Everything about this time seems new. For 1 in 5 new dads it’ll be the first time they’ve ever held a baby. If you’re going to be driving new mum and new baby home then you’ll need to have a car seat for an age 0 child fitted.
Those first few days can be daunting, exciting, surreal and filled with anxiety. Some parents find the first night especially tough. They’re exhausted, but they struggle to sleep, instead spending the night constantly wondering if their baby is ok. He or she is almost definitely fine - it’s their parents that need to relax! New dads should take advantage of parental leave options – it really helps your partner, you and your baby if you can be there as much as possible in those first few days.
For new mums, breastfeeding can be especially challenging. Despite being the most natural method of giving your baby a decent dose of milk - along with immunity boosting antibodies and essential growth nutrients - it’s really not as easy as it looks.
There’s good research to show that a supportive partner (that’s you, dad) who adopts a positive, encouraging approach can make a tough task a lot easier. Basically, don’t see it as an opportunity to head out of the door because:
• Feeding sessions can last an hour or more – it can be boring for her so your company will be welcome.
• You may be needed to change the nappy before your partner starts feeding, or to fetch a pillow, drinks or snacks during it.
• You can literally lend a hand to help your wife get your baby to latch on to her breast - especially useful if your wife has had twins.
Your role at this time isn’t simply one of a supporting cast member though. Thanks to a variety of methods – including your partner expressing her breast milk into bottles via a pump – you can do the feeding too.
Babies feed pretty frequently - every 2 to 3 hours – so get into the knack of preparing the bottle, finding a comfy position that you can hold for at least the next 30 minutes (TV remote nearby?) and taking your turn.
Another rude awakening during those first few days at home with your baby is the nappies. We’ve covered the technique for this topic elsewhere (https://www.thedadclub.co.uk/dad-tips/post/the-dads-guide-to-nappies/ ) needless to say it pays for new dads to get hands-on from the start and share the burden as much as you can.
Another vital role a new dad plays at this time is that of gatekeeper - controlling the crowds of well-wishers who want to come and see the new baby. Well-intentioned friends and relatives – often bearing gifts – should be welcomed with open arms. But be sure to:
Talk to your partner about who can come and see the baby, when and how long for.
Create a secret ‘exit code word’ that your partner can use to initiate an evacuation of any overstaying guests.
Remember the priorities are your partner and your baby right now - no-one will really be offended if you herd them out of the door when the time is up.
And The Rest
4 hours and 20 minutes - according to one survey of 3000 new parents - that’s how much sleep you average a night during the baby’s first few weeks at home. Many new mums and dads will tell you sleep deprivation is the toughest part of new parenthood. As your baby develops its own feeding and resting routine – and you build one around it – getting a decent night’s kip can be a rarity. Some couples take turns to cover feeding and changing through the night – depending on the other’s needs. Grabbing naps through the day – whilst the other is holding the baby – becomes an art that new parents master too.
As tough as it all sounds, those first few days can be truly magical too as the past nine month’s dreams and aspirations become a reality. You’ll start bonding with your baby and begin introducing him or her to your world. It’s an exciting time – and one not to miss.