The First Month of Fatherhood

by Bruce Linton, Ph.D.

Welcome to your first month of fatherhood! You have arrived home from the hospital proud, excited and perhaps a bit exhausted from the experience of childbirth. What's next?

Preparing for birth is all consuming and most expectant fathers don't think too much about what happens after they get home with their wife and new baby. The birth experience creates intense emotions. You have a new sense of yourself. You are not just a man, but a father! The pregnancy and birth are the beginning of a lifelong journey of becoming a parent and being a dad. You will need the next few months, perhaps the whole next year, to comprehend your new role.

Most of today's dads are needed, right from day one, to be involved in caring for their new baby. Both moms and dads usually have full time jobs today. As women are contributing more to the financial stability of the family, dads are contributing more to childcare and chores at home.

Keep in mind the first month with your baby at home is an amazing experience. There are a million new things to learn! A baby needs pretty much 24 hour a day supervision. You can learn with your wife all the baby basics. Changing diapers, holding and bathing your baby, supporting your wife in her breast feeding or sharing in bottle feedings, doing these things together will help you both begin to feel secure in caring for your newborn and help develop good communication with your wife. Remember for first time parents it is "on-the-job" training. Give yourselves permission not to know everything.

We have been raised as men to "be in control," were supposed to know how to "solve the problems," but as a new father we need to be able to give ourselves permission not to know all the answers. Just as our baby is slowly learning to adjust to the world outside his mother¹s womb we need to allow time for ourselves to learn and adapt to our new role as a father.

Remember that your wive's body will be adjusting to the hormonal changes of childbirth and that moodiness and irritability are not to be taken personally. I am surprised at how few fathers know this. Keep in mind that by supporting your wife you are helping your baby too!

Here are here are a few practical tips that new dads have shared with me to get the most out of your 1st month of fatherhood.

For your baby:

  • Learn how to comfortably hold your baby. To burp your baby hold him securely against your shoulder and gently rub or pat his back.
  • Communicate with your baby. Hold your baby in your lap and look into their eyes, speak or sing softly to your baby.

For your wife/partner:

  • See that you have a comfortable rocking chair for your wife to nurse the baby in.
  • Help by cooking suppers.

For yourself:

  • Help burp the baby after feedings.
  • Talk with you wife about how much company or family visitors you want to visit in the first month. Remember to put yourselves first, you need time and privacy to get comfortable with your new baby and being a family.
  • Don't be embarrassed by what you don't know. How could you know it! All that matters is that you have the desire and interest to learn and improve.

    Bruce Linton, Ph.D. is founder and director of the Fathers' Forum programs for expectant and new fathers. He is a former contributing editor to "Full-Time-Dads" magazines, and columnist for Parents' News in San Francisco, California. He is the author of Finding Time for Fatherhood. Bruce is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and received his doctorate for his research on men's development as fathers.

    Copyright © Bruce Linton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.