Becoming a dad is exciting. But fathers-to-be don’t always know what to do to prepare. There are a lot of resources for new mothers but fewer for dads.
That’s why this article will provide a simple checklist for expecting dads on how to prepare for becoming a dad.
Ask for paternity leave
Though the US does not require employers to provide paternity leave, more and more companies do. So you should see if you have any available to you.
The more time you can spend with your child in its first weeks, the more you can help your partner and be a positive influence on the child’s development.
Line up health insurance coverage
Verify what your health insurance will cover during the pregnancy and delivery. Then make sure you have health insurance lined up for the baby as well.
It’s also important to be prepared for worst case scenarios like birth injuries. If the baby suffers from complications caused by doctor malpractice, know where to find legal help.
Prepare for the delivery day
Nobody knows what to expect during the delivery of their first child. Some fathers handle it better than others. That’s why it’s important to take a childbirth class if you can. You’ll learn about each stage of labor and how you can help your partner manage the pain of childbirth.
You should also consider taking a tour of the hospital before the big day comes. That way, you’re already a little familiar with the building and it will be less stressful when you come in for the delivery.
Write down a list of family and friends to notify when the baby arrives, too, so you don’t let anyone slip through the cracks.
And finally, have your bags packed and ready to go when your partner is close to giving birth. That way, you’re prepared to spend a few nights at the hospital, and you’re not stressing about packing at the last minute.
Learn how to swaddle a baby
Most new fathers don’t think about how to swaddle their baby in a blanket. They just wrap them however they can.
But the truth is that there’s a right way to swaddle your baby. You need to wrap them the way you would a burrito to make sure they stay insulated and warm beneath the blanket. That means folding up the bottom corners near their feet before wrapping across the sides.
Learn how to prepare a bottle
Not every mom chooses to breastfeed. Many feed formula milk in bottles instead or at least part of the time.
Fathers can help with bottle feeding by learning how to mix the formula and warm it to body temperature—which is at or around 98.6° Fahrenheit (36° Celsius). This way, the formula is closer to breast milk.
Also, remember that a baby’s stomach is tiny, especially when they are firstborn. A newborn’s stomach is about the size of a cherry. So you’ll use tiny bottles at first and gradually transition to bigger ones as they grow.
Learn how to change a diaper
If you don’t already know how to change a diaper, now is the time to learn. New fathers can relieve some of their partner’s burden by helping with frequent diaper changes.
You and your partner should also decide on a diaper system. Do you want to use traditional disposable diapers or reusable cloth diapers? Cloth diapers cost less but require more work.
Whichever you choose, learn how to use them well in advance. You’ll be changing multiple diapers per day. And you shouldn’t let the baby stay in a dirty diaper for very long as this can give them a rash and make it harder to potty train them later on.
You should also consider getting a changing table at home and learn how to pack a diaper bag for when you take the baby out of the house.
Prepare sleeping arrangements for the baby
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that newborns sleep in their parents’ bedroom for the first six months but not in the same bed. They should have their own crib or bassinet at your bedside so you can easily reach for them when they wake up in the middle of the night.
You should also learn how to properly put your baby to sleep. Make sure to lay them on their back to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). And prepare a nursery for when the child is old enough to sleep in their own room.
Get car seats and learn to use them
Many first-time fathers don’t know that you actually need two car seats for your kid—an infant car seat that snaps into a base and a forward-facing convertible car seat. You use the infant car seat while the child is still under 30 to 35 pounds. Once they get heavier, anywhere between 9 months and 2 years old, they should start using the bigger car seat.
You should know how to install these car seats and strap a child into them well before the baby arrives. The nurses won’t let you leave the hospital with the baby unless you have a car seat and know how to put your baby in it. So practice strapping in a doll or stuffed animal before the test.
Buy baby clothes and supplies
Your baby will go through a lot of clothes from diaper blowouts and getting into messes. You’ll want to get lots of onesies that you can easily switch them out of. And get plenty of baby socks as these tend to get lost easily.
Also, make sure to stock up on baby wipes, diaper rash cream, lotion, and laundry detergent. You’ll definitely need them.
It’s also a good idea to prepare easy-to-make meals since you and your wife probably won’t feel like cooking in those first weeks. So stock up on freezer meals.
Prepare your house
Now is also a good time to deep clean your house. A baby’s immune system isn’t very strong, so you want your house to be free of germs, so you don’t get them sick right off the bat.
Feel free to start baby-proofing your house, too, for when the baby gets more mobile. This helps prevent them from getting into outlets, kitchen cabinets, cleaning supplies, and other hazards.
Bond with your partner and friends
Your life changes forever when you become a dad. You won’t have as much time alone with your partner, so now is a good time to bond with them.
You’ll also have less time for your friends. So spend some time reaffirming your friendship and let them know they matter to you even though you may have less time for them moving forward.
Well, if you read this far, you’re more ready to be a dad than most first-timers are. Just remember to support your partner as much as possible and go with the flow. Being a dad can be a lot of fun—especially when you’re prepared!