Let’s face it. Nothing can truly prepare moms or dads for what it’s like to bring home a newborn baby for the first time—the sweet moments, the crying, the snuggles, the sleepless nights, the memorable firsts, and everything in between. My husband and I have a saying that we have repeated dozens of times as we often look back on those days that followed bringing our son, Beckett, home from the hospital, “You truly don’t know until you know.”
And it’s true. That’s the magical part about parenthood. Your experience is uniquely your own, and nothing can ever correctly prepare you for that. However, as we navigated our way through one middle-of-the-night bottle after another and mastered the art of the cradle hold, we found ourselves becoming more confident in our role as a new parent by leaning so heavily on the advice that we received.
The advice from our parents, grandparents, friends with kids, coworkers, and yes, even the sweet lady at the grocery store who so freely shared her go-to tips for taking on a newborn after noticing the baby bump. However, so often, this advice is geared toward the moms-to-be.
But what about the dads? They’re new to this too! What do the dads need to know when bringing home a new baby?
The Dads Advice to New Dads
I turned to the experts — new dads — and asked a few of my dearest friends’ husbands about their experience in becoming a new dad. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Set yourself up for success.
Assemble the crib, set up a diaper station in your family room, have the bassinet in place with fresh sheets, and don’t forget to have the monitor positioned in the right spot — these are just a few of the many tasks on that pre-baby to-do list.
One new dad’s best advice? “Get the to-do list done so that you’re ready to take care of both your new baby and your partner.”
We know that not every baby comes on their due date, so it’s best to be as prepared as you can. After all, once the baby is here, there’s no turning back for extra time!
2. There are many ways to help.
After childbirth, a new mom’s free time is non-existent. Be it because they’re recovering from delivery, nursing, pumping, or simply snuggling with the new baby, nearly every minute of their day is occupied. And while this can be overwhelming, one dad shared that his best piece of advice is to find one of the many ways to help that may not involve the baby directly.
“It was hard to know how to help at first, especially when my wife was nursing, and the baby was so connected to her through that. I found that even doing simple things like getting her a snack and glass of water or emptying the dishwasher went a long way.”
3. Alternate sleep.
Exhausted. This word doesn’t even slightly do the description for a new parent’s lack of sleep justice. And while this feeling becomes part of your new normal, at least for a short while, you and your partner must get as much sleep as possible.
One new dad’s pro tip? Alternate sleep. That’s right, one night on baby duty and one night off baby duty. After all, there’s no use in having two exhausted parents. But if mom needs to breastfeed every night, get up with her. Change the diapers, burp the baby, do the other things so she can rest after the feeding. She will be so grateful.
4. Accept help.
Too often, we try to be strong and take on every last task or chore ourselves. However, one new dad said that when it comes to life with a newborn, don’t be too proud to accept the help. Instead, introduce this phrase into your vocabulary, “Thank you.”
If someone offers to bring you a meal. “Thank you.”
If someone stops by and puts that pile of dishes sitting in the sink into the dishwasher. “Thank you.”
If someone asks if you would like to shower or a nap while they watch the baby. “Thank you.”
The Moms Advice to New Dads
When sharing advice for new dads upon leaving the hospital, we found it necessary to ask one other group of people — new moms. So, I turned to the wives of these wonderful men. Here’s what they had to say.
We may be a little bit emotional — and that’s okay.
And when we say a little bit emotional, we might mean a lot. As part of the childbirth experience, a woman’s hormones are at some of their highest highs and lowest lows, and it’s no surprise that this may impact a new mom for a couple of days or weeks. When talking to new moms about advice for new dads, one mom shared the following on the topic of postpartum emotions.
“Sometimes we don’t have a reason for feeling the way we feel — sad, happy, anything in between. We just want you to be supportive of our emotions. It’s okay to let us cry if that’s what we need to do.”
Don’t ask. Just do.
“Don’t ask if we need help. Just do.”
Perhaps one thing that is often overlooked when entering the newborn phase of parenthood is that your wife or partner just delivered a baby, which is no small task. Post childbirth, a woman still needs to recover and rest. Don’t forget to let her do just that when you can — change the next diaper, take on the next feeding, give the next bath.
You’re doing a good job.
Perhaps my favorite piece of advice for new dads is a simple one — don’t forget to remind yourself and your partner that you’re doing a good job. Parenthood isn’t a walk in the park. It truly is a lot of hard work. Give yourself grace, don’t compare your experience to others, and remember, you’re doing a good job. Your child is lucky to have you as their dad.