In just a few hours, you have gone from being a couple… to being a family: a page has turned and a new life has begun! Get our tips on experiencing the first few months of your baby's life with complete peace of mind and fully enjoying this exceptional period.
Switching from being a couple to being a family
Your baby's arrival is something wonderful. But it can also be a major source of upheaval. The balanced relationship that you have built with your partner can be affected: you are going from being a couple to being a family, and everyone has to redefine their place and the role that they play. Allow yourself a little time to find a new balance with your baby - as part of a couple and with your extended family
• A solid relationship with your wife is vital for managing your new responsibilities as parents with complete peace of mind: you have created this child together and you have to look after it together! Over the first few months, your partner will need your help to recover from all the fatigue of pregnancy and giving birth. Do as many of the day-to-day tasks yourself as possible and seize each and every opportunity to spend time with your child.
• Becoming a dad also means accepting that your partner will temporarily be less available for you. It is completely normal for her to have an extremely close relationship with your baby for the first few months. This will change gradually over time. Establish a role for yourself by playing a part in taking care of your child and building a relationship with him.
• Over time, a more three-way relationship between you, your partner and your baby will take shape. The relationship between you and your wife is just as important for your baby as the relationships between your baby and its mother and between your baby and you: for a child, its father is the man that its mother desires. And so the role that you play in your wife's life further emphasizes your role as a father.
• If this is not your first baby, it will probably be easier for you to adapt to all these changes as a result of your experience as parents. But pay attention to the way in which your older children react to this new baby: if you're interested, you can have a look at our advice sheet.
Establishing a role for yourself in your child's life
Although some fathers are able to invest emotionally in their children during their partner’s pregnancy, for others, it's only when their child is born that they really start to have a relationship with it. Everybody becomes a father in their own way!
• When your child is born, you will probably be overcome by a wave of emotions. Do things at your own pace: cry, cuddle your child, watch him… Don't hold this burst of emotions in check – they will help you to create a strong bond with your child.
• When your baby has spent some time lying against his mother, or immediately after birth if she requires special medical care, take off your shirt and hold him against your skin. This way, you can warm him up and he can discover his dad. This close contact will help strengthen the growing bond between you. If you feel too clumsy to hold him on your own, get a midwife to put him in your arms for you.
• Just after birth, your newborn baby finds himself in a completely strange new world. The first thing that will help him feel at home in this new world is his mother's breast – which will make him feel wonderfully safe and secure. But you also have an important role to play. Go to your child; cuddle both him and his mother. In the little space that you create around him, he will find out that even when he is away from his mother, the world is not such a hostile place. Remember that you have a role to play and try not to feel like a visitor.
• You will be tired from having to get up many times during the night over the first few months and this can have a major effect on you: when you are suffering from a lack of sleep, all difficulties – even the most minor ones – can seem a lot more serious. Don't underestimate what exhaustion can do. it's the main cause of depression experienced by 50% of all fathers when their child is 4 to 6 months old. Feel free to get in touch with a midwife or your GP and get help if you feel exhausted.
• If you're interested, you can have a look at our Expert Dossier: sleep and your baby.
• For the first few months of your baby's life, you should spend long periods of time having physical contact with him on a regular basis. This is vital for helping you to build a strong bond with him. Carry him – either in your arms or in a baby carrier – cuddle him, rock him to send him to sleep, wash him, change him… Accept the fact that there is a maternal side to your masculinity and express this. A father who looks after his child is not effeminate. Even if you feel clumsy to begin with, you will develop your own way of doing things. This will help you define yourself as the father of your child.
• If your partner has chosen to breastfeed, support her without feeling excluded from this very special relationship: she will be providing your child with the best possible nourishment and her being able to do this is totally dependent on how dad reacts to this. You will be able to feed your child yourself once he has moved on to solids or when you want to vary his diet little.
• Games can often be a very good way for dads to communicate with their babies: starting in the first few months, invent fun activities for your newborn and enjoy laughing with him. This will lead to wonderfully joyful moments that you will remember for the rest of your life!
Fathers in the UK can take 2 weeks of paid paternity leave at a fixed amount, and a total of 4 weeks per year via a Parental leave request if they have at least one year's continuous employment. Feel free to make the most of this opportunity. Use this time to share day-to-day life with your child during his first few days and enjoy this unique experience. You will also be helping your partner – who will need a lot of rest after giving birth.