Congratulations on becoming a Dad! The birthing experience and bringing your baby home for the first time are major events in any father’s life. Adjusting to this huge change will take time and may come with a range of emotions. Some Dads can feel like they don’t have much of a role in the early weeks, especially if baby is breastfeeding, but it’s important to know you are just as important to the growth and development of your baby as Mum. Being involved and giving it a go will help build your confidence as well as your connection with your baby (and partner!).
Taking an active role in caring for your baby, in the early days and the years to come, makes a huge difference to your child’s life. Some dads feel confident and comfortable being hands on with their newborn, while others can find it daunting or scary. The more you do it the better you will be. Remember, your baby already knows you. They have been listening to your voice from inside Mum’s tummy since they were 20 weeks old.
– Nurturing fathers have been shown to increase their infant’s intellectual functioning, vocabulary skills and social development.
– Involved fathers reduce anxiety and stress for both mother and baby
– When fathers feel confident as parents and are warm and loving, their children are more likely to do better at school, have better relationships with others, and be happier and healthier
– Children who have a father or father figure in their lives have better learning outcomes, general health, emotional well- being and fewer problem behaviours.
While becoming a dad can be rewarding, there’s no denying that caring for a newborn can be exhausting. After the adrenalin and excitement of the birth dies down, you might start to feel tired, stressed and overwhelmed. You might also discover that you and your partner have different ideas on how to be a parent. Fatigue and changes in roles and routines can impact your relationship. Communication is key, as well as being supportive and caring towards each other while you are both adjusting.
Talking and listening to each other’s point of view is the best way to overcome any negative feelings which may arise. Parenting as a team, making decisions together and dealing with conflict calmly and respectfully is best for everyone in the family, especially your baby.
It is important to ‘check-in’ with yourself at this early stage. You and your partner have just been through a life changing birth experience. Everything may have gone smoothly, or it may have been harrowing and scary. Talking about your birth experience and acknowledging the emotions that came up for you can be really beneficial. If you find you are feeling sad, irritable, angry, overwhelmed or that you can’t cope, it’s very important to talk to your doctor. It can take courage to seek help – but it’s the best thing you can do for your family.
With everything that’s going on, it can be easy to forget about looking after yourself. Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being at this early stage of fatherhood is essential. Eating well, doing some physical activity and trying to get enough sleep are all important to keep your energy levels up. It will benefit not only you, but also your baby and your partner, to equip you to be the best dad that you can be.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the vast importance of fathers in children’s lives, not only because children ‘need and love their dads’, but also because of the significant impact that fathers have on the social, cognitive, emotional and physical well-being of children from infancy to adolescence and with lasting influences into their adult life.”
Dr Lisa Wood, University of Western Australia
Supported By WA Country Health Service