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Becoming a Dad: Advice for Expectant Fathers

dad hugging mom's pregnant stomach
Research shows that dads who play an active role during pregnancy lower moms’ stress levels.

If you’re a pregnant mom, you’re probably getting lots of attention—even occasionally having complete strangers ask personal questions and touch your belly when you’re out and about. But dads-to-be? Far less visible. The truth is that fathers have an important role to play, too—of course after the baby is born, but during pregnancy as well.

What the Research Says

interview with dad

Dads who play an active role during pregnancy lower moms’ stress levels. And lower stress means a healthier environment for your growing baby. Research shows that dads who are involved during pregnancy are more likely to remain involved once the baby is born—with great results. Kids with dads who are involved in their upbringing tend to do better socially, emotionally, and academically than kids with uninvolved fathers. Research also shows kids with involved dads tend to be more confident.

Before the Baby is Born

  • Talk, read, and sing to your baby-to-be. 
    • Babies can hear during the second trimester of pregnancy, and recognize voices in the third trimester—including yours!
  • Attend doctor’s visits as much as you can.
    • During Ob/Gyn checkups, you will be able to see your baby’s growth and development—including his heartbeat. These opportunities to track your baby’s development help you both begin to feel connected to your little one even before his birth day.
  • Try a class for expectant parents.
    • Classes will help you prep for parenting (diaper changing, feeding, keeping baby healthy and safe), as well as cover strategies for how to co-parent with Mom.
  • Support healthy habits.
    • Your encouragement helps mom eat the right foods and avoid smoking and drinking during pregnancy. For example, research shows that your support makes it easier for Mom to begin and continue breastfeeding.
  • Be there for labor and delivery. 
    • Both moms and dads naturally worry about the labor and delivery process. Some dads say they worry about doing the wrong thing in the delivery room, seeing their partner in pain, or being left out of important decisions. But they show up in big numbers and most are glad that they did. Moms report that having their partners in the delivery room reduces their anxiety and pain. And many dads find that meeting their baby right after birth is an experience that changes them forever—and helps them bond with their babies from those first seconds.

After the Baby is Born

  • Continue the conversation.
    • You’ve been talking, reading, and singing to your baby for months. Now enjoy seeing her responses for the first time!
  • Figure out how to share responsibility for the baby.
    • New dads can do almost everything new moms can do: Change diapers, give baths, share stories, and take your turn walking and soothing when the baby is crying. If your partner is breastfeeding, you can participate by bringing the baby to her, or burping him when he’s done. Sharing these responsibilities right from the start gives you a chance to get to know your baby and builds a strong foundation for your relationship with him.
  • Pay attention to your baby’s cues.
    • Over time, babies develop their own ways of telling you want they need—through a particular cry, look, or movement. By spending time caring for and playing with your baby, you’ll start to decode her cues.

Today’s dads spend more time caring for their children than their fathers and grandfathers did. They recognize the value of sharing the everyday tasks of raising children—from diapering to discipline. Dads’ choices, and their voices, matter—to them, to moms, and to their kids.

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