Cheat Sheet for Expectant First-Time Fathers
Conduct a search of “ways to prepare for baby,” and it’s hardly a surprise that most info out there is aimed at moms-to-be. The reasons are as obvious as, well, a big, pregnant belly. But as Father’s Day just came and went on June 17, let’s spare a thought for how dads-to-be can get in fighting shape for the earthquake-level shift from regular dude to committed dad.
So here you go, soon-to-be fathers: Here's our top eight things to think about, talk about, and do before your baby comes:
1. Spend time alone with your partner.
You probably already know that couple's time is going to shift pretty far down the list once the baby is here. Instead of bemoaning that fact, take advantage of the time you have now—not in a sad or wistful way, but deliberately. Be intentional about “storing up” some fun and romantic memories that you can savor later. Be romantic. What you do (go to the fanciest restaurant in town, binge-watch a TV series, take long walks) is less important than that you make the dedicated time to share.
2. Hash out “who’ll do what” details.
The thought here is to sidestep some typical resentments that can crop up between new parents by discussing those details beforehand, without making assumptions. Discuss whether your partner is planning to nurse exclusively or if you’ll be handling some bottle feedings. Agree on a “baby visitor” policy, so you’re not caught seething when you anticipated just-you-three when she’s readying the guest room for her mom. Talk about sleep (will you co-sleep with the baby? Are you sharing night soothing duties?), sex (yeah, no, not for a while at least, but you should still talk about it), housework, cooking, and all that good stuff.
3. Read some parenting books.
Catch up not just on books about fatherhood, though those can be a good bet. Browse the parenting shelf at the library or bookstore, and ask other dads for titles of the most enlightening or helpful books they read. Check out anything that makes you feel more competent and confident and less alone.
4. Handle some practical tasks.
Get busy and cook as many freezable meals as time allows. Deep-clean your home. Grab that baby-stuff list and go shopping, making sure (if a baby shower didn’t cover it) that you have enough supplies for the early weeks, such as small-size diapers, wipes, and enough onesies and crib sheets and burp clothes that you won’t need to do laundry every day. Be sure your bills are up to date, and set up auto-withdrawals for regular expenses if you haven’t already. If you’re taking time off from work—and we hope you are—get things in order there, preparing lists and instructions for whoever’s filling in for you. Oh, and put together all the baby furniture now, while you're still able to get some sleep at night.
5. Talk to other dads.
Think about the fathers you’re closest to. Whether that’s your own dad or brother or best friend, find one or two new or veteran dads you can count on to be really honest. Avoid the guys who’ll tell you it’s all horrible (no one needs negativity right now); you want a straight-up picture of the things you can expect to see, do, experience, and feel.
6. Go to parenting and childbirth classes.
If you were thinking for even a second that you didn’t need to attend these classes with your significant other, you were thinking wrong! Even if childbirth doesn’t go the way you prefer or imagine (or have seen in every sitcom ever), the various options and outcomes will be covered in a good childbirth class. Ask questions. Make lists. If your hospital or another outlet, such as a library or community center, offers parenting classes, sign up. Trust us, you can use all the how-to's and what-to-expect's you can get.
7. Learn some new skills.
Never held/changed/fed a newborn before? So you feel less all-thumbs, ask people you know—the coworker who just had a baby, the neighbor with the twins—if they’ll show you some basic skills: how to swaddle soothe a baby, how to heat up a bottle, how to fold and unfold your new stroller. Another good tip: Contact your hospital or local fire department and ask about the correct way to install an infant car seat in your car.
8. Get ready to fall in love.
Bonding isn’t always instant, but it does happen. If you’re worried you won’t go head over heels, stop. You will. See you next Father’s Day!