Waiting for baby is an exciting – and nerve-racking – time. Moms and dads are busy planning for their new arrival and imagining the moments ahead and the memories they will cherish.
While moms are (rightly so) at center stage throughout the pregnancy, new dads have their own questions and concerns.
Matt Fishel, DO, a pediatrician at THH Pediatrics, shares his advice on how dads can settle into their new role.
“There are certain things that you can’t really learn how to do without experiencing,” says Dr. Fishel. “Taking care of a baby is one of them. Many dads don’t have the chance to be around newborns before having their own, which can lead to some questions and nerves.”
“The three most common questions I hear from new dads are about feedings, caring for the baby and how to support mom,” he continues.
Dr. Fishel shares his advice to help dad settle into his role.
How dad can help with feeding
Dad can be involved with feeding newborns in many ways, even when mom is exclusively breastfeeding.
“Take care of the baby between feedings so that mom can rest,” suggests Dr. Fishel. “When the baby wakes up with a diaper change or needs to be settled down, let mom sleep. Dad can get up and soothe the baby back to sleep.”
Dads can also play a bigger role once breastfeeding is established. Many moms start supplementing with expressed breast milk a few weeks after delivery. Dads can give the baby a bottle in the evening so mom can head to bed a little early and get some extra sleep.
Caring for a baby
For some new dads, the first time they hold an infant is in the hospital. That can be an overwhelming feeling – even for those with experience around babies.
Dr. Fishel is quick to notice in the hospital or those first few appointments when dad is feeling uncertain about how to best hold their little one.
“I’ll spend time with new dads, teaching them how to hold the baby, how to change the diaper or how to dress the baby,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong with not knowing basic baby care – especially for those dads who haven’t spent a lot of time around babies.
“I’ll show dads how to do something, then ask them to do it while I watch,” he says. “The next time I see them, they’re often much more confident and comfortable and even thank me for showing them the ropes.”
Dr. Fishel recommends all new dads attend birthing and baby care classes. Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center offers many classes geared to new parents to help prepare for their new arrival. View the class calendar and register online.
How to support mom
Dr. Fishel has some words of wisdom for new dads:
“Whatever mom wants, it’s your job to get,” he says. “Mom is very busy caring for baby those first couple of weeks and recovering from childbirth. It’s your job to go to the store, take care of older kids or get dinner ready.”
Healing – for both mom and baby – requires rest whenever possible. Families can make it easier on mom by pitching in around the house. Help with laundry, straighten up the house – do whatever you can to help ease your partner’s workload.
Dr. Fishel also encourages new parents to accept offers of help. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends are also more than happy to help out after a baby’s arrival. Accepting can be tough, but it goes a long way in relieving stress and helping new parents get the sleep they need.