Preparing to Be a Dad for the First Time (video/podcast)

A Scripps pediatrician offers tips for caring for your newborn

A Scripps pediatrician offers tips for caring for your newborn

There is no shortage of information available for moms-to-be on how to prepare for the arrival of their baby, but dads-to-be also need to be ready for the new addition. From knowing what to expect in the weeks and days leading up to delivery to understanding how best to support Mom, being prepared can help everything go more smoothly — especially if this is the first child.

In this video, San Diego Health host Susan Taylor talks with Brian Scull, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Hillcrest, about how men can get ready for the birth of their baby.

What do dads need to know?

“There are lots of things that dads can do to kind of prepare for that initial newborn coming into their life, and this will resonate with any partner who is assisting somebody who is having a baby,” says Dr. Scull.

“Some things you can really prepare for, but for others being flexible and kind of rolling with things as they happen is another way of being prepared, because that will help you during the newborn period and as the child gets older.”

One thing you can do well before the due date is research your parental leave benefits if you have them. Most companies grant paid “family leave” to new dads, but your benefits may vary depending on your company’s policies, how much time you’re taking off and whether you can take additional unpaid time. Check with your human resources department to make sure you understand your options.

“One of the most important pieces of advice I usually give my new parents is to take as much time off of work as humanly possible, because this is a time for you to really settle down with your family and enjoy being a parent,” says Dr. Scull. “You don’t have a baby that often, and you have your first baby just once in your life.”

If you’re concerned about learning the basics of baby care, such as how to hold, feed and change your newborn, look into classes or workshops for new parents offered through your hospital or health care system. If you have a friend or family member with a baby, ask if you can spend some time holding, feeding and swaddling their baby before your own arrives. 

You also can begin to childproof your home in preparation for the baby. Some parenting classes cover this information, or you can search online for childproofing tips. Invite your friends with kids over to look around and suggest any baby safety measures you might have overlooked. In addition, take an infant CPR and first aid class.

Also, try to choose your pediatrician ahead of time. You can even meet your pediatrician before delivery in a prenatal visit, which can be very beneficial for new parents.

How can dads support their partner?

If you and your partner take birthing preparation classes, you may already have some idea of what to expect during delivery. Still, the actual experience may be very different than what you anticipate.

“I aways advise dads to be present and attentive, not only physically but emotionally. Really try to integrate yourself into the whole process. Experience it with your partner. I truly feel that gives both parents a good experience,” says Dr. Scull.

As much as you and your partner try to plan for who will do what after the baby arrives, such as feeding, cooking, cleaning and so on, being flexible is key. Be ready for plans to change on the fly and to “tag team” a bit to handle feeding, changing and whatever else needs to be done.

Dr. Scull advises dads to have as much physical interaction with their baby as possible. While newborns spend most of their time sleeping and eating, holding and talking to your child while they’re awake will help create a bond. Take this time to be present and focus on your family without worrying about work or other concerns.

If you have questions or concerns, talk to your pediatrician.

“There can be anxiety when you’re not sure what’s normal and what’s not, so really lean on your pediatrician for that,” advises Dr. Scull. “They can give you a sense of affirmation that everything is going fine. And if it’s not, they’ll tell you what to do about it. When you’re able to take all that into consideration, you're able to take better care of yourself and your baby.”

Listen to the podcast on preparing for fatherhood

Listen to the podcast on preparing for fatherhood

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