Wait just one minute there, partner. Before you go running off to buy the latest “what to expect when you are expecting” book, thinking that is going to be enough, consider this. You are not the first guy to become a new father. There have been many men before you and they have lived through it all. Maybe not every single possible situation, but many of them.
That’s why I felt moved to write this little guide; to help make your journey a little less scary and challenging than it could be. It’s easy for a guy, especially one who isn’t familiar with everything pregnancy can entail and the drastic changes that come with it, to become overwhelmed by all this information and wonder whether he will ever be able to handle being a dad.
Take heart! There are so many aspects of being a new parent which is wonderful too, as the thrill of getting totally dorky over your little bundle of joy or watching him take his first steps (or try and take his first step) or hearing her giggle for the first time; priceless moments.
So, without further ado, here are 7 tips for new fathers to help them survive the first few months (or years) with a new baby:
1. Get used to being sleep deprived – Week 1 to Week 10
For the first few weeks after your baby is born, he or she will be sleeping a lot. A newborn sleeps between 16 and 18 hours a day on average. But that doesn’t mean you will be getting much sleep yourself. Newborns tend to wake up every 2 to 3 hours to feed and then go back to sleep again.
Yup, those nights of falling fast asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow is over for the foreseeable future. Your new baby will have you up at all hours of the night, whether it’s for a feed, to be changed, or just because they feel like it. It’s exhausting, but try and remember that this too shall pass, and eventually (albeit gradually) they will start to sleep through the night. In the meantime, take naps when you can and drink lots of coffee.
2. You will become a human pacifier – Week 2 to Month 3
For the first few weeks, your baby will be feeding constantly. It’s called cluster feeding and it’s their way of boosting their milk supply. They will want to feed every 2 to 3 hours, sometimes more frequently than that. And if Mommy will not be taking the reins for breastfeeding, well then it’s all on you, Daddy.
Besides Mommy will be recovering and needs all the help she can get, so you’ll be getting up in the middle of the night to feed, change and comfort your little one. And you know what? That’s ok! It’s actually a great bonding time for you and your baby. You’ll be surprised how quickly you both get used to this new feeding schedule.
3. How long does it take to adjust to having a newborn? Month 1 to 3
For the first few months, your life will revolve around your new baby. Everything else will take a backseat. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you adapt to this new way of life and how much you don’t mind it either. Sure, there are going to be times when you feel overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted, but that’s all part of the territory.
Readjusting your expectations. The key to surviving these early months is to readjust your expectations. Your social life will take a hit, you’ll be sleep-deprived(as mentioned earlier) and you’ll have very little free time. For new parents, the first few months of having additional help is a game-changer for breaking up the day. If you have family or friends who offer to help out, take them up on it!
It is imperative that at these moments you give yourself a break, whether that means putting the baby down for a nap, refocusing and breathing, or taking a quick power nap yourself. It’s also ok to ask for help from friends, family, or your partner. No one expects you to do this all on your own and it’s perfectly normal to need some assistance. Heck, even the most experienced parents need a break sometimes.
I salute the parents with more than one child, by the way. You guys are warriors in my eyes.
4. What do new parents struggle with the most? Month 1 to Forever
No one is perfect, not even you (sad, but true). And being perfect is overrated anyway. So don’t sweat it if you make a few mistakes here and there. You’re bound to do things wrong from time to time, whether it’s overfeeding or underfeeding your baby, forgetting to change a diaper, or not burping them properly after a meal. It happens to the best of us.
I recall my little one would have diabolical poop explosions every time I tried to put her down for a nap. It was like clockwork. No matter how much I changed her diaper or how often I checked, she would always end up with a blowout right as I was trying to leave the room as though she is saying “Nope, not today Daddy. You’re not going anywhere.”
Having a baby is a big adjustment for your relationship too. It’s important to make time for each other, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes a day. Whether it’s watching TV together after the baby is asleep or going on a quick date night, it’s essential to keep that spark alive.
It’s all part of the learning process and you’ll get the hang of it eventually. Just remember to take it one day (or rather, one diaper) at a time.
5. Why is my baby so messy? Month 1 to 3
Babies are messy little creatures. They spit up, they drool, and they pee and poop everywhere(yes everywhere…). It’s just a part of life with a newborn. And as much as you may want to keep your bundle of joy clean and dry at all times, it’s just not realistic (or fun).
Did you know that being messy is helping your little one in more ways than one? According to experts, making a mess helps babies learn about their environment and develop their motor skills. So the next time your baby makes a mess, just sit back, relax and enjoy the show!
So instead of fighting it, embrace the mess. You only live once, after all. Besides, it’s not like the spit-up and drools stains are going to stay there forever, stains do come out… eventually.
6. How often should a diaper be changed? Months 1 to 3
If there’s one thing you’ll be doing a lot of in those first few months, it’s changing diapers. An endless amount of diapers. It’s like a never-ending cycle. But don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Some essential to note.
As a general rule of thumb, you should change your baby’s diaper every 2-3 hours or as needed. Of course, this will vary depending on your little one’s individual needs, but it’s a good starting point. You’ll also want to pay close attention to their cues. If they seem fussy or are trying to tell you something, it’s probably time for a diaper change.
And as gross as it may sound, you’ll also become a pro at dealing with diaper blowouts. Just remember to keep a sense of humor about it and know that it’s all part of the fun. From blowouts to just regular old number twos, you will get to know your baby’s poop like the back of your hand(weird analogy, but true).
7. You will fall in love…hard – Month 1 to Forever
There’s no denying it, you’re going to fall head over heels in love with your little one. It’s inevitable. And it’s the most amazing feeling in the world to have that connection and know you were part of making this beautiful little bald human.
From the very first time you hold your baby in your arms, you’ll be smitten. It’s a love like no other and it will change your life forever. So savor every moment, even the tough ones, because they’ll be gone before you know it and then scream at you because you tickled them too much. Having a baby is the best thing you’ll ever do, hands down.
So, I hope that you have found some of these sections helpful. One of the things that I set out to do with this article was to give first-time dads a frame of reference for the kinds of situations that they might encounter during their first few months as a father.
Know that when I had my first child, it would have been great to know a little about what to expect. My family and friends were great, but almost all of them had been through this before.
Of course, every situation is different and every baby is unique. But I think it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this and that there are others out there who have gone through (or are going through) the same things as you.
Did you find this article helpful? If so, like and share it with your friends and family! What would you add to this list? And if you will be expecting soon, let me know what questions you have, and congratulations! You’re in for the ride of your life.
This has been “The New Daddy Survival Guide – 7 Tips For New Fathers”.
What advice would you give a first-time father? Share your words of wisdom below!
- Braff, D. (2018, June 5). Advice for new parents: It’s hard to mess up. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/parenting/sc-new-parents-advice-family-0307-20170302-story.html
- Real tips: The best advice for new parents. Center for Children and Youth. (2020, June 18). Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://ccy.jfcs.org/real-tips-the-best-advice-for-new-parents/
- Ben-Joseph, E. P. (Ed.). (2018, January). A guide for first-time parents (for parents) – nemours kidshealth. KidsHealth. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/guide-parents.html