- Fatherhood is one of the most sacred and time-honoured journeys a man can take. For everything you're giving up, you're gaining more, so relax.
- There's no checklist comprehensive enough to prepare you for the day of birth, but we've put together a pretty good start to help you through.
- We'll show you good books on preparing you for bringing home baby and some other bits and pieces about helping out as a new father.
Welcome to the 'hood
Fatherhood will take commitment and test your resolve, but take it from those that have done it – there's nothing more fun or rewarding.
The journey into being a Dad is one of the most significant physical, emotional, and spiritual transitions you will ever experience.
For the first time in your life you may feel the need to reshape yourself for the little human that is on its way. No one said it's going to be easy, but it'll be worth it.
Preparing to take delivery
Fathers are a key cog in the pregnancy process, but haven't received much in the way of information about their role in the pregnancy and delivery day (AKA d-day to some of us). It’s going to be an emotional rollercoaster, but you knew that.
You're the coach
Above all, you're in the key off-field support role for your partner (who is the on-field star).
Don't be a hapless onlooker – be active. The dad-to-be has a key role – he can make birth easier and faster. He also has the power, should he do all the wrong things in supporting his partner, to make the birth slower, harder and more painful.
Preparing some time off work
Your partner needs you more now than ever before. Arrange for the maximum time off work to look after her and your baby.
Eligible working dads and partners (including same-sex partners) get 2 weeks leave paid at the national minimum wage.
Two weeks probably doesn’t cut it though. Four weeks off work is more like it. If you haven't already had the conversation about who is the primary caregiver in the long-term and how you'll split leave, now is the time.
Now, we shouldn't forget traditional pre-natal classes with your partner (and there are plenty of options at hospitals and birth centres). In a way this is also important as it allows you to learn the mechanics of the birthing process as well as discuss and connect with your partner in preparation for the big day.
Who is who?
There are many professionals out there to help. It's handy to know who's who and what options you have out there when organising hospital logistics and getting all your questions answered.
- Your GP – provides basic pregnancy care. They're the first port of call when you think you're pregnant and will give you all the referrals.
- Obstetricians – specialists for mothers and babies during pregnancy, birth and the period straight after birth (obstetricians in the public system are generally only assigned to high risk pregnancies).
- Midwives – nurses who are medically trained in caring for women during pregnancy, labour and birth. They also care for newborn babies, including helping the mother with breastfeeding.
- Doula – a person who can provide non-medical support during major life events. Recent studies have concluded that doula emotional support may be more effective than family, friends or even hospital staff. Here is a resource where you can learn more about doulas.
- Maternal and child health nurses – monitor the growth and development of children from birth up until they are about three and a half years old.
Stuff you will need to buy
This is a list of things you will need before your baby and mum come home. It's easy to overspend here, so use your head!
Baby car seat
A standard baby seat will last you until your child is 4 while a capsule has a shorter life span.
Your baby wants to be wrapped in you (and not a plastic capsule) so buy a baby sling for carrying close to your body – the tighter the better. Baby Bjorns leave limbs flailing, so keep em wrapped tightly.
Ikea does a good, simple, cheap model, but a chest of drawers with a soft mat on top also works if you don't want another piece of furniture.
Don’t bother with a bath, as your baby will outgrow it in no time. Newborns should not be bathed everyday as their umbilical stump needs to dry out and fall off – every two or three days is fine.
Bath your baby in the bathroom sink. You should avoid using soap to start –a baby's skin is fragile and shouldn’t be stripped of its natural oils. A few drops of almond oil in the water should do the trick.
Lots of em. Save the coin, though – you don’t really need a purpose-made nappy bag. Any cool backpack (cos you're a cool dad) with a few compartments will do the job. You’ll need to carry nappies, wipes, rash cream and a change of clothes.
You will need a cot at some point, even if you co-sleep at first. Do not purchase pillows, doonas or cot bumpers as these are all SIDS risks. Newborns like to be wrapped up tightly at first. After a couple of months, a zip up sleeping bag is good so the kid doesn't kick the covers off.
You’ll need a pram but you really don’t need top of the range one that looks like a Jeep Wrangler. This item is a work horse and should be simple and light.
A narrow model makes navigating the shops easier, and a hood is handy. Go for a model that has two separate handles - it'll come in handy as somewhere to hang shopping bags.
Take great care when choosing babies bottles. The most popular brands of babies bottles in Australia are made of polycarbonate and these plastics leach a chemical (BPA) that mimics oestrogen and causes breast cancer among other things.
Tips for the birth
Remove distractions, be present
When you get the call, leave work. It can (and will) wait.
You won't get that time back with your partner and – trust us – she will need non-stop emotional and physical support, encouragement and reassurance.
During labour you can guide your partner through breathing and relaxation techniques, massages, remind her of information she learned in pregnancy and birth classes.
Be her advocate
Be ready to be assertive on her behalf. Insist on speaking with the doctor if you or your wife is uneasy about what’s happening.
Communication is the key to a good relationship with your caregivers and this should be the goal of a good support person. You are the goalkeeper and protector here.
Keep chat & visitors to a minimum
A woman who has just had a baby won't feel like entertaining – it's nothing personal, just biological. She needs to establish breastfeeding which is no fun with an audience.
A newborn baby needs skin-to-skin contact with mum. Defend that space and book in time for relatives and visitors when you're settled at home.
It’s kind of like a school test; if you have done your prep work, you’ll breeze through it. If not, you'll feel additional emotional strain. No checklist on a website will be comprehensive enough, but it’s a good way to start the journey. So here is ours:
- Have a plan for the day - figure out the best route to the hospital, get the house and car ready.
- Create a family budget (good template here): this will help you and your partner to discuss and understand how finances will fit into the process.
- There's a few things you'll need to buy (baby sling, car seat, change table, nappies, play mat, pram, bottles, etc. We think this is a good list). Sort it out before the baby is here
- Pack a hospital bag for your partner and yourself, the process of doing so will get you more comfortable with what happens on the day. You may also want to check with the hospital as some items may not be allowed.
Don’t forget that your support, presence and emotional encouragement are very much appreciated by your partner through this period.
Bringing baby home
Well done, you now get to take this amazing LIVING creature home. The sprint is over and the lifelong marathon of parenthood begins. We hope everything went smoothly.
Start strong, be fearless
For several months after you have your first child, life can feel pretty chaotic. You may have never cared for a baby before, have no idea what you’re doing, and feel overwhelmed. You want to do the right thing for your kid, but you’re worried you might accidentally kill it.
You are starting a lifelong relationship with your child. You'll be this child's greatest male influence. Start off the relationship well.
Hold your baby
Leaving the womb is stressful. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that holding your baby skin-to-skin calms and comforts — stabilising the heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, maintaining body temperature, and decreasing crying. Hold your baby the right way.
Get involved in the nappy changes
Nuff said, really.
This will take up a lot of time. For new mums, each feeding session can last anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour. Most newborns feed 8-12 times a day. Know all the facts and be there for support.
The baby blues
New mums go through huge physical and hormonal changes. Keep an eye out for mild Post Natal Depression, or the 'baby blues', which hits about 80% of women on the third day after giving birth.
If her sadness lasts more than a few days, take her to see your GP to make sure she’s not suffering from Post Natal Depression.
It’s often overlooked as all the attention is on the mum, but guys can and do get the baby blues too. Up to one in 10 men experiences antenatal or postnatal depression.
The increased pressures of fatherhood, more financial responsibility, changes in relationships and lifestyle, combined with a lack of sleep and an increased workload at home can affect your wellbeing.
Struggling is a normal reaction to any life-changing event. But if it's getting out of hand, speak to your GP or connect with a psychologist on LYSN. Sometimes, the best way you can take care of your family is to take care of yourself.