You may be a new dad and feel out of your element, but you’re not alone. Other new dads share their journeys with newborns. See if what you’re going through is similar:
Don’t Take It Personally
Before I became a parent, many well-meaning friends told me that I would be a “natural” at fatherhood. After my son was born, taking care of an infant felt anything but natural.
Friends told me all kinds of things — how to burp the baby, how to get him on a sleep schedule, even what kind of diapers to buy. But the best advice I received was from a friend who had a couple of older kids. He told me, “Ted, your son is a baby; don’t take anything he does personally.”
He explained that although babies have all the same senses we have, they have a limited ability to communicate. My friend assured me that while I may get frustrated when my child is fussy, my feelings would only get in the way of understanding my son’s needs. My little one was just trying to communicate the only way he knew how.
I became more at ease. Sure, my frustration would rise at times, but then I’d remember the advice of my good friend, and I’d gain control of my emotions.
New Baby, New Dad
I was overjoyed when our first daughter was born, even though I felt I was meeting her for the very first time. In hopes of bonding with this little baby, my wife and I were intentional about finding ways for me to spend special time with my daughter.
During the first few days of having her at home with us, we would strip her down to her diaper and allow her to sleep on my chest. The warmth, safety and familiar sound of Daddy comforted her.
Because my wife was responsible for all the feedings, I took on diaper duty for the first week. This gave me exclusive time with our baby.
My wife carried our daughter for nine months, but once she was born, I took over most of the carrying duties. On walks, I pushed the stroller or wore the baby carrier. As we strolled, I showed my daughter the world arou—nd her.
—Nick Lamb and Kirsten Lamb
Satin ribbons, dainty lace and a flurry of pink. She arrived just after Father’s Day, and she was perfectly beautiful. My husband’s presence at her delivery was the beginning of the father-daughter bonding that would continue through every stage of her development. But bonding didn’t always come naturally.
My husband is a manly guy. Growing up, he did all the typical guy things. His adult years were no different: He was a fighter pilot in the Air Force when our daughter was born.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that my husband needed a little guidance with our baby girl. Sometimes I could see the signs: puzzled expressions or hesitancy. Other times, I actually heard the signs. Looking down at our newborn as she rested in the crook of his arm, he commented, “This is easy. You just hold her like a football.”
He didn’t see me cringe.
Step-by-step, he learned the basics. One morning, when our daughter was 3 months old, I decided to introduce him to dressing her.
“I’ve laid out her clothes. Why don’t you dress her for church?” I asked.
“OK.” He sounded unsure.
“It’ll be fun,” I said, and left the two of them alone.
I could hear him tenderly talking to her as he went about his task. Finally he called me in to see his handiwork. The dress was on backward. The ankle socks, designed to be folded down, were pulled up to her knees, the frill of lace standing on end at the top.
“I like these little basketball socks,” he said, adjusting the lace around her knees. In his face I could see that the interaction had brought him joy, and I masked my amusement.
If your husband is at all like mine, don’t worry. He will become more confident as he spends time with your daughter and discovers the person she is. Likewise, she will grow to love and respect her father. Regular, everyday activities forge the strongest bonds: visits to the park, splashing in the pool, bedtime stories, trips to the ice cream parlor. Eventually their shared experiences will be a study in contrasts: ballgames and ballet recitals, fishing and shopping, camping out and eating out. As your daughter grows, help your husband understand her feminine complexities. Meanwhile, give him space to bond with her, though he might need a nudge or two along the way.