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Advice for first-time fathers

Q: My wife is due to deliver our first baby soon. I am excited and scared all at the same time about becoming a father. What will it be like?

A: Becoming a father is a time of great change, stress, and transition. The more involved you are with your baby, before and after the birth, the smoother that transition will be.

Taking prenatal classes allows you time to adjust to the fact that there really is a baby coming into your life. It also is a time to be around other people that have the same concerns you do.

The first 6 to 12 weeks after a baby is born are very demanding. Newborns need round the clock physical and emotional care. They have irregular sleep patterns, are hungry all the time it seems, generate massive amounts of laundry, and sometimes cry for no apparent reason. All this is happens while your wife is recovering from the physical and emotional strain of pregnancy, labor and birth

You now have a lifetime commitment. This commitment is triggered when you realize that your baby is vulnerable and the mother is dependent on your support. At the same time you now have a new appreciation for your wife’s courage and strength after watching her give birth. You will find that you are willing to make sacrifices and change your life to accommodate the needs of your family.

Babies sleep a lot during the early weeks so organizing a specific activity to do with your baby such as bathing will help you establish a relationship with your newborn. You may find that you are so busy with your family that social activities and relationships with friends may take a back burner for awhile.

The father maintains the family integrity by creating a cocoon for the mother. The mother must focus on her own recovery and the care of her newborn. Your role is to protect and provide for your family. Making sure the mother doesn’t have too many visitors and taking on household chores helps speed the recovery of your wife. The need to provide for your family’s financial needs usually requires you to return to work. It then becomes difficult balancing the demands of your home life and the demands of your workplace.

Time is a major issue for new parents. There never seems to be enough of it. You will find that prioritizing and reprioritizing, maintaining your energy, managing time and developing routines will help you. You may need to sacrifice a clean house and social activities for awhile. Eventually a baby will sleep and feed more regularly and you will have more confidence. Once this happens you feel more in control and feel a return of balance in your life.

During pregnancy many men have a difficult time grasping that they are going to be a father. It is with the birth of the baby that most fathers start to understand their new role. Have patience with yourself and know that you will grow into your new role.

Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living. Contact her at katie.powers@mmhhs.com.

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