You see so many advice columns and articles about being a new mom, but what about dads? Becoming a new parent is life changing – literally. Sometimes we forget this change involves both parents.
During the first few months, especially if mom is breastfeeding, it can be difficult to figure out your new role as a dad. The loss of sleep your family warned you about becomes all too real, and you may find yourself wondering how to comfort your spouse and your infant in times of frustration.
While it’s exciting to finally meet your newest family member, it’s important to be aware of the challenges so you can prepare for them. We asked a young Kentucky dad to share his thoughts on becoming a father, and he shared some suggestions:
- Help Mom: When you first come home, you might have a grace period because mom may be breastfeeding, which is obviously something you can’t do. This is one of the most important times to help her out. Ask her what she needs.
- Prioritize Sleep: We all know the baby needs to sleep, but the parents need to sleep, too. You shouldn’t have to worry about whether you’re making the right decisions when it comes to taking care of your baby, so make sleep a priority.
“I found that [my wife] didn’t realize how important her own sleep was. Every mom is different, but when the baby sleeps, I think it’s very important that you encourage her to sleep too.” Volunteer to watch over the baby while she naps.
- It’s okay to step away: There’s going be a point where you get unbelievably frustrated and angry because you don’t know what else to do. It might feel like nothing you do makes the baby stop crying.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with putting the baby down and stepping away. As long as the baby is safely in their crib, nothing is going to happen to them if you step away for a moment. No matter how frustrated you become, you must NEVER shake a baby.
- Remember why they cry: “Don’t forget that they’re crying because they don’t have any other way of communicating.” It sounds like common sense, but sometimes when you become frustrated, you don’t think straight.
- Learn Infant/Toddler CPR: You can often find local hospitals and organizations that offer Pediatric CPR classes. Click here for a guide.
“There was an instance when [my son] was choking, and I had to help him clear his airway. He was just learning how to eat solid food. If I had not taken that class I’m terrified to think of what might have happened.”
- Learn to Laugh: The first 5 to 6 months can be confusing and difficult, especially when you don’t fully understand some of the things your baby does. “Looking back on it now, I’m able to laugh. Make her laugh too and remind her that you’re both new at this.”
- Cherish Every Moment: The time you have with your baby as an infant is limited. “Take a step back sometimes and enjoy every moment,” the good and the challenging.
Today, fathers spend three times as much time caring for their children as they did 50 years ago, so they also need to educate themselves on infant safety, including Safe Sleep practices. Print out more information on Safe Sleep for Dads here.