With Father’s Day approaching, guys who are about to be new dads have been asking me for some parenting tips. Let’s see if I can provide them with a little help as their first gift for this special day.
First, dads-to-be, if you are somewhat anxious or overwhelmed about welcoming a new baby into your home, know that you are not alone. This is normal.
If you feel you don’t know anything about babies, you can download or stream videos and attend childbirth classes, some of which are even designed for dads only. The videos teach you everything from how to hold a baby to how to change a diaper, not to mention proper installation of a car seat and how to childproof your home. The good thing about these classes is that you meet other dads-to-be who feel just as anxious as you do. The teachers know this and encourage any and all questions, no matter how hesitant you may be to ask them.
Since any new role requires learning with experience, don’t worry about whether you will be a good dad. Also, don’t worry that being a father means an end to having some quality time and fun with your partner. You can certainly have fun and quality time playing with your baby. You can also find time for your partner and yourself, either when your infant is asleep or through the magic of having a friend or relative babysit. If you enjoy the outdoors, you can take your baby along with you with the help of a baby carrier.
It’s also important to remember that you can do everything mom can, except breastfeed — although you still need to be a supportive champion of breastfeeding. Given that parenting is a shared experience, be sure to help with changing, diapering and bottle-feeding pumped breast milk in the middle of the night while mom sleeps. You’ll develop your own unique style that will ensure your child knows you’re just as essential to the mix as mom. In turn, you’ll love parenting and truly understand why Father’s Day is celebrated — not just for your own dad but for the dad you are about to be.
Hopefully, these tips will help everyone go “fa-ther,” I mean farther, when it comes to becoming a terrific dad for your new baby.
Dr. Lewis First is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.