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what expecting dads really need to know ahead of time / New daddy survival guide
Family Nutrition,  Motherhood,  Pregnancy

What Expecting Dads REALLY Need to Know Ahead of Time About The Pregnancy, Birth, Newborn Baby and Postpartum Wife.

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Ladies, share this with the expecting dads in your life. Share it with your brothers who are expecting. Share it with any man you know who needs more insight into the mind of a new mother, and what she goes through during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.

This is for MAMA AND DADDY. I hope this will make your transition into parenthood much easier!

Don’t be afraid, gals… they’re already amazing (I’m assuming they are), but there are probably some things here that they need to know, or be reminded about.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you should choose to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you for my recommendation. Thank you for your support and understanding!

OK, EXPECTING DADS, FIRST OF ALL, CONGRATULATIONS!

Before you start reading this, please remember that no matter how rough some of this sounds, being a parent can be a truly magical experience.

I firmly believe that it is more likely to be, if you and your wife/partner are on the same page about as many things as possible, and if you have a heads up on some of the things that could go down.

First of all, most importantly…

EXPECTING DADS, YOU ARE UP FOR THIS CHALLENGE!

Remember that. Post it on your fridge, or on your bathroom mirror.

You have a lot of power to make everything go very right for you and your new family, if you do your homework. So own it! And educate yourself.

Your baby will change literally every week, both in the womb and after they’re born. If something is happening that seems like it will never end, just be patient! Use what you know to handle it as best you can… You WILL get through it.

new daddy holding newborn baby with pacifier
Photo by Jude Beck

Parenthood is like your first roller coaster ride when you hit 4 feet tall… You can watch it two thousand times, and when you get on it for the very first time, you’ll probably scream, maybe cry, or even nearly pee yourself or pass out.

But you can’t get off the ride.

You won’t believe it when people warn you…

And as crazy hard it is as a expecting dad and new father (and mad props to all of you for supporting your new family, btw), it is a completely different ball game for the mother.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR OVERACHIEVER WIFE WHEN SHE’S PREGNANT FOR THE FIRST TIME

ESPECIALLY if your lady is a B.A.M.F.

…who works her tail off doing all of the things she does.

Maybe she’s a Doctor, entrepreneur, writer, artist, secretary, or has a corporate job. Maybe she does several different jobs.

Or maybe she is just straight up amazing at taking care of YOU and your needs.

You’re probably used to her being TOUGH. The more bad-ass she is, the harder it will be for her to ask for help, and that’s really why I feel qualified to write this.

new mother looking at her newborn baby
Photo by Zach Lucero

Since I prided myself on being able to handle anything, I didn’t ask for help enough.

So take it from me, sometimes the overachiever mama is in for the biggest reality check.

She won’t want to seem less tough or capable, but she’s going through what is probably the most difficult and amazing thing she will ever do. She will NEED YOUR HELP in ways she might not even be able to communicate to you.

This list is inspired by my own experience as a mom of 2. I also surveyed many other moms about what they wish their own expecting daddy knew ahead of time, from their perspective. 

I’m hoping to help you to learn some of the things you should know about and research ahead of time. Before reality gives you a slap in the face.

Everybody is different and will go through completely different struggles in their own way, so not all of these points will apply to everybody. Just be prepared for anything.

THE BODY CHANGES DURING PREGNANCY (DUH).

Not really duh though… there’s a LOT to it that you don’t know, and she probably doesn’t either, until she goes through it.

Aside from the obvious belly growing, which she will probably take in stride, there are ALL KINDS of physical effects of pregnancy and childbirth.

There’s the morning sickness, which no matter how often you get it, it SUCKS. Some women deal with it for the ENTIRE 9 MONTHS. Some even can’t go to their normal job just because the nausea is so bad.

Most women are over it by the second trimester, so hopefully the mama in your life won’t have a case that severe. Most women deal with it to a greater or lesser degree.

Expecting dads can help by researching and/or providing natural remedies. Things like ginger (they make all kinds of chews and candies for this) and vitamin B6 supplements can help.

Earth Mama has a fantastic tea for morning sickness, and more. This bundle is a really good one.

morning sickness sucks. Photo if a woman looking ill.
Photo by Zohre Nemati

She will probably be concerned with stretch marks. She will need to apply lotion three times a day, starting in month 3.

This can be a real pain but is the only real way to avoid them. Even then there’s no guarantee, but I feel that it greatly reduced mine when I had my kids.

Of course, you don’t have to take my product recommendations here. I just want to give you some ideas so that you can get some serious brownie points… Especially a well thought out, high quality and organic pregnancy care gift.

Earth mama organics pregnancy gift set. Pregnancy essentials that expecting dads should buy for the pregnant mama

My absolute favorite is Earth Mama belly butter. It is super high quality and organic, and they also have a belly oil which I haven’t used personally, but is probably similarly amazing.

They also carry some great gift bundles.

If you prefer shopping on Amazon, Here is my favorite on Amazon, which comes with a free nipple balm (which she’ll need for breastfeeding later).

PRENATAL NUTRITION AND EXERCISE

Mama and baby are going to need good nutrition. Help her by making good food choices available, and by not eating junk food in front of her. SERIOUSLY. She will need lots of leafy greens and veggies of all colors, and most importantly lots of protein, (around 100 grams per day).

If she has cravings, that is probably her body telling her that there’s a nutritional deficiency.

That doesn’t mean she should eat a ton of iced cream just because she is craving it; maybe she’s craving it because she needs more calcium, for example.

Eating refined carbs and empty calories, doesn’t leave enough room for the nutrient dense food mama really needs. It can lead to some very bad health consequences for her and the baby.

This is mainly her responsibility more than yours. But it doesn’t hurt for you to know what’s up. So I’m just saying, don’t make it harder for her than it already is to eat healthy.

Very important: “EATING FOR 2” IS A TOTAL MYTH!

This is a cute thing people like to say, but the truth is that a pregnant woman only needs a few hundred extra calories (one serving of nuts, for instance) per day.

If she is constantly “eating for 2”, she will gain an excessive amount of weight, which can put her health and baby’s health at risk.

Don’t encourage her to sit around all the time. I’m not saying don’t let her relax, on the contrary, she should relax and take naps when needed. But a healthy pregnant woman should keep exercising as usual (with doctor’s approval), taking long walks, doing squats, and other pregnancy exercises.

RELATED: Top 10 Pregnancy Tips and Resources PLUS a free PDF download

This stuff should not be once in a while, it must be done daily so her strength can keep up with her changing body.

Pregnancy Fitness, pregnant woman doing squats with resistance bands
Photo By Lindsay Saenz

Giving birth should be considered an athletic event. Would you run a marathon without training for it?

Of course not.

Help her out by knowing what her plan is. Let her lead the way, but give her encouragement and gentle reminders. You could offer to do her exercises with her from time to time so that she doesn’t feel so alone with the burden.

HOW TO PREPARE YOURSELF, AS HER BIRTH PARTNER

As the expecting dad, it is your responsibility to learn what you need to know prior to the birth of your baby so that you can support your wife/partner during this time.

For this reason, I highly recommend Bradley Method birth classes, which actually prepare and certify you as a doula (birth coach). They are priced very reasonably, and they really are an amazing resource for moms and dads.

You can learn together and really prepare yourself for all of the many medical choices that you will otherwise be uninformed to make.

Mama and your baby, are depending on you.

Don’t rely on your medical practitioners to inform you fully. You need to do your research ahead of time, so that you can make decisions in the moment calmly, because you have the information you need.

That recommendation goes DOUBLE if you are planning on a natural intervention free childbirth.

When mama goes into labor, YOU, the expecting dad, are the one who will keep a level head, and ensure that her/your wishes are adhered to.

Being at the mercy of potentially harmful “hospital policies” is not a good situation. Some of these are outdated by 30+ years, and have proven to be more harm than good.

If she knows that you know your stuff, and that you’re both on the same page about what is needed and wanted, the more she can relax during the birth. And let me tell you, being as relaxed as possible is INVALUABLE to a safe and issue-free delivery.

CREATING A BIRTH PLAN

It is really good to get this started as soon as you can, so you can make sure your wishes are in writing and known to everyone involved.

I recommend looking over your birth plan with her monthly or even weekly. Because as you learn more, your wishes might change.

Every time your plan changes, share a new copy with your midwife. Be sure to ask them to dispose of the old one.

Earth Mama Organics has a fantastic free birth plan questionnaire that I highly recommend you fill out together. I really wish I had that available when I was creating my own birth plan!

THE HORMONAL CHANGES DURING PREGNANCY

Mama’s body is producing a hormone during pregnancy called “relaxin”. This allows her body to start loosening up and stretching out and preparing for baby to come.

This seems like a good thing, until you realize the aches and pains and straight up injuries that this can cause.

Relaxin sticks around in some mothers until 6 months AFTER they’re done nursing.

Now I’m not a huge fan of being overly “careful”, she can probably still handle a lot… it’s just something to be aware of.

Her breasts are going to get BIG. and SENSITIVE. For some, that might be a welcome change, but for me and my hubby, it wasn’t.

Having sex won’t hurt the baby, but she might not be comfortable doing it as much when she’s pregnant. Be prepared for that, and if that’s the case, DON’T act disappointed or make her feel bad about it. She already knows and probably feels badly.

You both might have to get creative to make it work during pregnancy.

Having a baby belly is not like carrying extra fat, which is typically spread out somewhat evenly over your body.

It is more like attaching a 15 pound bowling ball to your front, which you can never take off. If you sit or lay the wrong way, or have sudden unexpected movements, it will put uncomfortable and unsafe pressure on the internal organs.

The fatigue and exhaustion during pregnancy is also something expecting dads might should know about. Seriously, a woman’s body has to work really hard to create a new baby body.

And it doesn’t get breaks.

She will need lots of naps, and help relaxing, because at a time when she’s the most tired (the third trimester onward into motherhood), is the time when it’s the hardest to get sleep.

Some women have insomnia during pregnancy, when sleep is essential for the growing fetus, and for mama’s health.

If she is a highly motivated type of person, it might be especially hard for her to accept the changes. It might not be wise to try to keep up quite as much with what she was doing before because of this new life she’s growing.

So offer to do the dishes for her while she goes and naps.

Some of these body changes don’t go back to normal until YEARS after the baby is born, and some are straight up permanent.

The point I’m trying to make is; get used to the idea of life being very different!

As a parent, you will constantly have to adjust to the “new normal”.

MAKE AN EFFORT TO SHOW HER YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT THE BABY (EVEN IF YOU’RE ALSO TERRIFIED).

Being pregnant can make a woman feel very alone. Right now even more so, because at the time I’m writing this, everybody is quarantined.

Especially for mamas with a lot of friends who are not moms yet… All of a sudden she’s had a total shift in her priorities, so she will have a lack of people in her life who understand her new reality and the struggles that come along with it.

Get involved and show your interest. If you’re excited about the baby coming, the more her mind will be set at ease.

Even if it seems silly, you should contribute your opinions on nursery themes and finding baby items to add to the baby registry. Finding cute daddy themed baby books as well as helping research items like strollers, car seats, etc, can be very helpful.

Help get addresses for friends and family, to send baby shower invites to. Even if they live far away, it is important to invite them to give the opportunity to send a baby gift or gift card if they choose.

Trust me, you will appreciate as many gifts as possible when you see how much stuff is needed as baby grows.

Some women will have friends, sisters, and moms wanting to help with this, but some don’t, so be sure to help if she needs it.

Expecting dads should get as much ready for the baby as possible, including getting the nursery ready. Help to create what life will look like with your new baby in it!

New Daddy holding his new baby in the nursery
Photo by Jimmy Conover

Side note: For a first time mom, filling out a baby registry can be very difficult, as it’s hard to know what is needed. If you want to help, you can check out my baby registry essentials guide here.

THE BIRTH

The moment is here, which will look different for every new mommy and daddy. But nobody can go through it unchanged.

This is why you’ve done all of the work so far, to bring your baby safely into the world. So here’s some things to remember.

STAY CALM. Be her rock. As her #1 ally, you ensure that the birth plan is followed to a tee… (or as close to it as possible)

It will not be easy for any of you. But you can make it easier on mama and baby. It is good to avoid unnecessary talk and noise, especially during contractions or other moments of pain. They have a lot to focus on.

Don’t be afraid to speak up.

You’ve educated yourself. Here’s the part where you need to trust your gut, based on what you’ve learned. Be prepared to ask the right questions.

Things can change on the fly during a birth. All of a sudden your doc might be pressing her to allow something that she is dead set against.

They also might make assumptions based on what is “generally done” in a hospital. So you need to always be watching and asking questions about what is being done, what are the side effects, etc.

Also, don’t be afraid to google side effects on the fly if needed. Doctors RARELY inform you of all of the side effects.

Taking the Bradley Childbirth classes will prepare you for this.

If the medical professionals are being too chatty, or having side conversations, don’t be afraid to ask them to quiet down. (If that’s important to you, it should be in your birth plan!)

Hopefully you’ve done a lot of research, and you have a midwife or other birth professional that you are both on the same page with. They should know your birth plan, and be in full support of it.

Regardless of the situation, expecting dads must be ready for anything. Don’t have expectations that it will go down a certain way. I’m quite sure that there will be things that you didn’t expect.

Take cues from mama. If you take the childbirth classes, then you know that mama will go through several different phases of labor.

She will act certain ways, sometimes becoming angry at you in the process. Whatever happens, don’t take it personally, just take it in stride.

There will be times she will go through intense pain.

It is very difficult to watch your wife or partner go through this. Stay calm no matter what. Remember that she’s only going to get through it by getting through it.

You’re a liability to her if you panic.

In the end, what matters is that baby and mama get through it safely. With few interventions needed and as close to the plan as possible.

I can’t stress enough, you need to make sure you have trustworthy professionals…

Not because they have a certain diploma, but because they really understand childbirth, as a natural part of life.

So since this isn’t meant to be a long post about the birth phase, I will move on. Trust me, I could go on all way. Seriously, just take the classes (I’m not an affiliate for Bradley Birth, but I know how much it helped my husband and me to prepare).

So, new dads, if you’ve made it this far, then you’re doing well! At any time, you can click Ctrl + D to bookmark this post, so you can refer back to it later. I recommend having a bookmark file of daddy resources.

Don’t expect to remember everything later!

As you keep reading, remember that these tips come from myself and many other moms, and what we wish our men knew before we had kids.

Now that baby is here, all of a sudden you both have this tiny human that relies 100% on you. The new responsibility is daunting.

But you’ve got this. For real.

Just remember how many dads came before you… They were all nervous too.

THE POSTPARTUM HORMONAL CHANGES THAT CAN HAPPEN (INCLUDING “BABY BLUES”)

This was by far the most important and most often requested point that other moms wanted me to include in this article! So listen up.

The emotions a mother goes through in pregnancy and after the birth should not be joked about. It’s NOT like PMS.

*** I am NOT a Doctor, Midwife, Nurse or Scientist, just a mom who’s done a lot of my own research. This post is meant to give you ideas to consider, nothing more. YOU MUST do your own research on these topics. Don’t take my word for anything. ***

What you hear called “Baby Blues”, or “Postpartum Depression”, are the result of the HUGE drop in a hormone called progesterone after a baby is born. There are natural ways to handle this, which should be thoroughly researched well before the due date.

Mothers go through baby blues or postpartum depression because of hormonal changes
Photo by Anthony Tran

The takeaway is: PLEASE UNDERSTAND that her body could literally be forcing her to act what (to you) might seem “crazy”, “depressed”, “cold”, “angry”, “worried”, “anxious”, and more… all because her hormones are out of balance.

It could also affect the way she responds to her newborn. Some women don’t get that “instant attachment” and love for her newborn that people talk about… I didn’t.

Some even resent their baby.

For me, I remember I felt a strong sense of duty towards my son, but at first he felt like a stranger to me. I felt very detatched, but I was still determined to care for him to the best of my ability.

It took a few weeks to let my love for him develop – and of course it did develop. But nobody told me that my baby was a stranger that I would have to get to know…

One who only understands his native language of crying.

So just realize that it can be very hard to handle for some.
It can take a lot of time…

And some women won’t struggle with it at all.

So what is needed from you?
(in my very non-professional mom opinion)

  • Patience.
  • Understanding.
  • Don’t react or be defensive if she blows up about something.
  • Say: “How can I help?”, and “what can I do?” FREQUENTLY
  • Get as many tasks (little and big) done as you can, regularly.
  • Take as much off her plate as possible without being asked.
  • Give her TLC and LOVE.
  • Do your own research on natural solutions for the problem, such as placenta encapsulation ahead of time, or natural progesterone therapy.
  • Acknowledge that she is doing an AMAZING job handling everything.

You really can’t do that last one enough. Tell her what an amazing mother she is, even (and especially) when she hasn’t showered in two weeks… Oh, and tell her you’ll hold the baby while she showers… for real.

Most of that should be done as a new daddy anyways, but if mama is really struggling with baby blues, it is even more imperative.

New dads should have a basic understanding of the baby blues and the hormones involved that make it happen
Sometimes Baby Blues (Hormonal imbalance) can last for years after baby is born. (Photo by Jordan Whitt)

Another thing, encourage mama to get together with a close mom friend or her own mom, who can come over that she can talk to, or set her up with zoom meetings or whatever if they are far away. Sometimes this alone will help tremendously.

If she doesn’t have someone like that, getting involved in a local LLL group for breastfeeding support can be great. There are usually lots of moms there to talk with, who are also talking about their own struggles.

What is counterproductive and should be avoided by you?

  • Telling her something is wrong with her.
  • Telling her she’s acting crazy (even if she is).
  • Saying “you’re being hormonal” (even if she is).
  • Acting annoyed (even if you have good reason).
  • Arguing about little things (even when she’s wrong in your eyes).
  • Anything other than staying positive, understanding, solution oriented, and ENCOURAGING. Have empathy, but avoid sympathy.

Walk away and take a breather if needed. Have a phone call with a close dad friend who will understand. Get it together before you come back.

Remember everything she’s going through to be the mother of YOUR child, and most of all remember that you can’t possibly understand it fully.

This is hard for you guys too, I know. And she knows too, but she needs your help.

THE LACK OF SLEEP THAT COMES WITH A NEWBORN IS REAL. NEW DADS AND MOMS ARE NOT PREPARED FOR THIS, TRUST ME.

One of the hardest, most stressful parts of being a new parent is the lack of sleep. The struggle is real. You don’t get it till you go through it.

Mama’s body needs desperately to heal, which requires quality sleep, but baby needs to nurse… Also, nursing actually helps mama’s body to heal. and baby’s tummy is tiny. So mama needs to breastfeed as often as possible.

As if she’s not dealing with enough drastic life changes, now she needs to do it all while she gets little sleep…

It seems kind of cruel, but that’s how it is.

Just understand that babies need to eat very frequently, every couple hours. Don’t feel pressure from ANYONE for your baby to “sleep through the night”.

And before you say… “she can pump milk and I can feed baby in the night”, understand that she has to keep her milk supply up.

Especially in the beginning, if she skips a feeding session, even once in a while, it signals her body to produce less milk.

So EVERY time the baby feeds, she should be feeding them, or pumping (like in the case of a mother who has to get back to her job, which is a subject for another article).

Baby sleeping for long stretches should not be expected for several months, and I can’t say strongly enough, that every child is different.

Nursing is an absolute godsend for naturally giving baby what they need, and assisting them to get sleepy again. (it helps mom sleep too!)

Often there are “sleep regressions” as well, where they might have started sleeping for a longer stretch, and then they have a growth spurt, or they start teething, or whatever, and it seems that they go back to square one.

Every baby is different, but it’s all normal. Try to avoid comparison with other people’s experiences, because every baby is their own person. They have a personality, right from day one, and you don’t know what they’re experiencing.

Lack of sleep for new dads and moms is unavoidable
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz

There are some gentle ways to sleep train a baby with a gradient approach, but they shouldn’t be tried until the baby is around 6 months or older. Please do your research and whatever method you try, you are both on the same page about it.

Nobody truly knows the suffering and emotional ugliness that can happen from this kind of prolonged lack of sleep until they go through it.

So what can you do?

No matter how tired YOU are, just assume that she’s probably more tired. So right after a feeding, take baby and tell her to go take a nap while you get the diaper changed and get in some good snuggles and play time.

Trust me, Do this often. Daily if possible. And only wake her up if baby is hungry (2-3 hours after the last feeding, but sometimes more frequent during a growth spurt).

Once you are all up for visitors from close friends willing to help, you should arrange more of your own naps too.

MOTHERHOOD LITERALLY REWIRES HER BRAIN.

No, I’m not making this up.

“Mom brain” sounds like a cute joke when women get forgetful going through pregnancy and motherhood.

Yeah, It’s not. It’s a real, physiological phenomenon that you should not take lightly. Don’t joke about it (unless she does first), and don’t invalidate her intelligence because she gets forgetful. It will happen.

The lack of sleep doesn’t help matters, either.

And it also, not everybody experiences this.

In my experience at least, it was never with baby/kid stuff. It was with other stuff. And it can be bad. It’s very embarrassing.

mommy and baby
Photo by Katie Emslie

As the new dad, please be understanding, and avoid making her wrong for it, acting annoyed or making jokes.

Your brain wasn’t rewritten without your permission, after all.

STAY IN COMMUNICATION

This is one of the most important ones, not just during pregnancy, but for your relationship in general. I really can’t stress this enough.

Communicating about things that you’re not used to confronting or being interested in might seem forced at first, but it will allow the two of you to have a much greater mutual reality.

Staying in good, productive communication will help her to not feel alone, and resentful.

Remember that she’s new to all this. Don’t listen to people who say that “motherhood comes naturally”… because it does not happen that way for everybody.

Even in the best of cases, there is a TON to learn that was never on her radar before.

  • Ask her what she’s learning about!
  • Ask her if she needs help doing research on different topics. Don’t wait for her to ask you. Be her partner in learning about this new life you’re about to start.
  • Read some good books (this one is a must-read) and tell her about what you’re learning.

If you recognize that communication isn’t your strong suit, I highly recommend you start by doing this free online communication course.

BREASTFEEDING IS FREAKING HARD.

I won’t go into a ton of detail here about the breastfeeding issues that can arise, because that is an article (or book) in itself… But new dads need to know a few things so that they can be of help and support.

  • For the first few days, she will produce collostrum, which is baby’s first milk. They only need very small amounts at first, and the more they nurse, the more they help mama’s regular milk to come in.
  • DO NOT give her a reason to doubt her milk supply, or suggest formula. Uneducated people will think that baby crying always means hunger… they thing that because baby is crying, maybe they’re not getting enough. Don’t jump to conclusions.
  • DO get her access to a board certified lactation consultant ASAP if she runs into ANY ISSUES AT ALL.
  • Seriously, don’t wait.
  • I didn’t say nurse or doctor. They are not BREASTFEEDING professionals, and while they are a starting point, you should make note of the fact that a BCLC is the correct person to help troubleshoot nursing.
  • Another good resource is your local La Leche League group leader, which is someone that is often willing to help and knowledgeable about breastfeeding trouble. Some will even do home visits.

It is also very good for her to attend an LLL meeting before baby is born, so she can get to know them and learn from the others who have already had their babies.

New dads need to help mama with breastfeeding the baby as much as possible.
Photo by Luiza Braun

Important Note: Older mothers (your mom’s age, maybe), were given false information for many years that formula is a better and more appropriate food for baby than mother’s milk.

So please be very careful who you are accepting advice from regarding breastfeeding, no matter how well-intentioned they are.

Here are some awesome ways you, as daddy, can help with the sometimes difficult job of successful breastfeeding:

  • Keep her hydrated with water AND electrolytes. This is needed every single time she nurses baby.
  • Keep healthy snacks available, and make sure she has healthy meals regularly. Remember her milk is only as good as what she is eating.
  • Make sure she has the supplies she needs (nipple balm, warm compresses, nipple shields, breast pump, or whatever).
  • Give her encouragement. A lot of it.
  • Thank her.
  • Apologize for your useless nipples. This might sound silly, but she will appreciate the sentiment. You will never know how hard and everything she sacrifices to breastfeed (it is so worth it though!).
  • Help as much as you can in the middle of the night with diaper changes and bringing baby to mama.
  • If and when mama starts pumping, learn how to help clean and sterilize her pump parts.
  • Keep any doubts you have regarding nursing to yourself.
  • Get her help from a BCLC or La Leche League if she needs it, but don’t EVER give baby formula behind mama’s back, or allow a family member to do so. Let the professionals handle it.

Any social feelings you have about nursing in public should be kept to yourself. DON’T tell her to “cover up” or act embarrassed about it. Nursing in public can be a huge hurdle for a woman to get over, and she doesn’t need you making it more difficult.

Bottom line is, the breastfeeding relationship is between mama and baby, and is SO important. So don’t do anything that will interfere with that.

You should be her biggest fan and protector when she’s nursing whether at home or in public, if she chooses to do so with or without a cover..

Make sure you have her back, whatever she decides to do, and if it makes you uncomfortable, don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.

SIDE NOTE: When babies hit around 4 months old, they might not like to have their face covered! For me, I found out that it was much more hassle (and definitely drew more attention) to be fussing with a cover all the time with baby fighting me because he wanted it off.

BE A DAD FROM THE START. NOT JUST A “FATHER”

What do I mean by that?

  • TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.
  • Change Diapers.
  • Hold baby a lot (and don’t just automatically give baby back to mama every time they cry), especially between feedings to help get the new mom some much needed sleep.
  • Bathe baby.
  • Sing to baby.
  • Read books to baby (might seem silly, but really). Point to the pictures, and name the things you’re pointing to.
  • Utilize a GOOD baby carrier, they are AMAZING tools for bonding with baby for both mom and ESPECIALLY a new dad. I can’t stress enough that this is not something you want to pinch pennies on. Having one that is comfortable is super important.

I recommend the Ergobaby 360 structured carrier. I absolutely LOVE it as it doesn’t give me headaches, like some others. It is not uncommon for daddy and mommy to prefer different carriers, but the Ergobaby is highly adjustable and I think is very workable for many shapes and sizes.

New dads can read to their baby for extra bonding time - reading to and talking with baby helps their development
Photo by Picsea

Don’t let mommy feel like she’s on an island by herself. Make sure she knows you’re there for her all the time as the new dad.

Baby might not appreciate it yet, but every moment you are taking responsibility for being the best new dad you can be, will be a moment well spent to grow the bond between you and your child.

They will remember that you were there for them, even if it doesn’t seem that way now.

Side note: If you are learning and getting something out of these posts at all, please share them with other new dads who you think could use this information!

You may also want to bookmark these posts (on a desktop, click ctrl + D), or share them on your social media, so that you can read them again later as you’re going through some of these challenges.

NEW DADS, WHEN YOUR WATCHING YOUR CHILD, DON’T ACT LIKE YOU’RE DOING HER A FAVOR.

This was another very highly requested topic to cover.

Apparently a lot of dads (not just new ones) seem to feel like they’re doing mommy a favor to watch the kids.

News flash, they’re yours too.

I’ve noticed that even today, with modern couples often both working full time, and new dads taking a larger role in parenting, the mother is simply expected to also be the mom…

AND do more than her fair share of the chores, AND keeping track of everybody’s schedules, health care appointments, researching baby’s next phases and what will be needed, maybe also keeping the financial books, etc. etc. etc.

But when daddy is being a good daddy, people will say things like “oh, it’s so nice of you to give her a break”… or if mommy is out and about by herself, people will make comments about it being so nice of you to “let her” get away from the kids…

It’s comments like those that kind of make my blood boil, and I know I’m not alone.

Now, everybody’s relationship is different, and everybody arranges who wears what “hats” or roles differently from the next couple, but you need to look in the mirror, be real with yourself, and truly ask yourself, “am I pulling my weight?”

Never consider yourself like the “babysitter” or oh say I’m “just watching the baby”…

No, be a parent.

IF THERE IS EVER A TIME TO PUT YOUR EGO ASIDE, IT IS NOW.

This is hard for some more than others. Mama will have to do this too.
But remember the hormones will often work against her, especially in the beginning.

The important thing is to remember that you need to work as a TEAM, for a common purpose. So saying things like “what can we do?” or “what should our plan be”, will really help to keep both of your minds in a place of teamwork.

Don’t act like you know everything. Don’t ever assume that you know what’s happening inside her head or what she’s feeling physically. She might not even tell you when she’s struggling.

You can let her be the authority over the “mom stuff” and you should take her requests (or orders) happily, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a say in things, and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be an active participant.

Just remember that no matter how bossy she seems in the moment, or how much you feel like you’re suffering, it is, with almost 100% certainty, harder for her than it is for you.

NEW DADS, DO NOT INVITE ANYBODY OVER UNLESS SHE WANTS THEM THERE

YES, not ANYBODY.

Your mom.

Her mom.

Aunt Erma.

Her best friend.

Some women might want lots of visitors, and some will absolutely NOT. Please let that be her decision. Do not make assumptions.

Also, some women might THINK they want visitors, and then find out later that they actually didn’t know what they were thinking.

Regardless of the situation, or how important this person is in your lives, you do not want someone in your space who will interfere with mommy and baby bonding properly.

In the beginning especially, that is so important, and so easily undermined by family members trying to be “helpful” by taking baby away from mama. People who are more focused on “I just want to hold the baby”, rather than baby and mama NEEDING to be together as much as possible.

Mama bonding with baby is the most important thing after birth. New dads, don't let people interfere with this.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema

As the Daddy, don’t be afraid to be the “bad guy” and tell her aunt or whoever, that she’s uninvited (diplomatically, of course). “Baby and Mama just have been through a lot and aren’t up for visitors…” usually goes over just fine.

And if she does agree for someone to come for a visit, make sure you communicate expectations to them if needed.

Things like:

  • Length of visit allowed
  • Please bring healthy food, not donuts (be specific about types of food that are needed and wanted, trust me I wish I’d done that).
  • They should not be expecting to be waited on when they visit.
  • Or whatever, but talk to her about it ahead of time.

YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR THE SACRIFICES YOU WILL HAVE TO MAKE

This is not me trying to be negative. I’m being real.

Mama is probably scared, even if she doesn’t say so. She’s in completely new territory, just like you, and there’s no way out but forward.

You need to DEMONSTRATE your willingness to do whatever it takes for your family. That means, she has to see it.

If she doesn’t see that you’re willing to give things up for her and the baby, you will probably come up against some (or a lot of) resentment, because of the many sacrifices she’s making.

These sacrifices can’t really be comprehended by someone who hasn’t walked in her exact shoes.

And yes, that even means that other moms don’t always understand.

Because every child is different and every mother is different, with different struggles and different triumphs in her journey.

And your friends might not understand your position at all.

  • Why you can’t hang out as much.
  • Having to leave get-togethers early or having to decline invitations all together because of parenting obligations.
  • The shift in your priorities that has to happen in your life.

You stepping up as a father is the most amazing thing you can do. This might present itself in the form of needing to take a higher paying job, as an example…

Or it might mean being willing to take more time off of work to help her with the baby in the beginning.

New dads should try to be prepared to sacrifice A LOT for their family.
Photo by David Veksler

Sometimes this will break up old friendships for you. Maybe they will be sort of “on hiatus” until the friend in question has kids of their own and suddenly understands.

These things might not apply to you, but show her that you’re prepared to step up to the plate in whatever way is needed. For each person it will be different.

Also, mama has a new priority,

A new priority that will take up all of her time, energy, and focus. You are no longer the center of her attention in your relationship.

You’ll understand this as soon as your baby comes into the world, but you might not understand that there will be times that you feel neglected by her.

That doesn’t mean it’s ok, but you should understand that it is normal, and it is out of necessity.

IT WILL GET BETTER.

Just be understanding, and focus on taking care of the needs of mother and baby, realizing everything that she’s dealing with.

NEW DADS, GET SHIT DONE.

Yes, you should do all of the chores. Yes, I mean everything. All of it.

And the cooking too, or arranging for friends and family to bring prepared, healthy meals.

And no, I don’t mean ordering pizza. Mom and baby will need real nutrition.

In the beginning, you should fully expect to wait on her and the baby hand and foot.

New dads need to do the lions share of the chores, and cooking once baby is born.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao

The new mama should be IN BED for about two weeks (recommended by midwives, not just me), not going up and down stairs at all, and really only getting up out of bed for bathroom breaks and self care.

I did not follow that advice with my first baby, because I wanted to prove that I could do it. I didn’t complain or ask for help.

And I suffered, had bleeding for many weeks after baby was born, and made my recovery longer and harder because of it.

Be on top of diaper changes, bath time, etc.

DON’T WAIT TO BE ASKED FOR HELP

Make every effort to be there to ORIGINATE and OFFER help. I’m not saying you should undermine her abilities, force help, or hover.

Simply be observant, offer help, and if she doesn’t need it, have her tell you if she changes her mind.

Even if she doesn’t want help, she will appreciate that you’re there for her if she needs you.

That will give her an open door to ask you for help in the future without feeling like a weakling, since what she might be perfectly capable of handling today, could change at a moment’s notice.

Back Off if You’re Overstepping.

Contradictory, I know.

Your help will not always be needed or wanted. Don’t take it personally if she wants to do something herself.

She might feel really good and up to doing housework one day, and she might even WANT to, as a reason to get up and walk around, or to feel more normal.

Don’t expect the next day to be the same.

ALWAYS BE ON HER TEAM

You need to have a united front. You make parenting decisions together. Be careful letting certain family members influence too heavily on your decision making without doing your own research as well.

Hint: New moms don’t like hearing “my mom said we need to… (insert unsolicited advice here)” very much.

Try it more like:

“what do you think about… (insert parenting idea here)?”

I think that will go over better.

Don’t be afraid to tell judgy people off. Especially family members. They are often the most outspoken ones, because they feel comfortable telling you what they think.

You don’t have to be a jerk, but you can firmly say “we are doing what works for us”, and just leave it at that. But some people won’t take the hint and you might need to put a little more strength behind your words.

I know, it’s a hard thing to do. But it’s truly very important to always have her back, just like you expect her to have yours.

Also, it’s important to know that if some people (usually family members) aren’t put in their place, and straight up told “WE are the parents, YOU are not, and you DON’T have a say”…

They will KEEP. Overstepping. Boundaries.

I sincerely hope that the people in your life aren’t like that.

But I will tell you right now, that you need to keep a watchful eye over your own mother. Mother-in-laws are the most likely person to make the new mama feel like her toes are being stepped on.

If you feel like your mom is being too outspoken in the parenting department, shut that crap down.

Your relationship depends on it, trust me.

MAMA MIGHT NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE IN HER OWN BODY FOR A WHILE

This is one of the longest, hardest processes, and often goes unnoticed how hard it is for a new mom.

Postpartum recovery can take MUCH longer than it appears on the outside
Photo by Shane

She might feel very insecure, or maybe kind of empty. She might not like how her body looks or feels, and she might be (probably is) in a lot of physical pain.

For a highly motivated kind of woman, she might want to start working out right away, especially if she was in good shape before baby. She should not rush it. It is very easy to go back to square one if a woman pushes her body too fast to “bounce back”
(I loathe that term).

She can usually (if she had a vaginal birth) start taking walks after 2 weeks (with midwife approval), but usually they will say no “working out” or having sex until after the 6 week check up.

But this is important. Listen up.

Seriously, new dads, don’t expect her to be ready for sex at 6 weeks. Maybe she will be, and she will let you know if she’s willing to give it a try.

She might not be ready at 6 months even.

Don’t have any expectations about that. Some women have a LOT of pain down there for quite some time, and having you bring it up will only make her feel worse about an already frustrating, painful situation.

Sometimes there is some vaginal tearing during birth, and never mind if she had an episiotomy or c-section… My point is, it is really important to be understanding of this reality, so communicate with her. Find out how she’s doing, but don’t press her to try anything until she’s ready.

RELATED: Top 10 Pregnancy Tips and Resources PLUS a free PDF download

THEY SAY, “IT TAKES A VILLAGE…”

It’s something you hear a lot… But the “village” doesn’t exist anymore.

The saying is certainly true. But the world isn’t like it used to be. People used to be a lot more involved with their neighborhoods, tribes, or villages. Extended families got together regularly, or even lived right by each other.

In many cases, this built in support system no longer exists.

I’ve read that women now are much more prone to baby blues now than they used to be, due to feeling isolated, and not supported.

I think this is compounded by the fact that western society is rife with false information, many different parenting styles, and SO many people who are sure that their style is the right way.

a new mother doesn't have the support team, or "village" that she once did. So she needs the new daddy more than ever.
Photo by Zach Vessels

Our ancestors always had the women of the family around to help with pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, etc., and the young ladies and girls grew up watching the older ones go through it.

So there was a natural educational experience that was built into the society that isn’t there anymore, at least not in North America.

So IF you have people offer their help, and it’s someone you both know and trust, you should LET THEM HELP.

Give them certain assignments, like:

  • Bringing the healthy meals I mentioned before.
  • Doing laundry.
  • Shoveling your snowy driveway.
  • Holding baby while you nap.
  • Anything to make postpartum life a little easier on your family.

But please give them specific instructions on how you and mama want things to be done.

Don’t expect them to know, when it comes to your baby.

You would be shocked, some of the things that grandmas or friends thought were the “right things to do” when watching a baby that isn’t theirs.

There is also someone called a Postpartum Doula who can be hired for various services, if you don’t have trustworthy people around to ask for help. A Postpartum Doula is well versed in postpartum mama and baby care as well as nursing, and many of them are willing to help with household chores and cooking.

I recommend finding a few nearby and getting in contact with them should you need one, that way you will know ahead of time what services they offer and how much they charge.

Often times, family members who live far away might be willing to pitch in for this service, but they won’t know about it unless you ask.

MOTHER’S DAY WILL BE VERY IMPORTANT TO HER. NEW DADS, PLEASE MAKE A BIG DEAL ABOUT IT.

I thought mother’s day was kind of a silly holiday, until I became one.

My mom (who was an amazing mother) always downplayed this holiday, as well as her birthday… Now she’s gone, and I wish we had all gone out of our way to make her day more special.

And in case you’re wondering if it counts if she’s only pregnant

YES, IT DOES. She is already growing that new baby, and sacrificing for them, so you betcha she’s a mother.

Make sure you do something to make Mother's Day special for her every year!
Photo by Karolina Bobek

Here are some things moms REALLY want on mothers day:

  • A day of no parenting responsibility (other than nursing baby). She should be able to show up for hugs, kisses and playtime if she wants, but you should take care of everything else with the little ones.
  • Help your kids make her something. With baby, you could make some handprint art or something similar.
  • Don’t just give her a hallmark card with your name signed… At the very least write something heartfelt that lets her know you acknowledge all that she does.
  • Gift her something like a massage, gift certificate to her favorite salon or spa, and block off TIME FOR HER TO ACTUALLY USE IT. Self care is difficult as a mama. there aren’t many moms that wouldn’t appreciate that gift. It wouldn’t hurt to add in a self care gift basket (like this one) or something similar to go with it.

I won’t go any further on this one, because you know what your lady’s personality is. Just go big in a thoughtful way.

NEW DADS, DON’T EXPECT MAMA TO HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

She is learning about this pregnancy/parenting/motherhood thing just like you are.

Don’t expect her to present all of the information to you. Try to take the initiative as the new daddy and learn things for yourself.

Then you can both bring data to the table and have intelligent conversations. It will not go unnoticed.

Bonus tip: TAKE PHOTOS. Like, a LOT of them. All the time.

I have to remind my husband about this one all the time. Especially at the beginning, when I was having a VERY hard time, I didn’t have pictures on my mind very much. And neither did anyone else.

new dads need to take photos on mom and baby as often as possible.
Photo by Raul Angel

As a result, I don’t have nearly enough photos of me or my first son for the first three months of his life. It really bums me out now.

Please take excessive amounts of photos, seriously. Even when she thinks she looks gross or whatever. Just remind her there’s a delete button she can use later.

And don’t snap one, it will be blurry.

Take ten. Or fifty.

Alright, new dads, I sincerely hope these tips have helped to open up your eyes to the new and exciting world of parenthood. I hope it didn’t scare you too much.

It’s probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do, just remember that if it wasn’t also awesome, nobody would ever have more than one kid.

The best attitude to have is to just do your best, and expect the unexpected. Nobody’s perfect, and no parent really knows what they’re doing or what they’re really in for.

But the more you educate yourself ahead of time, the more equipped you are to handle everything, and the more confident you will feel.

Nobody’s saying you have to be a superhero, but try your best to make her feel like you’re her superhero.

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