With a newborn, it can feel like the world is exploding around you. Even with the best of intentions, you’re not exactly sure what to expect when it comes to being a dad. The good news: most new dads feel the same way. The bad news: it’s going to be a long year. Whether you’ve been at it for years or you’re only just stepping into fatherhood, there’s a lot to take in. Here are 10 tips from a new dad: what to expect from your first year of fatherhood.
1. Expect sleep deprivation
It’s tough to maintain sleep when you have a newborn. You’re sleep-deprived and constantly worried about the next crying fit. It’s normal to feel sleep-deprived, but you can’t let it slide. Sleep deprivation is a serious issue that can lead to postpartum depression, increased risk of auto accidents, and more. And sleep deprivation can affect your ability to parent effectively. Not only that, your partner will likely feel the same way and may not be as able to help out.
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2. Set clear expectations with your partner
You need to set clear expectations with your partner before you have a child. This means discussing what you want as well as what you don’t want. You don’t want your partner to feel guilty because they don’t want to do certain things. They don’t want to feel like they’re not doing enough. You also need to set clear expectations for yourself. You don’t want to feel like you’re not doing enough, but you also need to remember that it’s a lot of work. And it’s not like you can wake up one day and magically be a great dad. It takes time and effort.
3. Get outside
When you first become a father, the only place you want to be is outside. You need to be active; you need to be spending time with your partner, and you need to be connecting with your baby. Outside time isn’t just for new dads. It’s for everyone. Everyone needs a break from the day-to-day grind of parenthood. Outside time helps you decompress, gets you away from the electronics, and allows you to spend time with your partner without loss of work time.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Before you have a child, you may feel like you need to do it all. You feel like you have to be the perfect dad, the perfect partner, and the perfect employee. But that can quickly turn into a massively overwhelming task. You need to remember that you don’t have to do it all, at least not all at once. And that is okay. Before you feel like you need to do everything on your own, ask for help from family and friends. And that doesn’t just mean other dads. It also means friends, family members, and even your employer. It’s a good idea to let people know what you’re up to and what you need help with. That way, when you need it, you don’t have to go looking for it.
5. Watch out for postpartum depression
Postpartum depression, or PPD, is a serious mood disorder that affects new and expectant fathers. Most people relate it to mothers who have just given birth, but it can also affect fathers. It can occur within the first year or two of fatherhood, and it often goes untreated. It is characterized by low mood with anxiety, irritability, and diminished interest in activities. Symptoms often end within a few months to a year, but they can occur again after the birth of another child. There are many risk factors that can lead to PPD, but one of the most consistent is stress. The good news is that it is treatable and it can be prevented. If you notice any changes in your mood or if you feel like you’re slacking off more than usual, talk to your doctor.
6. Welcome surprises
No matter how many books or articles you read, or how many dads you talk to, you’ll never know everything there is to know about being a dad. No two days are the same. You’re going to experience all kinds of new things, and you’re going to have to figure out how to navigate those things. Many new dads feel like they have to figure it all out as they go. But that’s not the case. There are things to learn, there are things to figure out, and there are things to expect. But every dad is different. You don’t have to be anyone but yourself to be a great dad.
7. Take good care of yourself
The first important thing to do is take care of yourself. Your mental and physical health are just as important as your baby’s, and if you don’t take care of yourself now, you won’t be able to take care of your baby later. There are a number of ways you can take care of yourself, but one way is by eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep at night. You should also make sure to exercise regularly, even if it’s just a little bit. And don’t forget about having support from other people around you—your partner, friends, and family members.
8. Get organized and make a to-do list
Being organized is the key to being a successful father. You might think that you’ll have a lot of time on your hands after baby arrives, but that’s not always true. Having everything in order can make your life so much easier. That way you know what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done. Keep the list somewhere where you can see it at all times so it doesn’t slip your mind!
9. Make friends with other new dads
When you meet other new dads, they’ll be able to share their experiences with you and answer any questions you may have. They also can give you tips and tricks that only other fathers know about.
10. Ask or what you need
It can be hard for new dads to ask for help. But, you don’t want to over-extend yourself or your partner. You’re not the only one at home anymore, so it’s okay to ask for what you need. Whether that means asking your partner to take care of the kids while you get some much-needed sleep or asking someone else in the family to pitch in, it’s important that you feel comfortable enough to ask for help when you need it.
It can be a lot, but it’s also a lot of fun. Keep in mind that you’re not alone. You have new friends in your partner and your baby. Hang out with your partner, spend time with your baby, and be prepared for the unexpected. But most importantly, enjoy it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun.