A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

How to be a good Dad: Tips for new and soon-to-be fathers

Welcome to the club, first-time dads. You’re probably excited and nervous about the arrival of your son or daughter, and probably have questions about how to be a good dad.

Smiling dad holding baby daughter in air, close to face

Two easy ways for new dads to bond with their babies: Hold your baby and spend time alone with her.

“Fear of the unknown is normal for new dads,” said Dr. David Holz, a Marshfield Children’s pediatrician. “Fortunately, from health care professionals to experienced friends and relatives, you should have plenty of resources to help you along the journey.”

Here are five tips on how to be a good dad.

Ask questions, discuss fears

“There are no stupid questions when it comes to caring for an infant,” Dr. Holz said. “If it’s weighing on your mind, it is worth it to find an answer.”

Talk to your partner. She might have the same questions and concerns about becoming a mom. Figure out the answers together and talk about how you can support each other. Look for help from other resources, like your baby’s pediatrician or classes that teach new parents to change, swaddle and feed newborns.

Bond with your baby

“There are certain things only fathers can provide, and there is no substitute,” Dr. Holz said.

Here are a few easy ways to bond with your little one:

  • Hold and swaddle your newborn.
  • Consider feeding your baby with a bottle within the first few weeks. If he or she is breastfed, discuss options with your pediatrician. Pumping and offering a bottle for your newborn in the middle-of-the-night can provide a much needed break for your partner.
  • Let your partner have a day out by herself. Caring for baby alone will increase your confidence in your parenting skills.
  • Read to your newborn regularly. You don’t have to wait until baby can look at the book or talk.

Have a backup plan

Sometimes nothing will soothe a crying baby. Call a trusted relative or friend to help if you get frustrated or feel like you’re at your wits’ end. If no one is around to help, put baby in the crib or bassinet, even if he or she is crying.

“A crying baby is a safe baby,” said Dr. Holz. “It’s completely ok to lay him or her in a safe place, close the door and put some earbuds in to take time to calm down.”

Help mom recover

Show your partner you care by picking up some of the household chores she may usually do. Reducing her workload will help her recover from childbirth and get some needed sleep.

“Be intentional and proactive about asking your partner what she needs,” Dr. Holz said. “Provide physical as well as emotional support. Remind your partner she’s doing a great job and you’re proud of her. Simple words of affirmation and encouragement go a long way.”

Take time for yourself

It’s important for both dads and moms to take time for themselves. Ask someone you trust to babysit so you can spend time with your partner, even for a little while. Take turns watching the baby so the other parent can spend time alone.

“Having balance in our lives helps us perform our best,” Dr. Holz said when explaining how to be a good dad.

For more tips on how to be a good dad, talk to a Marshfield Children’s provider.

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