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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

New Dad? Basic Stuff You Need to Know

By Denise Morrison Yearian

When a child is born, the new mother and baby get most of the attention, but dads are undergoing changes, too. Following are eight tips to help first-time fathers adjust to having a new baby in the house.

1. Be hands-on. Get involved in all aspects of childcare: bathing, feeding, changing diapers, and putting the baby to sleep. Moms/partners: If the new dad needs a little coaching, give him the basics, but then let him develop his own style. Remember, experience is the best teacher. Don’t criticize; offer encouragement to help him feel competent in his new role.

2. Recognize challenges. Some babies, such as those with colic, may be harder to soothe. If your baby is crying, look for the obvious. Does your baby need a diaper change, to be fed or to take a nap, or does she or he just have gas? Take a guess about what the need may be and then pursue meeting it. If one guess isn’t right or one strategy doesn’t work, try another one. Newborns can also suffer from overstimulation due to lights, motion, sounds, and people—all drastic changes from a quiet womb.

3. Communicate with outsiders. Take on the role of communicating with family and friends, setting limits and boundaries, if needed. If others offer to help, suggest practical ideas, such as dropping off meals, running errands, or watching the baby so you and your partner can take a walk. Extended family can be a huge help or significant stressor. Encourage well meaning but intruding relatives to refrain from giving unwanted input with regard to childcare.

4. Be supportive of Mom. One of the father’s biggest roles is to support the mother. Keep a constant line of communication open with one another and discuss how the adjustment is going. Talk about things that are and are not working, and make suggestions for change. Also, keep an eye out for signs of postpartum depression (PPD), which may have a delayed onset. Find out more about PPD at and get help from Postpartum Support International,

5. Find personal support. New dads may need an outlet where they can share their own concerns or stresses. Find a father support group (check out the community at and find articles on or look for a friend who is or has gone through this stage in life. Also be aware of your emotions. If you feel anxious or depressed for an extended period of time, talk with your physician and/or find a licensed mental health care provider.

6. Nurture the couple relationship. This will benefit you and your partner and your child. If extended family members are local, schedule occasional date nights. If this isn’t an option, look for creative ways to give the relationship attention, such as back or foot rubs, a note in one another’s lunchbox, a quick email sent to the office. Couples’ communication should include more than just baby talk. Also make time for intimacy; be sensitive to each other’s needs and work together to find a compromise.

7. Create space for self. While it may be impossible to maintain the before-baby lifestyle, determine what is most critical for you and your partner to relieve stress—sleep, exercise, time out of the house—and work that into the week.

8. Give it time. The more time you spend with your baby, the easier it will get. Right now things aren’t normal, but life will take on a new normalcy in time. 

Denise Morrison Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children and six grandchildren.