New Parent: Father

For many men, nothing in their lives equals the thrill of becoming a father. A father is as important to a baby's development as is the mother. Children with active fathers have more confidence and do better in school. Taking care of a new baby is a learning experience for both mother and father.

It is normal to not know what to do. This can feel overwhelming and frustrating for both parents. Watch, ask questions, and find out what works best for you. If your baby seems to prefer its mother, don’t take it personally. Mothers usually feed their babies more often than fathers do. Know that things will even out soon.

Showing your baby love and affection through holding, cuddling, playing, and diaper changing helps your baby feel secure. Babies learn about the world through their senses. The sense of touch is probably the most developed sense that babies have. Holding your baby gently but firmly helps them feel secure. You may worry that babies are fragile or that you will drop them. Do not let your fears keep you from enjoying your baby. Close contact with your baby lets them know and trust you.

Here are some ideas that may help you as a new father:

  • If the baby is breast-fed, bring the baby to the mother at feeding time whenever possible. Change the baby's diaper either before or after the feeding session. Bring the baby's mother a cool drink or help in another way. She needs and will appreciate your support.
  • If the baby is bottle-fed, share in the feedings. Holding and talking to your baby, and making eye contact increases the attachment you and your child feel for one another.
  • Be prepared to feel left out as your partner focuses most of her energy and attention on the baby. This is not a rejection of you and it will not last forever. New mothers often have emotional ups and downs due to hormone changes, lack of sleep, and stress. This will get better over time. Reassure her that she is doing a good job and be open to talking about feelings. Recognize that there will be changes in your household and your life. Take over some chores at home so the baby's mother can devote more of her time to caring for the baby and herself. Arrange for other people to help and know that it’s OK to let some things go.
  • Remember that you are still a couple. Eventually, spend time together away from the baby. Hire a sitter or leave your baby with a close friend or relative, and go out with your partner. Understand that it’s normal for a mother’s sexual desire to be low in the first weeks or even months after the baby arrives. Be understanding and patient. You might need to make a more conscious effort to be intimate, as things probably won’t happen as spontaneously as they used to. Make time for each other and your sex life should return to normal.
  • Take paternity leave if it is available to you. Remember there are few things at work that can’t wait, but your child is only a newborn once. Arrange a few days to give your new family time together. You may want to do this right after mom and baby get home from the hospital. Make sure there are enough supplies (food, diapers, and baby needs) in the house to last for a few days so that you and the baby’s mother can focus on being a family without interruptions
  • It’s important to exercise to keep up your energy. Being a new father is a good time to call friends and family for support. It’s also helpful to be around other new fathers who may be going through many of the same things. Take care of yourself. Even though your baby is now your priority, still make time do things that you enjoy. You may have to cut down on time away from home, but being a responsible father and partner doesn’t mean that you have to give up things that make you who you are. A happier, fulfilled man usually makes for a better parent.

If you feel frustrated, angry, or otherwise unable to take care of yourself or the baby's mother, talk with a trusted relative, an experienced father, a counselor, or your healthcare provider. If you feel frustrated enough to shake or hit your baby, stop and take a quiet break to calm yourself.

It is normal to feel challenged by your new responsibilities as a father. However, it can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of your life.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-05-04
Last reviewed: 2011-05-04
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.