Bringing baby home for the first time is exciting -- and challenging, for both moms and dads. As much as new moms go through an experience with the birth of a baby, so too do new dads. And often, there is more focus on and support for moms than there is for dads. So how can we support and encourage new dads through their journey? Perhaps one of the most important tips is also one of the simplest: sit back and do nothing -- let dad find his own way without watching too closely or criticizing. The following are more specific suggestions for supporting dads in early parenthood.
Suggest going to a parenting class together. You may know all about babies because you were around them when you were younger, but dad may not. By attending a class together, dad will get much-needed education on the basics while you help demonstrate that you're in this together -- a team.
Let him make a mistake or two. Diaper on backward? Forgot to burp after a feeding? "Playing" when baby should be sleeping? Just let it happen. He will figure it out eventually and will feel much more confident because you've helped him save face by not interfering (unless it's a matter of safety) or correcting.
Dads have support groups, too. You may be surprised to know that there are "new dad support groups" in addition to the thousands of "mommy & me" play groups. Check your local hospital class roster, meetup.com, or Google "dad support group" + your city to find a meeting nearby.
Find ways to involve dad in baby's care and bonding. Sometimes, dads can feel timid or unsure about what to do or how to spend time with their new baby. Encourage him by offering suggestions, like changing diapers, dressing, burping, bathing, rocking, baby wearing, or accompanying you to a pediatrician visit.
Check in. Though culturally men are not encouraged to express emotions or talk about feelings, they do have emotions and feelings! Just as you might want someone to check in with you during a particularly difficult, challenging, or exciting time, so too does your partner. Open-ended, empathetic questions like, "How do you think things are going?" or "This new parenting gig is tough; what do you find most difficult?" are great conversation starters to learn more about what he's feeling.
Do you have a tip to add? Share in the comments?