The First Months

Most  Dads want to be ‘hands-on’ – right from the beginning, and they report a degree of confidence and enjoyment as parents which their own fathers never imagined.

Becoming ‘hands-on’ means challenging the ‘only mums matter’ culture by persisting if:

  • professionals/ grandparents etc act as if baby care is none of your business.
  • public baby-changing facilities are only in women’s toilets.
  • you feel helpless or unsure about your role when a breastfed baby focuses mainly on his mother. Remember you can still wind/settle/change/bath him, and – when breastfeeding is well established – you can feed him expressed breastmilk. And the chance to feed solids is just 6 months away.
  • you feel clumsy if, through more opportunity, your partner becomes skilled more quickly.
  • your inner-voice tells you ‘you’ll never be any good at this’ or ‘mothers do this better’.
  • your partner’s inner-voice encourages her that she ought to be ‘Top Parent’.

In fact, the whole idea of Top Parent (or ‘primary carer’) is a nonsense: babies gain from having more than one close carer; so as one of their two parents, you’ve a crucial role. In fact, a full-time working father who devotes the rest of his time to his child (getting her up in the morning, bathing her in the evening and putting her to bed) can become as much a ‘top parent’ as a full-time at-home mother.

Breastfeeding is best for your baby.

If your partner wants to breastfeed, support her. Difficulties often crop up early when confidence is low and, if you’re supportive and knowledgeable, you can make all the difference. So make sure the professionals explain things to you too and read up about possible problems. It might take you (and your partner) time to get used to the idea – but don’t worry, this is natural. But many fathers find the sight of their baby feeding from its mother an intensely moving experience. Some mothers and fathers are a bit uneasy about breastfeeding in public, but don’t let that stop your partner breastfeeding. It’s so good for babies. Breastfed babies develop stronger defences against infection and research suggests they have better learning abilities too.

Father care is good for babies – and for father

  • babies with involved fathers typically smile more, develop faster and do better as they grow up.
  • if their mother is depressed or finding it hard to cope, a strong positive relationship with their father can be a help.
  • as teenagers, they’re less likely to have problems.
  • depression in new fathers often lifts when they take more (not less) responsibility for their newborn babies – particularly if they’re given space to learn through their own mistakes.
  • fathers who have a good relationship with their children often do better in their jobs than less involved fathers.

Almost all fathers say they want to ‘be there’ for their children, and often think this means waiting to be approached. In fact, ‘being there’ means deciding to do all kinds of little things for, and with, a child, so he feels you are ‘there’, and is willing to approach you. So start as you mean to go on – be there for baby.

Tips from other fathers:

  • baby care isn’t a chore – it’s also an opportunity.
  • big hands can help babies feel secure.
  • the more you do, the more rewarding and natural it feels.
  • the more you’re in charge(at home alone, or out with another father or a friend) the more confident you become.
  • change her nappy often, and let her kick her legs in between – this can be an enjoyable time together.
  • regularly settle her to sleep: since you are less likely to smell of milk than your partner, she may settle more easily.
  • put her to sleep on her back, not on her front.
  • as often as you can, be the one to go to her when she wakes.
  • take her walking in a front pack, she’ll love the movement
  • when you go out in the car, don’t always drive, but go in the back seat with your baby: this can be a chance to be with her.
  • read up about postnatal depression, baby illness, feeding and sleeping: you’ll be able to tell when expert help is needed.
  • don’t smoke near your baby.
  • don’t suffer in silence if you are feeling low or unconfident – talk about it, and ask for support from family and friends. If things get on top of you and you can’t see a way out seek some professional advice.