5 To-Dos for Soon-to-Be Dads
By Vicki Casey, RN, BSN—Registered Nurse, Mother Baby Unit, Virtua Voorhees
Your partner is pregnant, and the time for her to deliver a baby is approaching. This is enough to turn the calmest dad into a bundle of nerves. Yes, the baby will bring about many life changes, and yes, there’s a lot to do to get ready for his or her arrival. That’s why we’re sharing this new dad checklist to help you prepare for the challenges and joys of fatherhood.
There are two vaccines you might need before the baby is born:
- Flu shot: If the baby is due between September and April, you should get one, as this is prime flu season.
- TDaP booster: TDaP protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). Pertussis has made a comeback recently and is dangerous, and sometimes fatal, in infants.
Your baby can't get a flu shot until 6 months or finish a TDaP series until 1 year, so it’s up to those around the baby to build up their immunities. The same vaccination rules apply to mom, as well. She can even pass on some of those immunities to baby before birth.
Know the Signs of Postpartum Depression
If your partner develops postpartum depression, you’ll likely notice it before she does, so it’s important to brush up on tell-tale symptoms. Baby blues are common, so you shouldn’t worry if she’s moody, anxious, or tearful from time to time, especially in the first few weeks after birth. But, if you notice these symptoms increasing or sticking around into the second or third month, she may have postpartum depression.
A mom with postpartum depression can become withdrawn (she may not want to leave the house, for example), lose interest in the baby, and feel plagued with excessive sadness, severe anxiety/panic, and intense feelings of worthlessness or shame that interfere with everyday life at home. If you notice these symptoms, encourage her to call her doctor, or even call for her. Remind her that postpartum depression is not her fault, and that it can be treated.
Install the Car Seat Early, and Properly
Make sure the car seat is purchased and properly installed well in advance of the baby’s due date. The installation can be a little tricky depending on the seat you choose and the car you drive. But, if it’s not installed to precise specifications, the baby may not be protected in the event of an accident. Virtua offers car seat safety information in the Baby Basics class and provides car seat checks for new moms and babies when they're discharged from the hospital. You also can contact your local police station or fire department to see if they have a certified car seat safety technician.
Many companies sell car seat unnecessary accessories that sit between the baby and the seat back or harness straps. These are not safe, nor are they recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Visit the AAP car seat safety guide for more information.
Take Charge of At-Home Visitation
A new baby in the house attracts many visitors, and a new mom is often tired and overwhelmed. To ease this, create a family visiting policy.
- Talk with your partner about who she’d like to see, and how long she’d like those visits to last.
- If she’s craving a special snack, you might give the next well-wisher a heads-up.
- If she’s reluctant to turn down a visit, or to say so when a visit’s gone on too long, you can speak up for her. “Mom and baby need their rest right now” is a perfectly reasonable exit strategy.
Be a Patient Partner
Sometimes new dads feel left out when the baby comes, especially if mom is breastfeeding. But, there’s a lot you can do to care for them both. Your partner may feel glued to the chair or bed during the frequent nursing sessions of the early days. She’d surely appreciate a favorite beverage, or a foot rub, or even just a chance to share her feelings or voice her complaints. A patient, listening ear and a willingness to talk things through is going to be very important for you both as you adjust to becoming parents. You can even help get the baby latched on to her breast, which is often difficult in the beginning. And while holding a tiny baby may seem scary at first, you’ll find newborns are sturdier and more flexible than they look. Practice makes perfect, so aim to spend plenty of time cuddling, rocking, and talking to your little one (and changing his or her diapers, of course). You’ll grow more confident before you know it.
Updated July 12, 2018