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Being a new dad: caring for a newborn

Here we give tips for new dads on caring for a newborn baby. There is always something to be done and this time is a great opportunity for dads to begin bonding with their baby.

This article covers several aspects of being a new dad and offers information on:
Feeding
Sex
Bathtime
Playtime
Support for you
Further information

Watch the video below to see NCT dad Chris describe his amazing experience of becoming a father through surrogacy and hear his top tip on dealing with the challenges of early parenthood.

At first you will probably find that mum handles most of the feeding, soothing and caring. Dads can be relegated to changing the nappies, providing food and making the tea. However, it is a good idea from early on as a new dad to try your hand at everything.

Developing confidence in holding and soothing your baby will also help you to bond. Make sure that you talk about your respective roles and don’t feel pushed out when it comes to caring for your newborn baby.

Feeding

If your partner is breastfeeding, it might not be immediately clear to you how you can support her but there are a number of ways in which you can help, such as fetching drinks and letting mum rest when she needs to.

Dads’ support has been shown to be an important factor in enabling mums to breastfeed for longer. With your support, breastfeeding can quickly become a natural part of your family life. You can also assist by bottle feeding your baby expressed milk once breastfeeding has been established. Read more in our article 'How to support breastfeeding'.

Some parents opt to feed their baby with a mixture of breast and formula milk, or exclusively with formula. With formula feeding, compared to breastfeeding, there is more preparation involved. Dads can get involved with both preparing bottles and feeding baby.

Sex

Neither of you may feel like having sex for a while after your baby is born due to tiredness, mum’s physical recovery after birth and shifting priorities. Being a new dad can be a period of significant emotional adjustment. Your libido may return at different times and you might both have anxieties about resuming your sex life. Read more in our article 'Sex after pregnancy'.

Don’t feel pressured to resume sexual activity and don’t pressure your partner. Everybody is different and for some people it can take a long time before they feel ready.

Bathtime

Some mums can feel a little anxious about bathing baby in the early days, and babies sometimes feel more secure in dad’s larger hands. There are several ways of bathing baby and you should experiment with what works best for you, such as top and tailing, bathing them in their own little bath, or taking them into the bath with you. Important safety tips include:

  • Be careful with the water temperature.
  • Begin by filling with cold water first and then add in the hot.
  • Get everything you need ready before bathtime because you can’t leave your baby unattended in the bath.
  • Make sure the bathroom is warm as babies get chilly easily.
  • Make it fun, sing songs to your baby, let water dribble on his tummy, and talk to him.

Playtime

Play is one of the most important ways that babies learn. It is also great fun for dads and helps you bond with your child. Play doesn’t have to be costly; it is the ultimate do-it-yourself activity. Whatever comes to hand – boxes, wooden spoons, cushions, or empty plastic tubs – can be used. Make sure you set aside some time everyday to get down to your baby’s level and play around.

There are many different types of play, from active play which helps baby’s physical development, to messy play which stimulates their imagination and creativity. The type of play they respond to will change as they develop so be prepared to keep things fun. (See our article on ‘Play and your child’s development’ for more information.)

Support for you

In the early days, there is often a lot of support and focus on mum and how she is feeling or coping. While this is really important, dads should also feel comfortable and confident about seeking help or information if they need it. NCT supports all parents so see the section below to find out how we can help you.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.