Preparing for Fatherhood: what to do before the baby is born
Whether you’re an instruction manual reader or tend to go with your instincts, nothing quite prepares you for becoming a dad for the first time. We asked some dads what advice they would give to fathers-to-be:
1. Do your research
“It really took some stress out of the situation when Gene was finding it hard to latch when feeding. I’d read about possible reasons this can happen such as tongue-tie and we spoke to the midwife and got some extra support. We didn’t panic because we had a bit of knowledge,” Steve, dad to Gene, 5.
Most dads (and mums) spend a lot of time thinking and dreaming about things they will do with their kids in the future, like playing football, taking them to dance classes, etc. Which is fun and all part of the journey but having some knowledge of newborns goes a long way when becoming a new parent. Learning about your baby’s body temperature, figuring out what is needed in a baby first aid kit, what may cause a rash or how to handle colic are essential tools to have in your parenting kit.
2. Stock up on baby gear (and talk to parent friends)
“Some friends of ours gave us a list of essential stuff that they had found really useful, stuff that we may not have thought of ourselves as first-time parents. Getting ahead of ourselves in the lead up to the birth helped us feel calmer,” says Stef, dad to Grayson 7 and Rufus, 4.
Get as organised as you can in the last few months of pregnancy. Make sure the changing table is ready and you have enough nappies, wipes, and cream to keep you going for a couple of weeks. Check out our newborn essential’s checklist for a quick download of what you will need.
3. Don’t forget about yourselves
“You want to be able to hunker down with lots of provisions. Don’t forget plenty of nighttime snacks for your partner – Jo was always starving during night feeds,” advises Steve, dad to Gene, 5.
Fill the freezer with home cooked meals, or healthy ready-made meals. Neither of you will have the energy or the brainpower for cooking in the first few weeks! The less time you need to spend on shopping, unpacking, and preparing meals, the more time you have for naps and breaks.
4. Make up a 'dad hospital bag’
“Take a pillow. Trying to nap in a hospital chair was impossible. Jelly babies for energy. And a sense of humour.” Dougal, dad to Stan, 4.
The bags are packed for your partner and the baby – but you’ll need supplies too. Don’t just wing it! Labour can be long and unpredictable, so download a movie or two to watch, pack a toothbrush and paste, a pillow, charger and money for the out-of-hours vending machine. Your partner gets the bedding, the meals, the attention – but you’ll need to keep your strength up too.
5. Formulate a sleep plan
“If you’re someone who likes a daily routine, you’ll soon find yourself having to re-calibrate. A baby’s sleeping pattern is an absolute lottery. Despite what you might hear, babies that sleep from 7pm-7am are a rarity.” Jack, dad to Èlia, 7 months.
The biggest hardship for most new parents is sleep deprivation – ask anyone. Think about it ahead of time and make a plan. If you have a spare room or nursery, set up a bed for one of you in there. Plan to tag team, whether you’re bottle feeding or your partner is breastfeeding. When it’s not your turn with the baby, try and use this down time to rest, shower, eat, feel a bit more normal.
6. Hang out with other dads (and their kids)
“Embracing 'Dad-life' sooner rather than sort of fighting it off is definitely a good thing. I just got my first pair of Crocs and I'm loving it!” Callum, dad to Roma, 2.
Whether you’re taking antenatal classes, or have existing friends that are parents, it can be helpful to chat to others about their experiences and view of what parenthood entails. Just remember, every family has a different take. Hanging out with their little ones is also a good insight into the practicalities.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
“The adage “It takes a village to raise a child” really reveals itself to be true in that first year and my advice would be to lean on family and accept any help you can get.” Callum, dad to Roma, 2.
When the baby arrives, be prepared for the world around you to stop for a while, along with the basic jobs that keep a home ticking over, and this can feel overwhelming for even the most organised of couples. Whether it’s building flatpack furniture for the nursery, making cups of tea for the visitors or cleaning the house for a crawling baby. So, if you need extra pairs of hands, ask. You’ll be surprised how many people will want to help.
Becoming a dadThere are bumps in the road and you may get a bit lost, but one thing is for sure, the fatherhood journey is the greatest of privileges. We put our panel of brilliant dads in the hot seat and asked them to share some words of wisdom.
What can you do during your partner’s pregnancy to emotionally prepare together?
“If you can, attend the antenatal classes the midwife or hospital will offer. You learn lots and meet other parents-to-be which is more valuable than you think. Or read some books or online resources so that your partner can see that you are as onboard and committed to becoming a parent as she is.” Steve, dad to Gene, 5
What are your top tips for looking after a newborn?
“On the first day home (and beyond), be prepared to do everything in the house as your partner will understandably be completely consumed with the baby.” Steve, dad to Gene, 5.
“I became the gatekeeper if you like, fielding calls from friends and relatives until Hannah was ready to see people. Childbirth is a huge thing and we found we needed quite a few days, maybe even a week, to just recover and find our feet and our rhythm.” Stef, dad to Grayson 7 and Rufus, 4.
How can you keep your relationship on track during pregnancy and beyond?
“In the lead up to the baby’s arrival, be as affectionate as you can with each other. The first few months can be a real challenge and it will be harder to find the time and energy for each other. Doing little things like bringing Joanna some chocolate home after work or just snuggling up on the sofa together in the evening made us feel closer.” Jamie, dad to Tilly, 5 and newborn on the way.
“Just keep communicating as much as you can. If you start feeling like a spare part, let your wife or partner know and ask how you can be more involved or connected. They’ll appreciate that you want to work as a team and help take the pressure off.” Stef, dad to Grayson, 7, and Rufus, 4.
“Work together as a team. Make time for each other, without the baby.” Jack, dad to Èlia, 7 months.
What’s a key element to becoming a great dad?
“Being attentive.” Kieran, dad to Everley, 20 months.
“Be intentional in what you're doing. Think about how you're responding to your baby and consider if it's having a positive effect on them long term.” Callum, dad to Roma, 2.
“Be present: physically, mentally and emotionally. Try to limit screen time, savour the moment and be a good listener. Have time when it’s just you and the baby. If mum is breastfeeding, then try to do as many baby baths and walks as possible. It’s a great way to bond as a dad and it gives mum a needed break.” Jack, dad to Èlia, 7 months.
Best bit of advice you were given about becoming a dad?
“Prepare for your life to change, almost entirely, but in the best way possible.” Kieran, dad to Everley, 20 months.
“Hold on to your partner as a team at every step. If you remember even in the middle of the night that you're doing this because you love each other, all the hard stuff falls away.” Callum, dad to Roma, 2.
What was the most surprising thing about becoming a dad?
“It's a big transformation not just of your circumstances but of who you are. Your perception of everything shifts.” Callum, dad to Roma, 2.
What was the hardest thing about becoming a dad?
“Not having answers to any problems.” Kieran, dad to Everley, 20 months.
“Returning to work. I was completely shattered.” Callum, dad to Roma, 2.
“The phases and regressions that babies go through can feel endless when you’re in the moment, but they do pass and you can look back on them and laugh, sometimes.” Jack, dad to Èlia, 7 months.
Your biggest waste of money?
“Probably buying myself a snowboard in the summer, during a pandemic, when my wife was pregnant. One day...” Jack, dad to Èlia, 7 months.
Checklist for dream teams
The dads we spoke to all agreed that the rollercoaster of parenthood is a smoother ride when you share the load and work as a team! Here’s their checklist of things you can tackle together. Enjoy the magic!
Research and buy the kit: you’ll need a baby car seat, a pram and nursery furniture.
Decorate the nursery: even if it’s a shared space, make it feel fresh and new well in advance.
Work out your post-birth strategy: agree on how you’ll divide/delegate jobs once the baby is born.
Agree on where the baby will sleep at first and how you’ll navigate sleep deprivation together.
Bulk cook: prepare and freeze as many meals you can cram in the freezer as possible.
Deep clean: use this time to clean, clear and organise your home.
Check your home is baby proof: it’s never too early.
Plan some romantic dates – spend quality time together while it’s just the two of you.
Hang out with friends: take time to see those important people in your life.
Research childbirth/labour, attend birthing/parenting classes: knowledge is power!
Take photos of your partner as she grows, and then with your newborn – these are memories in the making.