Tips for Expectant Dads

New Baby Advice for Dads or Fathers-to-Be

First of all, congratulations! We love dads-to-be. And we figured, since your partner is likely in full-blown research mode, reading everything she can about childbirth and babies, that we’d create this section just for you. Here you will find a broad overview covering popular topics and questions, with links available for further learning. Enjoy.

For more information on pregnancy and childbirth, call us at (314) 996-LIFE (5433) or toll-free (800) 392-0936 or email us.

A Few Basics

Here are some answers to a few things that dads-to-be often wonder about. You can also find more information on specific issues in the links below.

How Do I Change a Diaper?

A general rule of thumb is to change a newborn’s diaper every 2-3 hours, with additional changes as necessary.

First assemble your supplies: diapers, wipes and diaper cream. Use a changing table or soft surface to change the baby. If he or she is on a changing table, keep at least one hand or your baby and/or use the safety belt.

Open the diaper and start cleaning the baby front-to-back with the wipes. Be forewarned that babies may “have an accident” while you’re changing them – in the case of a boy, you may want to cover his penis with a small cloth until you’re ready to put on the new diaper.

Dry the area thoroughly and apply cream only if there is redness or a rash occurring. Then lift your baby’s legs to lift the bottom and remove the dirty diaper. Place a clean diaper in its place and bring the middle up between the baby’s legs. Hold the front of the diaper against the baby’s tummy while you bring each side over and secure it to the diaper. You will want a snug fit, but obviously, not too tight.

How to I swaddle my baby?

It’s a great idea to have your own diaper bag. There will be plenty of times when plans change and you may need to pick up the baby unexpectedly. Not to mention, you may want one anyway that is more tailored to your style. After all, you will be carrying one a lot.

Items for the bag are as follows:

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Cream
  • Changing Pad
  • Change of clothes for baby
  • A toy or rattle
  • Disposable bags for dropping dirty diapers in the trash (optional)
  • A pacifier (optional)
  • A baby thermometer (optional)
  • A spare bottle (optional)
  • A teething ring (optional)

How Do I Interpret Crying, and What Do I Do About It?

The following article on crying is courtesy of our partners at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

The first cries of a newborn baby are often music to the ears of parents. However, over the next weeks and months this "music" can become grating and painful. This is especially true when all attempts fail to stop the crying.

Surprisingly, crying does not produce tears until after the first month or two. Crying is the way babies communicate. They cry because of hunger, discomfort, frustration, fatigue, and even loneliness. Sometimes, cries can easily be answered with food, or a diaper change. Other times, it can be a mystery and crying stops as quickly as it begins.

You will soon learn differences in cries, from a cry of "I'm hungry" to "I've been overstimulated." It is important to respond to your baby's cries.

Contrary to old wives' tales, young babies cannot be spoiled by being picked up when crying. Being held is reassuring and comforting when a baby cannot express him/herself any other way.

Some techniques to help console a crying baby include the following:

  • Take care of physical problems first - hunger, diaper change, need to burp.
  • Walk with baby in a sling or in a stroller.
  • Rock your baby in a rhythmic, gentle motion.
  • Try a baby swing or rocking cradle.
  • Gently pat or stroke on the back or chest.
  • Try swaddling the baby.
  • Go for a ride in the car.
  • Turn on some white noise (such as a washing machine or vacuum cleaner).

No matter how frustrated you may become, NEVER SHAKE A BABY. This can cause severe injury to the baby's fragile brain. If you become angry or frustrated, allow someone else to take over for a while. If you are alone, put the baby down in a safe place, such as the crib, and go to another room for a few moments. This will give you time to collect yourself. Then you can return to your baby and try a different tactic to comfort your baby.

Bonding With Your Baby

You can start bonding with your baby before he or she is even born. Because the baby is hearing your voice all the time, he or she is going to be very familiar with it. You may wish to speak directly to your partner’s belly, or even read your child a story.

After your baby is born, you can continue to bond through eye contact and skin-to-skin contact. Holding and cradling your baby, as well as infant massage, are great ways to do this. Also, getting out and taking the baby for walks is a nice thing you can do together right away.

Related Links:

The First Six Weeks

Parent Support and Programs

She’s Pregnant: What Can I Do To Help?

As an expectant father, you can be the main provider of physical and emotional support to your partner.

Keep in mind that the first trimester is often where morning sickness and nausea are happening. This, in most cases, subsides by the second trimester. But during these first three months, your partner may not be feeling like her normal self. She may lose interest in certain foods, or even be disgusted by some of them. She may be feeling sick or cranky or fatigued. You can help by making her as comfortable as you can. You can take on more household duties. You can be understanding. Again, this is mostly temporary, so hang in there.

In the second trimester, a lot of the issues above have run their course. This can be a fun time for you both as you watch your partner’s belly grow. Did you know that the baby can also hear you? Take this time to talk to your baby and let him or her get to know your voice. As far as helping your partner, you can continue to do things around the house. You can work on the nursery. And you can do other preparation work, like planning your paternity leave, getting your cars checked out and thinking about car seats.

In the third trimester, your partner will likely become more tired as her belly is reaching larger proportions. Again, being as helpful as possible is a good thing, particularly as she will not be able to do everything she did before. And since the date is approaching, you can help put her at ease by installing the car seat, getting a hospital bag ready and planning your route to the hospital for when that time arrives. If you have pets, you may also want to think about making arrangements for them when you go to the hospital.

During this trimester, you should plan to attend Childbirth Classes with your partner.

From here, you may continue to The Hospital Experience, to learn what to expect and how you can help at the hospital.

The Hospital Experience

First off, know that when you’re in the hospital, you’re in good hands. Your nurses and doctors will tell you what to do, how to help, and so forth. You can start by being prepared with some snacks, reading material and overnight clothing and toiletries. Many dads-to-be are worried they might miss something if they leave the room. Clearly, you won’t have to make as many trips out of the room if you have these things with you.

Your level of participation in the birth is up to you and your partner. Many dads play an active role as the labor coach, helping their partners with breathing and offering words of encouragement and support. You may even be offered the opportunity to cut the umbilical cord. One thing is for sure; this will be one of the most amazing experiences in your lifetime.

During your stay at the hospital, you will have plenty of chances to bond with your baby and ask questions of the staff. When it’s time to go, they will remind you that you must have a car seat installed in order to take the baby home.

Related Links:

Why MoBap?

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Level III