01 AM

Excellent advice, and not often I hear it.

I think that there are multiple ways of bringing up a child, and most of them no better than one another. Everyone has their own ideas, and by all means listen to as much of other people's opinion as you can. Hey, you might get an idea!

But the bottom line is, trust yourself. If you need advice, always ask, but nine times out of ten, the decision you make is the right one for you and your child.

Best wishes


Posted by: Charlie | Dec 28, 2006 9:41:12 AM

When a baby are on their way and parents have no experience do not know how to act and control feelings so they do not affect the baby's condition. I consider all the recommendations that this blog gives are very helpful and beneficial.

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