09:25 09 June 2009
Having a baby can be an emotional and practical upheaval for dads too... bringing changes to your life and your outlook you may not have anticipated. This article also appears on www.bbc.co.uk/parenting/having_a_baby
Sometimes, dads feel they want to be more involved than they are " you may even feel a bit left out.
You might worry about this if your partner is breastfeeding. New babies spend a lot of time feeding, and this may seem like a closeness you can't be part of. Your partner may seem more confident than you are about handling the baby, and may even be nervous about 'letting you in'.
But it needn't be like that.
Babies and fathers get to know each other in many ways, here are just a few.
Your baby can recognise your face and your voice very soon " at just a few days old. You can make your baby smile and laugh from just a few weeks old.
There are lots of practical ways you can be involved in your baby's day to day care.
Research shows one of the most important factors in breastfeeding success is the support and encouragement of the baby's father.
When breastfeeding women leaving hospital were asked about their feeding choice, they stated the dad's preference was highest on their list of influences. In another study, the huge majority of women who said their partners approved of breastfeeding chose to breastfeed. Only a quarter of the ones who said their partners didn't approve chose to breastfeed.
But of course, one of the arguments sometimes used in favour of bottle feeding is that anyone can give a baby a bottle. It can be enjoyable and rewarding to feed your baby. The length of time your baby will be breastfed without other foods is only about six months, and if you want to get involved with feeding, there are lots of opportunities after that. While feeding is time-intensive at first, there are other ways to care, comfort, bond, and help.
You can offer your baby a bottle of your partner's expressed breastmilk, to give her a break or to feed the baby when she isn't there.
Formula is an alternative to expressed breastmilk, but be aware that giving formula can make a difference to your partner's milk supply. You might think that not feeding could mean less 'bonding' " less closeness between you and your baby. However, there's no evidence to back this up at all.
If you are unsure of your parenting skills, you can try taking on one task at a time then do it regularly. With practice, it will get easier until you operate on automatic pilot. Spend time each day alone with your baby, gradually increasing the time as you begin to feel more comfortable. The more time you spend looking after your baby, the more you will learn about her likes and dislikes " and baby will feel happier and more secure if you're a regular part of her routine.
You may find you are working long hours to make up for lost family income " and you may hardly see your kids during the week. Make the weekend a time for you and your family. If you work shifts, you may be able to get your older children ready for school in the morning or get home in time to take your baby out and about in the afternoon.
No man ever said on his deathbed: "I wish I had spent more time at work".
Dads need to ensure they don't miss out on the special times that can't be recaptured.
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