9 Things New Dads Do that Make them Better Fathers

To be the best dad you can be, the first steps are to be involved, hands-on, and you must want to improve and grow. But what else can you do to be a better dad in the first year of your baby’s life?

Whether you’re a new dad or a dad-to-be, you probably have worries about fatherhood.

The good news is you’re reading this, meaning you want to learn and improve. Putting in the effort and showing up are the first steps to becoming a great dad. You already know parenting isn’t something that comes naturally but is a skill to be acquired.

The first year of being a dad is arguably the most challenging. Every day you’re confronted with something new.

Of course, there’s no way for us to get the first-hand experience of being a dad before we become one. So, while we learn what we can from others beforehand, as new dads, we learn far more on the job.

There’s a whole lot to learn, too much in fact. But sticking to a few core pieces of advice can make a huge impact. And help you successfully navigate the first year while learning on the job and being the best dad, you can be.

You don’t need more advice telling you to spend time with your child, read to them and be supportive of your partner. I’m sure you already know this.

The majority of dads-to-be and new dads want practical advice that will make the adjustment to fatherhood simpler and more enjoyable.

We’ve explored the traits and actions that help dads thrive.

1. They’re Always Prepared

You’ll never be quite prepared for what the first year of being a dad will.

But dads can pre-empt what a new baby will need.

The motto of the scouts, always be prepared, is one of the best pieces of advice for first-time dads. There is a whole lot to buy, not only for your baby’s arrival but throughout the first year of their life.

Have everything ready at least six weeks before the due date.

Hopefully, your child won’t make an appearance before they’re ready but having all you need just in case can save a lot of stress.

Consider what you need to buy well in advance because there’s a tonne of options and you’ll need to do your research. You might be thinking that one baby product is the same as the next. But a few weeks into being a dad you’ll find yourself even having preferences about which wipes, nappies and bottles are the best.

There are some essentials you simply cannot do without in the first days. A car seat is a big one, and you can’t leave the hospital without it. Have it unpackaged and try fitting it before the day comes to bring your little one home. And, of course, somewhere for them to sleep is a must.

You’ll be overwhelmed how generous people are when you have your first baby; it’s brilliant. And so helpful, you’ll likely get plenty of bits from those who are already parents that you probably didn’t even know you needed.

Being prepared also applies to your day-to-day routine. Make sure you have what you at the ready.

For example, sterile bottles are prepped for the next feed, and the wipes are next to you before opening that pooey nappy. You’ll get into good habits that are small but will make a big difference to the ease of your day.

Leaving the house is another area where preparedness takes on a whole new meaning.

Keep the essentials in the car or a bag that you always take with you, stock it up every time you get home.

2. They’re Adaptable

A lot will change when you become a dad, and you must adapt to face each challenge.

Your life is bound to change when you become a dad for the first time, and you’ll need to adapt to a new way of living.

You’re going to have to adapt to a lot in the first year of fatherhood. You’re going to be adapting to a lack of sleep, always talking or singing, having less free time, just to name a few. (However, I can assure you it’s all worth it).

Studies have shown that being an adaptable person improves your well-being.

Don’t get too set in your ways or comfortable with your routines.

Babies change and develop at an exceptional rate. Just when you think you’ve got it cracked and your baby is sleeping through the night, they’ll go through a developmental stage and be waking in the night again.

The good news is that babies are ultra-adaptable. So not only can you change to their needs but they can adapt to yours (to a certain extent). Getting into what might be considered, or become, a “bad habit” can be changed.

There’s no one best way to do things as a new dad, no one parenting method that will work for everybody in all situations. You need to be able to adapt your parenting techniques and styles to be the best dad you can be.

I don’t need to tell you just how quickly babies change. What you did yesterday might not work tomorrow. When this is the case, you’ll need to change your methods and try a new approach.

Your relationship will also have to adapt with a newborn around.

In the first year of parenting, a lot of yours and your partner’s time will be occupied. Date nights will be a rare pleasure, and sex is off the table for some time. Don’t neglect one another, kiss at every opportunity, say I love you when you feel it, and celebrate every parenting win together.

3. They’re Cautious of the Parenting Advice from Others

There is a mountain of advice out there, and much of it is contradictory. There’s no one best way.

As a first-time dad, you’ll be getting an onslaught of advice from left, right and centre when you become a dad for the first time. I can promise you that not all of it will be useful or even correct.

Prepare yourself by researching and learning about babies and how to best care for them, as well as attending antenatal classes. Dads will never have all the information that they’d like. You’ll get some idea of what you are in for. But you really won’t know what’s best until you begin parenting.

A simple Google search for any baby-related advice will produce millions of results. And on Amazon’s UK site you’ll find there are over 40,000 books in the parenting category.

Every piece of advice that could be possibly be given has been given. And of course, much of the information contradicts another.

Friends and family will offer plenty of advice, but what worked for them might not be best for you.

You’ll get advice from friends, family and that bloke from the pub you sort of know. They have your baby’s best interest at heart. However, what worked for them won’t necessarily mean it works for you.

Also, believe it or not, no one has cracked the secret to perfect parenting or raising the perfect child. It simply doesn’t exist.

Every child is different, do what works for you and yours.

Every child and family are different; the advice you receive might not apply to yours.

Over time you will learn who’s advice you can rely on and you’ll build a circle of trust. Grandparents, and that friend who has more children than you can keep track of most often make the shortlist.

Do what works for you, your partner, and your new baby. Each day things will become more natural, you become more self-reliant and won’t need too much advice from others. You’ll understand your baby’s individual needs, find your own routines, your child’s likes and dislikes.

Choose a trusted website for when you need quick answers.

No matter how much advice you receive or how much you read up, you’re likely to find yourself Googling questions, especially in the first few weeks.

There is so much advice for new parents across the web, how can we know what guidance is correct, or trustworthy, and what answers will work for you. Save yourself time and worry select one or two reliable websites as your go-to.

The NHS site was our go-to for all baby-related health and safety advice.

Ignore any ‘are they not doing that yet’ comments.

At some point as a new dad, you’ll hear words such as “oh, are they not rolling over yet? Little Luke has been doing it for a few months already”. Every child will develop at their own speed.

Don’t let this get to you. Parents are often very proud, and most of us think that our child may well be the most fantastic human ever. They likely didn’t mean it to sound like a negative comment about your little one. And some new parents may not be clued up about baby development.

However, if you have concerns about your baby’s development after you’ve Googled it five times over, book an appointment with your GP.

If you do hear these negative comments, remember that every baby will develop at different speeds and they all catch up. The important thing at this young age is that your baby is healthy and happy.

Ignore the negativity surrounding fatherhood.

Our culture puts a negative association on fatherhood. From books and TV to social media, paternity is often portrayed as a time of struggle. Though there will be difficult times, there no reason you won’t find being dad enjoyable.

Through media, dads are often depicted as foolish, inept and are ridiculed. We’re shown that dads act and dress a certain way. But fathers come in many different forms. You don’t have to form to a dad stereotype.

A dad-to-be will, without a doubt, be on the receiving end of banter from mates. Whether it’s that your sex life is over or that you won’t be getting any sleep for the next few years, the banter from your mates holds little truth. Don’t take it seriously.

Other dads might drop in some nuggets of truth to the banter, but your experience of being a dad doesn’t have to be the same as theirs.

It’s ok to struggle; every parent does at times. Do seek help and advice when you need it.

Recognise the areas where you need help then speak to those you trust about it. And be sure to always talk to the one person you can always rely on for sound advice, your partner.

4. They Use Their Paternity Leave to the Full

The benefits for both your significant other and new baby are enormous.

And, hugely beneficial for yourself, mainly because of the lack of sleep you’ll experience. I cannot recommend enough that you use the full paternal leave you’re entitled.

Studies have shown that taking paternity leave improves the mother’s well-being, can promote a baby’s development, reduces chances of depression, and parents are less likely to separate.

You’ll never get that time back, don’t spend it working.

If you have generous holiday allowance use a few days to extend your paternity leave.

You can always earn more money, but you will never get the time back. (On a side note, if you’re a working dad, consider negotiating a pay rise. Your boss may be understanding that with a new child, you’ll be thinking about how to pay for it all.)

Being around in those first weeks to help mother and baby, makes a massive difference to all your lives. I know it might be difficult for some new dads to completely switch off from their work but avoid checking emails and answering phone calls. People will be considerate that you’ve just become a new father and will understand.

If need be, start preparing for your absence from work a good six weeks before the due date, just in case the baby arrives earlier than planned. You don’t want to find yourself having to take care of work as well as a new baby and mum in those first weeks.

Analyse if additional time off is viable.

I understand taking off extra time from work isn’t financially viable for everyone, and there’s probably no time in your life that you’ll worry about money more. My advice to you would don’t simply assume you can’t afford to take paternity leave due to the worry about money. Instead, do your calculations and assess whether it’s realistically affordable.

One study has shown that new dads who claim they can’t afford time off base it on assumptions rather than calculating their finances.

If you’re worried about money, I’d recommend giving I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi a read. It provides actionable advice on how to make differences to your finances that’s isn’t merely just cutting back on small expenses.

5. They Cherish Every Moment

For new fathers, the days will seem long, but the years will seem short.

Before you know it, they’ll be leaving home, and you’ll be hiding your tears. They grow at such an exceptional rate, and the lack of sleep and all the new experience means those first months can all seems a blur when you look back.

Get your phone out, take photos and videos but once you have a few put the phone away and be in the moment. Plus, in those early days, children learn a great deal from our faces and eye contact.

When you’re with your baby, don’t just be there, be present.

You can see all the wonders of the world, but it will never come close to holding your baby for the first time or seeing them smile for the first time (or likely the one thousand times after). Appreciate those moments and immerse yourself in them.

Like I said previously, avoid work calls and emails while you’re with your new baby as much as possible.

Also, cherish the moments when you’re childfree.

Use the moments to yourself wisely, unwind if you feel you need to or tick something off your to-do list.

Also, value the time before your baby is born. Take a babymoon, organise your home, or catch up with old friends while you have more time. You may find that the first year of being a dad is the busiest of your life.

6. They Unleash Their Inner Child

Having a child is also a chance for you to have fun.

Without judgement, you’re free to act like a child. Once your baby begins to smile, you’ll always be playing with them, hoping to get another smile.

Making up funny nursery rhymes, playing peek-a-boo, pulling funny faces, and dancing are just a few things that will not only put a smile on your baby’s face but help their development.

A baby’s development is positively influenced when Dads play more.

A UK study found that when a dad is more actively involved in play with their babies, at the age of one, they had fewer behaviour issues. While another UK study concluded that at two years olds performed better at cognitive tasks if their dad were more engaged in play in the early months of life.

There isn’t a lot of what we typically consider play during the first weeks. But don’t let that stop you from trying to entertain your little one. As your baby begins to take more interest in the world around them, you’ll start to play more and more.

Remember that your new baby is experiencing everything for the first time. Act shocked when a bubble pops or a toy squeaks, this will get them more interested and engaged.

Say and show how you’re feeling.

Unleashing your inner child isn’t just about play. Kids aren’t worried about showing how they feel. Likewise, you shouldn’t be afraid to share how you’re feeling. There will be times when you simply must get on with it, but it’s ok to struggle. Talk to your loved one about how you feel.

Most new fathers today probably didn’t hear ‘I love you’ often from their own dads. The generations of dads before us rarely showed their emotions. But today we can be free from judgement, don’t be afraid to kiss and hug your baby or tell them you love them.

You might feel that in their first year they are too small to understand it. However, studies have shown the positive effect that such actions can have on an infant. It’s also great for your partner to see you have those moments with your baby.

7. They Focus on Their Partner Almost as Much as Their Baby

When you become a dad for the first time, you gain a new understanding of what new mothers go through.

As your partner needs time to recover, it’s your role as dad to help in any way you can in those first few days.

Keep showing your partner that you love them.

A new baby will draw much of your time and attention (and they will), your relationship can take a back seat. Ensure you don’t overlook your partner.

While sex may be off the table for at least six weeks (though you should know it’ll likely be more), show your partner you love them in the same ways you did before your baby arrived. Or even introduce new ways, it can be the perfect time to.

Whether it’s a small compliment or a big gesture, it’s essential to keep the romance alive.

Communication is key to a happy relationship and effective parenting.

You’re reading this and probably other resources about parenting, but no matter how much research, you still won’t have all the answers, don’t tell each other how or what to do.

Instead, bring up what you’ve heard or read and discuss it. For example, “I’m not sure if it’s best for us, but I read that this method can work, what do you think?” can be an excellent way to introduce new approaches.

Be open to trying new parenting methods; you can always trial something to see if it works for you both.

Some new parents even schedule in a ‘meeting time’. They use it to discuss what’s working, what’s not, as well as what the plan and division of duties are for the day ahead.

Remember you’re a team and in this together.

Sleep deprivation combined with the busiest time of your life and the new responsibility of caring for a baby.

For new parents, the most regular cause of arguments is the division of childcare.

At some point during the first year of parenthood, many dads and mums will believe they are doing more than their partner, leading to friction between them.

Just like you have no idea what your colleague Joe Bloggs does all day at his desk, you may not have the full picture of what your partner’s day is like.

Never keep score of who’s done more or slept more. You’re both tired, both busy and both need a break. Acknowledge what mum does and thank her for it. Feeling appreciated is important for all parents.

When possible, working dads should have at least one full day of parenting by themselves to get a greater understanding of a typical day in the life of mum.

Your partner won’t always need you to help.

One of the best things a new dad can do is want to be involved and get involved. It’s an exciting time that you want to be part of as much as you can. However, you’ll learn there are times you need to take a step back and let mum get on with it.

Particularly in the first weeks, your baby will need mum more than they need dad. For example, if your partner is breastfeeding and your baby is suddenly hungry and crying, there’s not a lot you can do.

Do help or offer to if you think there’s an opportunity for you to do so.

Work on your domestic skills.

You should already be doing your share of the housework before becoming a dad. As your baby grows more mobile and your time more limited accept that your house will be less tidy.

If you don’t usually cook, it’s time to step up your skills in the kitchen. Find some new recipes, ones your partner doesn’t cook, this gives you ownership of them and becomes your “speciality”. Easy one-pan recipes that save time on cooking and cleaning up are best few new parents.

You should take time off from parenting.

Throughout your baby’s first year, whether both of you are working or not, give your significant other some time to themselves. Just as you’ll need some downtime, so will they.

And take time off together. As soon as you’re comfortable to have someone babysit, go on a date just like you did at the beginning of your relationship.

8. They Relax About the Little Things

You’ll worry about almost everything at first.

You can hear this advice a hundred times over, but undoubtedly you will worry about a lot when you become a new dad.

Suddenly you have this vulnerable little baby that is entirely reliant on you. You’ll want to measure everything that can possibly be measured. Such as the quantity of everything that goes in (and out) of your baby. The temperature of everything, including milk, baths, and rooms is another area parents often worry about.

Keep a rough record but put the spreadsheet away.

Of course, it’s good to be keeping track of things, especially in those vital first weeks. But don’t panic if the temperature is a few degrees off the recommendation. Don’t obsess and keep spreadsheets of the exact millilitres of milk, or the time and colour of each poo.

Trying not to worry is impossible, but you’ll relax as you settle into a new lifestyle.

After the first few weeks (or perhaps months for some of us) your concerns will lessen.

Not finishing a full bottle isn’t something to worry about. Pooing twice in an hour doesn’t mean they’ve got diarrhoea. And the room being few degrees Celsius off the recommended temperature isn’t going to cause them to melt.

Of course, you should take all the precautions and listen to the recommendations when it comes to keeping your baby safe and healthy.

Both Dads and Mums need to have a break now and again.

It’s hard for new dads but attempt to find ways to relax. Take some time for yourself, whether it’s playing football or gaming, and take your mind of being just a dad. Try and coincide with the time when your partner has help from grandparents or when the baby is napping. And don’t forget to allow your partner to have some time to themself as well.

9. They Develop Patience

Whether it’s changing a third pooey nappy within 5 minutes, your baby refusing food they loved yesterday, or soothing them to sleep for the umpteenth time (sometimes it’ll be one after the other), a high level of patience will help you get through it.

It’s proven that those who have a higher level of patience typically have better mental health.

Developing patience will help you be persistent.

What may seem difficult or tedious at first will become easier and even enjoyable. Having patience will help you try, try and try again. Whether it’s getting your baby off to sleep or opening the pram, practice makes perfect, and you’ll learn the most effective ways to do these things.

Patience is a lifelong skill that will make you a better father and partner, especially throughout the early years. It will help keep the stress levels down, making being a dad more enjoyable.

A stressed parent can affect the stress of their baby, which is proven to impact their sleep. And this will only make you more stressed. Patience will help you put a smile on your face and sing twinkle, twinkle little star for the third time as you try and get them off to sleep.

This content was originally published at https://www.firstyeardad.co.uk

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firstyeardad.co.uk was created to support new dads be the best they can be. I write about provide practical advice and tips for new dads.

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Luke Finch | First Year Dad

Luke Finch | First Year Dad

firstyeardad.co.uk was created to support new dads be the best they can be. I write about provide practical advice and tips for new dads.

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