Tips for new fathers (or, how to dad good)


I find most writing on how to be a good father quite patronising. Instead, I’ve collected the most practical advice for new dads into one place. It will grow over time, as will babies and the parents that look after them. Further advice, anecdata, exceptions that prove the rule, etc, are welcome in the comments.

The first year is hard. No matter how good the baby or how well they sleep, it’s just hard work. The tough times will come to an end though and things will get easier.

Figure out what works for you and your partner. Every baby is different, and the most important thing is that you and your partner are on the same page and in agreement and are parenting together.

For the first 2-3 months, your new job title is “fetcher in chief”. Learn what mum needs and learn where to keep things in handy reach. Patience is an essential character trait for the job.

Remember that your partner is having it harder than you. You don’t have to breastfeed, your genitals or belly are not wounded and scarred, you don’t have hormone induced ups and downs. Please have patience with her.

The first six months to a year, you likely won’t have decent sleep. You’ll learn how to function on less sleep. You’ll learn that your current definition of the word "tired" is wrong. Your current "tired" will become your new "okay".

Your sleep experience with a new baby will be your experience. Some have it easy, some rough.

At least one of you should be rested at all times via naps or night sleep. Mum will have much less sleep than you, so look for opportunities to help her get more sleep.

If do you take shifts with your partner, make sure they are resting in another room away from the noise. Use white noise to help mask noises coming from the rest of the house.

If it works for you both and you have space you can move to a separate room to sleep for a couple of first months. You can the take over and take the baby for an early morning walk and let your partner sleep an extra hour or two.

Find out how to do sleep training using a method that appeals to you and work on it between 3 months and 12 months. The earlier you start, the more sleep everyone will get. If you don’t figure it out by 12 months, do cry it out if you have to.

When both of you are tired you will fight. Remember when you do argue that it is probably because you are tired or hungry. Eat something or try to take break if you can.

Make time for your relationship with your partner. Between work and your new baby it will be challenging in new ways that you don’t yet appreciate and this will put stress on your relationship. You will have to prioritize your efforts. Make time to invest in that relationship too, because you need each other.

If you go into having kids thinking "how can I experience as little disruption as possible?" you’re going to find yourself angry and frustrated a lot of the time. You are their whole world for the next several years, and it was your choice to bring them into the world, not theirs. Appreciate this little person and give them your time and attention while you can.

Don’t worry about what else is going on. Accept that you have different priorities right now. After the first few months to a year, you’ll be in the swing of it and parenting will be easier to integrate into your life.

Every kid is different. Find their formula and help them thrive. Some kids come out full of energy. Others will have a more relaxed personality. You will become more accepting of who you are when you see your child’s natural personality traits come through.

Don’t try to overcomplicate their time. Sometimes just hanging with you or mum is enough for them. Other times, a simple wooden spoons or other kitchen utensils can be an absolute wonder.

Get a great mobile phone with a great camera and capture every moment that matters with audio, video, photos. They change so much in the first few months you will miss them for the rest of your life and you’ll want to hang out with their cute baby videos when they are older and having a grumpy day.

Make as many friends with as many other parents as possible. You’ll learn a lot and always have someone to share your struggles with. This can be achieved turning up to the local children’s centre or baby coffee mornings.

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