Preparing For Fatherhood: 12 Tips For First-time Dads

Becoming a first time dad is one of the most exciting (and—let’s face it!—overwhelming!!) times in a man’s life. As you’re preparing to be a dad, we’ve got some practical tips for first time dads that can help you get ready for this next big step so you’re ready for your new role and the arrival of your little one.

What First Time Dads Should Know?

Tip 1: Educate Yourself

Before you’re ready to take on the name “Dad,” remember that it’s not only important to educate yourself about how to prepare for fatherhood, but also about what happens throughout pregnancy and how to care for a new baby. Lucky for you, there are many resources and tips for first time dads that provide reliable sources of information about all these topics. Read books like the classic, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, bookmark the American Academy of Pediatrics website and countless parenting sites, and sign up for a parenting class where you’ll learn the basics of newborn care. 

You should also make it a point to attend prenatal appointments with your partner or surrogate (if you can) so you can ask questions about any concerns you might have. You can also explore articles and other resources that have useful suggestions for how to prepare to be a dad and to get yourself into the parenting mindset.

Tip 2: As a First Time Dad, Get Involved During Pregnancy

If your partner is carrying the baby, you can still be an active and supportive part of the pregnancy. In fact, your involvement can actually help in preparing for fatherhood by reducing stress and anxiety and strengthening the bond between the two of you. 

Not sure how to participate? Our tips for first time dads to get involved are as follows:  Accompany your partner to prenatal appointments (you’ll get to hear your baby’s heartbeat and see your baby on ultrasound!), help with household chores, and be emotionally available. Also, try to attend childbirth classes together so you’re prepared to be a supportive partner during labor and delivery.

Tip 3: Prepare Your Home

There’s a lot of work and planning that goes into preparing for fatherhood and getting ready for your new baby. You need to set up the nursery, make sure you’ve got all the supplies you need to care for a newborn, and baby proof the house to make sure it’s a safe environment for your baby.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you have your baby sleep in your room (but not in your bed) until they are 6-12 months old, so a bassinet like the MamaRoo Sleep® Bassinet that you can pull up next to the side of your bed for late night feedings is essential. 
  • While your baby should sleep in your room, you will probably also want to create a space in your home just for them. When setting up the nursery, you can be as elaborate or as streamlined as you like. At a minimum, your baby will need a crib, a changing area (a dresser with a changing pad does double duty, providing a spot to store clothes and change diapers), and a rocking chair or glider. The MamaRoo® Multi-Motion Baby Swing® makes a great addition to their nursery - or any room in your house - as a place for baby to be comfortable and safe when you need a hands-free moment.
  • An all-in-one-care station like the 4moms® Breeze® Plus Plaryard doubles as a bassinet and a diaper-changing station during the early weeks and months as a first time dad with your baby. Make sure it’s stocked with diapers, wipes, diaper creams, and a few changes of clothes so you’re ready to go when you bring your baby home.

Tip 4: How to Prepare to Be a Dad With the Right Parenting Skills

Once you’ve got your home ready for your baby’s arrival, it’s time to make sure you’re ready for their arrival, too. Your baby will rely on you for everything, but taking care of a tiny newborn is not necessarily intuitive: you need to learn new skills to look after them. That’s where this advice for first time dads comes in.

Most hospitals offer classes on how to prepare for fatherhood that cover the basics of newborn care - like practicing diapering, dressing, and swaddling a lifelike baby doll so you can confidently care for your baby when you bring them home. Keeping these tips for first time dads in mind can also help:

  • Diaper Changing: The key to a successful diaper change? Having all your supplies ready and within reach. (Trust us on this tip for first time fathers: you do NOT want to find out in the midst of changing a dirty diaper that the wipes container is empty.) After removing the diaper, gently wipe your baby front to back, then apply diaper cream if needed and put on a fresh diaper.
  • Burping: Babies have to burp after eating to get rid of gas that builds up in their tummies, but they need a hand from you—literally!—to get some relief. Good thing it’s pretty easy to learn how to master the art of burping your baby.
  • Soothing: If your baby is fussy, you can try to calm them down with infant massage, soothing sounds, or swaddling.

Tip 5: Create a Support System

As a first time dad, you’ll probably have lots of questions about how to parent and how to make the adjustment to becoming a father for the first time. If you don’t already have a network of family, friends, and healthcare professionals that you can turn to for support and advice (or even if you do!) you may want to join a local or online parenting group so you have someone in your corner. And remember: it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. 

Tip 6: As a First Time Dad, You Need to Take Care of Yourself, Too

Preparing for fatherhood, you’ll quickly understand that if you don't take care of yourself, you can’t take care of the tiny little human who counts on you for everything. While becoming a dad for the first time is one of the most exciting things that will happen to you in your life, research shows that it’s also one of the most stressful. On top of exploring how to prepare to be a dad, you may be juggling the demands of a busy job and taking care of a home, so take steps to manage your stress:

  • Get plenty of sleep: We know it’s not easy with a newborn but try to squeeze in sleep when your baby is sleeping and remember, all those 2 AM feedings won’t last forever. Eventually, your baby will sleep through the night.
  • Eat healthy food: When caring for a newborn as a first time dad, it’s hard enough to find time to eat much less to cook three healthy meals a day. But that doesn’t mean you need to subsist on chips and take out. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy grab-and-go choices that can power you through the day, like sliced fruits and veggies, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, and power bars.
  • Keep active: Scheduling in a gym workout might not be top of your list of tips for first time dads, but staying physically active with a newborn is easier than you think. Plan for a daily walk around the neighborhood with your baby in a stroller or a baby carrier, squeeze in a quick yoga session during naptime, or do some squats and lunges while you’re holding your baby close.
  • Pay attention to your mental health: If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, know that these feelings are normal when preparing to be a dad. But be aware that it’s not just moms who suffer from postpartum depression: 1 in 10 dads struggle with it as well. If you find yourself feeling angry, irritable, withdrawn or depressed, it’s time to seek medical attention.

Tip 7: Bond with Your Baby

Studies show that there are surprising benefits for newborns who spend quality time with their dads: they grow to be more secure, confident, independent, and curious, and even handle stressful situations better. But bonding activities aren’t just good for your baby: they’re good for you and your relationship with your partner, too. Dads who are actively involved in their kid’s lives tend to have better mental and physical health and happier relationships with their significant other.  

Not sure where to start? Here are our tips for first time dads: Spend time talking and singing with your baby every day and try skin-to-skin contact, where you lay your baby directly on your bare chest.

Tip 8: Prepare and Freeze Meals in Advance

When you're exhausted as a first time dad and need a quick meal, having ready-made dishes in the freezer can be a lifesaver. Take some time before your baby arrives to cook and freeze your favorite meals. This will make it easy to enjoy a nutritious meal without the hassle of cooking during those busy first weeks. Consider preparing a variety of meals, including breakfast items, soups, and casseroles, to keep your meals diverse and enjoyable. You’ll appreciate having homemade meals that are healthier and more satisfying than takeout when you’re short on time and energy.

Tip 9: Ensure Your Car Is Ready and Install the Car Seat

Before your baby arrives, make sure your car is in top condition and ready for safe travels. It's also the perfect time to install the infant car seat. Place the car seat rear-facing in the back seat and follow the instructions provided by both the car seat manufacturer and your vehicle's manual to ensure it’s securely installed. You might also want to get your car serviced to avoid any unexpected breakdowns during trips with your baby. An additional first time dad tip: Consider keeping a diaper bag and emergency kit in the car for those unforeseen situations.

Tip 10: Preparing for Fatherhood by Planning Ahead with Your Workplace

Get familiar with your workplace’s policies regarding parental leave and other benefits. Knowing what’s available to you can help in how to prepare to be a dad by knowing the time you can take off to be with your new family. Look into nearby daycare options for future convenience and cost management. Discuss your plans with your employer in advance to ensure a smooth transition when you take your leave as a first time dad. It’s also helpful to establish a backup plan for any work-related emergencies that may arise while you’re on leave.

Tip 11: Organize Financial and Legal Matters

Prepare for the financial changes a new baby brings by updating your budget and organizing important documents. Work with your partner to reassess your household budget to include new expenses like childcare and healthcare. Keep essential documents such as insurance policies, wills, and bank information in a secure, accessible place. Consider setting up a savings account specifically for your child’s future expenses, such as education. Having these financial and legal matters in order will provide peace of mind and stability for your growing family. 

To ensure you’re financially and legally prepared, here are some key tips for first time dads to focus on:

  • Update your budget: Reevaluate your household budget to account for new expenses like diapers, baby clothes, and medical costs.
  • Create a savings plan: Preparing to be a dad means starting early. Open a savings account for your child's future, whether for education or unexpected expenses.
  • Organize important documents: Keep vital documents such as insurance policies, wills, and bank information in a secure, easy-to-access location.
  • Review insurance policies: Ensure your health, life, and disability insurance policies are up-to-date and provide adequate coverage for your growing family.
  • Set up legal documents: Prepare or update your will, establish a medical power of attorney, and ensure your child’s guardianship is legally documented.
  • Plan for emergencies: Make sure someone you trust knows how to access your important financial and legal information in case of an emergency.
  • Track expenses: Use financial apps or tools to help you monitor and manage your spending as you adjust to the new costs of becoming a father for the first time.

Tip 12: Foster Open Communication

As you embark on your journey preparing for fatherhood, effective communication with your partner and others involved in your baby’s life is crucial. Recognize that both you and your partner will face new challenges, so practicing empathy and active listening is vital. Good communication skills will support your relationship with your partner and help you navigate the ups and downs of parenthood together. Regularly check in with each other about your feelings, concerns, and needs to maintain a strong partnership. Building a supportive network of family and friends can also provide additional emotional support during this time.

You’ve Got this Dad!

Preparing to become a first time dad is exciting—and potentially terrifying. As you get ready for parenthood, these twelve tips for first time fathers can ease the transition and ensure you’re ready for the journey!