Who knew someone so tiny could be so intimidating? Here's what every new father needs to know.
Step 1: Be prepared Practice operating all the baby paraphernalia—car seats, carriages, cribs, and so on—before you bring the baby home.
TIP: Explore the possibility of taking paternity leave. If you work for a company with at least 50 employees, and you’ve been with your employer for at least 12 months and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during that period, you are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, per the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Step 2: Bond immediately Snuggle your baby as soon as possible after delivery—especially if it was delivered by cesarean. Studies show that C-section babies cry less and fall asleep more quickly if their dads cuddle them immediately after they’re born.
TIP: If you can arrange to stay in the hospital with your wife and newborn that first night, do so. New research suggests this provides an important bonding experience for dads and their offspring.
Step 3: Be patient with your wife Expect mood swings from your wife; her pregnancy-related hormonal fluctuations don’t end when the baby is born. In fact, they are at their worst a few days after childbirth, and continue for a few weeks.
Step 4: Monitor your emotional health Monitor your own emotional health. Many new dads experience depression during the first few months of their newborn’s life. If you have postpartum blues, don’t be afraid to seek help.
Step 5: Hold your baby correctly Make sure the baby’s head is well supported, and be gentle. Men tend to be more physical with newborns—so take care not to shake or bounce your baby too hard.
Step 6: Bathe your baby Share bathing duties with your spouse. An 11-year study found that children who were bathed by their dad three or four times a week established more solid friendships in childhood than those who were bathed exclusively by their mom.
Step 7: Expect to feel sentimental Don’t be surprised if you feel sappy and emotional. Newborns stimulate a temporary increase in estrogen and decrease in testosterone in many new fathers.
FACT: Generation X fathers—those born between 1965 and 1974—spend 1.2 hours more per day with their children than baby boomer dads did.