How to Prepare For a Baby? Perfect Guide For Dads

Dads, for the last few months, much of the attention has been on mom and baby, and for good reason. Expectant moms go through many physical changes when it comes to preparing for the birth of your baby. She has probably also dealt with many emotional changes. Your baby has grown from just a few cells into your son or daughter and will soon be here. You may feel a bit lost at times. Dads are often eager to be present, helpful, and strong for their growing families. However, if this is your first baby, you may certainly be confused as to what needs to be done and when. Your partner’s body has physically changed preparing for this change, and you may sometimes feel less participatory. We are here to help you find ways to support your family and emotionally prepare for your new baby or babies. First, congratulations on your growing family. Babies may be big changes in tiny ways, but they also mean more love and enjoyment. Second, relax. Families have been growing for centuries. You will get through this, and we are here to help. 

Before the Baby

There are a lot of things to think about and consider when expecting a baby. One can read every baby book on the planet and not have any indication of what to do when their baby gets here. That doesn’t mean to ignore the information. Being informed is one of the best ways to prepare for multiple situations. You should not cause yourself a great deal of worry, but you should prepare for many types of situations. 

Most births happen uneventfully. Moms may tell you of long labors, difficult movement, and uncomfortable moments, but all of those things are normal. Before your partner is in labor, you should both consider your plans for different scenarios. 

Plan for your futures through wills, medical directives, or financial planning. This one always seems morbid for people, but one never knows when tragedy may strike. A prime example is a recent news story in which Kobe Bryant’s widow is trying to get the courts to recognize his youngest daughter as related to his estate. Planning during her last pregnancy would have prevented this. 

Baby care classes/ Labor and delivery classes - Even if this is not your first baby, it may be helpful to take parenting classes or Labor and Delivery classes offered at your local hospital. Some of these classes will offer up to date hospital regulations, tours of hospitals that may have been under construction since your last visit, new pediatric recommendations, and other vital information. Many of these classes are taught by medical professionals such as labor and delivery nurses, midwives, and medical assistants. 

Baby appointments - It is rare that a partner makes every single OB/GYN appointment and every prenatal activity but planning to attend as many as possible is important to mom and baby. Set up a calendar that you can both utilize. If you are old-school, a simple paper calendar/ planner is fine. If you prefer, you can set up Microsoft Outlook Calendar, Google Calendar, or a similar program. Talk about which appointments you want to be at for sure, and the best time of day to plan appointments so that you can make as many as possible. 

Check your insurance - Different insurance companies pay different amounts for well mom checks, baby checks, tests, and other things. Some insurance companies pay for certain tests and not others. For instance, for mothers over 35 many insurance companies pay for genetic testing to test for three different trisomy conditions. However, there are multiple tests for this. Insurance companies have preferred providers. You may not need any of these tests, but your insurance may limit the number of ultrasounds or other screenings. You need to know what you will be responsible for upfront. Also, check with the insurance to see how to cover the baby after he or she is born.  Some parents find out too late that there is extra paperwork to fill out for immediately covering the baby. 

Check hospital and doctor policies - Some doctors and hospitals will allow you to make prepayments on expected costs. These costs may change throughout the pregnancy, but it can keep you from owning a large sum at the time of birth.

Check your company policies - How much time can you, the father, take off when your child is born? Do they have specific policies for paternity leave, or do you have to use FMLA? Different companies have different policies for expectant dads. Some allow a few days paid or unpaid before needing to use vacation/ sick/ or paternity benefits. Other companies enforce vacation/ sick/ earned paid time immediately. Make sure that you understand your company’s policy and any paperwork that may need to be submitted. You don’t want to be snuggling your new baby and worrying about your job. 

Routes, transportation, traffic, parking and other fees - Some parking lots at hospitals have fees. Do you need to park in those lots or are there separate lots for guests of the hospital? Where does your laboring partner enter? If you live in a large city with traffic issues, do you know several routes if there is a problem? Are there tolls involved? If you rely on public transportation, do you have a plan for labor? Plan these things before your partner begins to labor. 

Remember your partner - This experience is difficult for her. She probably has many fears and concerns. Talk to her and listen to her needs. 

“For being husband of someone so divine, God is sending me a gift from the heaven”

  • Remember her body has experienced many painful changes - Her legs and feet may be swollen and hurt. Help her soak them, give her a massage, or allow her to prop up at the end of the day.
  • Be patient - Hormonal and physical changes are difficult for anyone. Her body and emotions are changing rapidly. She may cry, laugh, or yell more than usual. When she is having a difficult time, try to be patient with her struggle and offer calming support.
  • Help her plan - One of the reasons women are so concerned is they are physically bearing the weight of starting a family. She may be afraid she isn’t strong enough or that she will know what to do when the baby comes. Help her plan for things so that she can feel more empowered. 
  • Ease her discomforts:
  • If she wants to complain about her bladder, legs, feet, belly, or anything else, let her.
  • If she is uncomfortable when she sleeps, offer her extra pillows, support, or other aids in sleeping better. Don’t feel offended if she needs to sleep in a recliner or on the couch. It’s very difficult to get comfortable while carrying the extra weight.
  • Get her a nightlight for the bathroom so that she doesn’t need to turn on the light at night.
  • Switch sides of the bed if she wants to make her walk shorter. Your needs are still important, but since your body is probably more cooperative, try to ease her discomfort.  
  • Help her find tolerable foods. Many women experience “morning sickness” that may come all day. Finding foods that aren’t triggers can be a challenge. Many women find citrus or tart foods are helpful. It won’t last forever, but it can be very frustrating while it does. Experiment with her. Stock the foods that ease her discomfort. 

Labor and Delivery

how to prepare for a baby for dads

The labor itself will be up to your partner, but you may be trying to prepare for this time, too, and want to be checking off tasks as quickly as possible. Here are some things to consider. 

Install the car seat - Most birthing centers and hospitals will not let you leave unless they know that the infant seat or base has been properly installed. If you are concerned about proper installation, law enforcement, fire departments, and social services often have certified installers. They are generally glad to help. 

Hospital bag packed and labor and delivery plans & list : The hospital bag is personal, and you should pack anything that you think you might need, but here’s a list of popular items. 

Hospital Bag Items

  • Clothes for mom, you, and baby - While your partner may not want to dress in anything restricting, she will probably want something other than a hospital gown. A nice set of pajamas that are soft and comfortable is sufficient. If she will be breastfeeding, a nursing top or top with buttons is often preferred. You may want to stay overnight, so something to sleep in and “day clothes” will be good. Check hospital policies and insurance policies for the length of stay so you will know what to pack.
  • Identification and insurance cards - While the hospital will probably have all of the insurance paperwork before labor and delivery, you should bring it in case they need to verify or check any information.
  • Prescriptions and over the counter medications your partner regularly takes. She may be able to keep taking them at the hospital, but you may need to provide dosing information so they can verify with her medical team. 
  • Something to occupy your time.  Labor can sometimes be a slow process. You may want a book, phone, or electronic device to occupy your time during slower labor times.
  • Cash - If the cafeteria or food service is closed during the labor and you need something to eat or drink, vending machines are available, and credit card readers do not always work.
  • Blanket or pillow - You may be unhappy with the ones the hospital provides and it’s nice to have the comforts of home. 
  • Her items: 
    Robe: Can help her cover-up in times wearing the hospital gown. 
    - Nipple cream: If she is going to breastfeed, she will likely find that her nipples need some comfort and protection.
    - Her pillow and a bath towel: Hospital gear can be scratchy. She will already be sore. Softness from home will be great.
    - Playlist and speakers: Music can help a laboring mom to feel calmer and more at ease. Let her create her playlist and help her manage it throughout.
    - Pads or other protection: Many women claim adult diapers are better than pads. These can be softer and cover more than the hospital pads provided after the baby. They will probably feel better for her.
  • Baby items:
    ​- Bottles - Even if you plan for your baby to exclusively breastfeed, bottles can be a good idea for any unforeseen complications or for storing excess milk between feedings.
    Pediatrician’s information - The staff will need to know who to contact to forward records. Many physicians will visit the baby at the hospital as well.
  • For everyone - Don't forget things like lip balm, lotion, diaper cream, warm socks, jackets, sweaters & other comforts that you may need.
  • Birth Plan - This plan should be decided on during your parenting classes and you should discuss this with your doctor before arriving at the hospital. At one of the appointments discuss your plans. Please bring these plans with you, though, because the doctor will not remember everyone’s wishes.

Comfort measures - Make sure that you understand your partner’s plans for pain management and medications. If she is planning to forego pain medication, she will need help to maintain comfort. You can help her by offering calming tones, massages, warm (not hot) showers. It is important to do your best to maintain your partner’s wishes. It is also okay if your partner decides to use medication. It can be very safe. Be sure that you understand what will happen. Many women aren’t prepared for the leg numbness the epidural causes. 

Cutting the cord - Be sure that your wishes are clear. If you want to be permitted to cut the cord be sure to include this in the birth plan and discuss this with your providers. You also should indicate what should be done with the cord blood if it is to be donated or discarded.

Baby Gears

Baby gear is individual, but there are many things that parents tend to agree are good investments. We will visit some of these here. This is a top 11 list, but chat with friends and family members who recently had children, or you can see if you can attend a baby and me class (top 10 plus one for your new baby). You will find parents have their favorite gear and gear that they find useless. Every baby is different. You may find that your baby loves the swing but refuses to sleep in a pack n play. Another parent might disagree. That’s okay.

  • Car Seat - Car seats come in every style and color imaginable. Your baby may spend quite a bit of time in the car seat going to appointments and traveling with mom and dad a variety of places. LifeMomma provides reviews of car seats as do your friends, family, and almost every baby gear website. You need to consider whether you want an infant carrier or a car seat that can convert from infant to child. Carrier types can be good for parents on the go, but it does mean that a different car seat will be needed around the first birthday. There are also many styles of car seats that are meant for different sized children. Make sure that your choice is appropriate for the age of the child. It is now recommended to keep the car seat rear-facing for two years. 
  • Crib - Standards for cribs have changed tremendously throughout the years. For this reason, it is not recommended to use an antique crib. It may be the crib you, your parents, or other beloved family member used, but it may have been a safety hazard. New cribs offer sturdy support for your growing infant. Some cribs will convert with kits to grow with your child. You can find great reviews on a variety of websites. Consumer Reports offers a great list of things to consider when buying including new regulations and safe sleeping tips.  
  • Stroller - There are as many types of strollers as there are car seats. Some car seats come as a travel system in which the carrier will snap-in. You can also find side by side and front to back double strollers, compact “umbrella” strollers, and standing strollers. Consider what you will use the stroller for. Umbrella strollers typically offer little or no storage space, whereas jogging strollers are bulkier, but offer a smoother ride and better grip over different terrains. Whatever you choose, make sure that it is built for a child the size yours is at the moment. A child who cannot sit up will not do well in strollers not meant to hold carriers.
  • Baby Swing - When baby swings first came on the market, they offered little perks other than a constant motion for your child. Now the swing may have multiple speeds, sounds, or vibrations. None of these things are inherently necessary, but many offer your child more comfort, and they may offer more time for rest. What to Expect has some great reviews where readers can see a variety of swings from the simple to the extravagant. 
  • Bouncing Chair - Like the baby swing, the bouncing chair may come in a variety of styles. Like What to Expect, VeryWellFamily has a recent review that shows many different styles and types. Remember these are for smaller children, so it will not be a piece of gear that you will use for years.
  • Waterproof Mattress - For mattresses most baby mattresses will be fine. Of course, they will vary with firmness and quality. A good quality mattress can be used until the child moves into a twin-sized bed. Crib mattresses and toddler bed mattresses are the same. If the mattress isn’t waterproof, you can get a waterproof cover. 
  • Bottles and Warmers - There are as many opinions on bottles and warmers as there are mothers. Each baby will also tend to have a preference. Think about the ease of cleaning the bottle as well as the comfort of your child. If the bottle promotes being great on the baby's tummy, but you can’t clean the nooks and crannies, mold and bacteria can build up. However, if you get an easy to clean bottle but it allows too much air in, you will have a very unhappy baby on your hands. Experiment with bottles once the baby comes. Choose two or three brands to buy one or two bottles from, and then see which bottle your baby likes best. Warmers can be great too, but make sure that they are safe, the instructions are clear, and the temperature is right before feeding the baby. Little One Mag has a comprehensive review of the latest trends. 
  • Rocking Chair - Moms have used rocking chairs throughout history. Babies enjoy the rocking motion. This is why swings and similar types of gear are preferred. Grandma’s old rocking chair may be fine, but you must check the safety. All things break down over time. Make sure that your chair is in good condition. Choose something comfortable. A hard, wooden seat with no cushion may be torture on a new mom at 3 am. 
  • Furniture - Decide what furniture you need in your home. Some parents want a dresser/ chest of drawers, bassinet, pack n play, changing table, and any other gear they can find. Other parents opt for minimal items. A pack n play with bassinet and changing table for the living room/ family space and crib and dressers for the bedroom. Whatever you decide, all gear and furniture should be checked for safety first. You can bolt furniture to the wall with an anchor and secure lotions and creams in baby-proof containers. Find the gear that fits your space and family best.
  •  Monitor - Monitors are key pieces of safety gear, but I placed them separately because they should be used from the very beginning. Monitors may be simple sound only monitors or elaborate web-based monitoring. It’s a personal choice as to how elaborate you want to go, but if you can’t figure out the web services, an elaborate monitor might not be the way to go. Fabulous color screen monitors can be secured for under $100. A good monitor will have good sound quality, good picture quality, and at least a one-year warranty. Video monitors may come with multiple cameras and mounting systems. LifeMomma team has done extensive research and reviewed dozens of baby monitors in our gears section of the blog:
  • Safety Gear - Safety gear can be anything designed to keep babies safe. If you have a fireplace, a bumper or guard is a great idea. Outlet covers, door knob covers, locks for drawers and cabinets, and guards to prop open doors are all must-haves. They can be easily installed yourself and protect from injury. You should install these as soon as possible. While your one-week-old baby might not injure himself, a two or three-month-old reaching for things might find a cord or other hazard and injure him or herself. 
how to prepare for a baby for dads

Bringing Baby Home

Having a new baby is scary. You can do this, but it will take time to learn, as well. Here are a few tips for keeping your new baby comfortable. 

  • Diaper Rash over the counter ointments and creams generally help. There are two basic types of cream available. One is zinc-based and the other is petroleum-based. The petroleum-based generally offers a waterproof barrier while the zinc-based also protects against moisture. Many parents prefer zinc-based products because they are less greasy and are easier to spread. Boudreaux Butt Paste is a very popular brand that has different strengths depending on the baby’s needs. Changing often and drying the baby after using wipes or giving a bath can help too. 
  • Colic and gassiness - Sometimes it can be hard to tell what is wrong with your baby. If they are crying and feeding, changing, changing temperature, scenery, or other interventions do not work, your baby could either be colicky or gassy. Gassy is the easier of the two to fix, generally. Gas drops and gripe water can be bought over the counter. Check with your doctor before giving your child anything new, but they are generally safe. If they do not work, or you don’t want to try them yet, a simple massage or “bicycles” with baby’s legs can sometimes help expel excess gas. Of course, burping a baby with firm pats holding the baby across your lap or at your shoulder may help, but at the point most parents are frustrated, they have already done that. Colic tends to be more severe, and it may seem that your baby just cannot get comfortable. The previous tips may help or change the baby’s position so that you are holding the baby on his or her side may help. Stay calm and know that your baby is as frustrated as you are. 
  • Other Medications - Do not give your baby medications until speaking with your medical provider. Ask before you leave the hospital if the provider prefers ibuprofen or acetaminophen and what dose you should give. At well-child appointments ask about the dosing because it changes as children grow. Ask if the provider prefers waiting before giving fever reducers or when you should be concerned. Each provider has slightly different preferences. 

Everything Else

When you first come home, you are going to feel like your entire world has been turned upside down. First, that is normal. Second, it will get better. Your baby will not be on a great sleep cycle at first, most likely. Most babies sleep 2-3 hours before feeding again. If your partner is breastfeeding, this means that she is only sleeping 2-3 hours. If the baby is having trouble sleeping, remember he or she listened to your partner’s heartbeat from inside a pool for almost a year. White noise machines, the sound of your heart snuggling them, and other rhythms can be comforting as can a snug swaddle. Soothing your baby back to sleep can be as comforting for you as it is him or her. If you are supplementing with bottles, see if you can take one of the feedings. She still may get up to pump her milk, but she may be able to sleep a few more hours instead. At some point, she is probably going to feel like she has lost her mind. She’s just tired and physically worn out. She has been through a physically traumatic ordeal whether she delivered via c-section or vaginally. Let her feel what she feels and support her in whatever healthy ways she needs. Her body is again changing. In some ways, it will not be the same and in other ways, it is trying to revert to normal.  

“It’s a good thing babies don’t give you a lot of time to think. You fall in love with them and when you realize how much they love you back, life is very simple.” —Anita Diamant

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