How You Can Help Dad Succeed

"For the first two weeks, I never changed a diaper.
He said, 'You're responsible for what goes in, and I'm responsible for what comes out.'"

— Veteran Mom

How You Can Help Dad Succeed

"For the first two weeks, I never changed a diaper.
He said, 'You're responsible for what goes in, and I'm responsible for what comes out.'"

— Veteran Mom

Open the Gate Wide

Dad doesn’t need much to hit his stride as a father, and mostly it develops from time spent with the baby. So rule number one? You’ve gotta hand him the baby. This sounds ridiculously obvious, we know, but blocking Dad from getting hands-on (AKA “gatekeeping”) is the most common mistake new moms make, and moms-to-be who could never imagine standing between their partner and baby end up doing just that. Maternal gatekeeping seriously undermines confidence (pdf) for new dads, and studies reveal men who want to be hands-on in child care often give up if their spouse is constantly criticizing. As mothers, our primal, hormone-enhanced, commitment to protect our baby often gets projected at Dad to guarantee he takes care of the baby in the best way possible—as in the way WE like things done. 

"You have to let go. You have to trust your partner, you have to trust the people around you. But I was super emotional, like, 'He's mine, no one can do anything else for him.' But I had to learn to take care of myself and to let someone else take care of him...it just took some time." - Veteran Mom

"They learn to appreciate it more if you give them time with the baby on their own, because they see what it’s like to be 100% in charge and not have someone as backup. They need to have that to kind of figure things out." — Veteran Mom

 “It’s like starting a new job and having someone looking over your shoulder." — Veteran Mom

"I have a lot of experience with babies and children and he doesn’t have any, and I’m also kind of controlling. So I just told him it’s going to be hard for me to not nitpick and jump in and be like, 'Let me do it myself.' And it is. Just this morning, I was in the shower, peeking out and thinking, 'He’s not going fast enough making the bottle.' So, it’s a constant struggle, but we talked about it and I told him to just call me out. If you feel like I’m doing that, I’m smothering you and not letting you do things your own way, just tell me and say, 'Can you just step back?'...He needs to learn his own way of doing things. He doesn’t need to learn your way of doing things."  — Veteran Mom

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Men Thrive on Respect, Confidence & Love

Unfortunately, these are often in short supply for new fathers.  It stems from decades of criticism, lack of support from other dads (including his own), stress, the challenges all new parents face and being in a naturally vulnerable state as a new dad. Fatherhood is a seminal rite of manhood; instead, it often feels emasculating. One new father asked, “How can I have a baby and still be a man?” Men shouldn’t feel they’re leaving manhood behind when they become a hands-on dads. In fact, they have every reason to feel just the opposite, and you’re the main person to give them this message. So help your partner reflect on the changes in his life and take pride in the fact that he’s delivering beautifully on an extraordinary commitment to his child and family.  Here are a few more key things you can do to support Dad’s success:

Ask for His Opinion

Collaborate with Dad when you’re trying to figure things out. Just asking his opinion on a baby issue sends him a powerful message. He may not have an opinion this time around, but the more you ask, the more likely he is to be thinking about it and have one the next time.

"Having the support of your partner goes a long way. Because when I was willing to give up [on breastfeeding], it was nice for my husband to be right there and encourage me and give me tips. And he had listened really well to the lactation consultant in the hospital, because my brain was going in a million different directions. He took notes—he was so cute!"

— Veteran Mom

Give Him His Own Task 

If Dad’s working long hours outside the home, he has fewer of his baby’s waking hours. Give him plenty of opportunities to get hands-on and let him take on a specific task he can repeat each day like bathing, bedtime, or early morning feedings.  

“He gets home from work at seven and I bathe her at seven, so he makes her a bottle and then it’s their time and he feeds her and he absolutely loves it...If It’s night time, she wants her daddy.”   

— Veteran Mom

Help Him Connect With Other Dads

Encourage him to build his own dad network among friends, family, co-workers, dads at birth classes and online. Nudge him to get together with them and bring his baby along. The support and chance to share stories with other dads will be immensely helpful.

"Dad brings something that us moms don’t, and it’s crucial for the baby to get this. Dads don’t stress about things; they encourage kids to blow things off; they encourage kids to take good risks; they have a more adventurous streak. Kids with involved dads have more confidence, and we want to foster this."  

— Veteran Mom

Matt: Killing It with Diapers (0:18)

"It was a blessing that my husband was so involved from the beginning. He would come home and help with the baby, and we found a method that worked out for us [at night]. He would wake up, change her diaper and hand her off to me, and I would nurse and burp then hand her back to him and he would put her back to sleep. We were zombies, but with that assembly line it worked for us." -  Veteran Mom

"We tend to think we do everything...My husband had to go to DC for work for a week and I realized, wow, he does a lot. I was just ignoring everything he did because it becomes about you and the baby. And with all of the hormones, that's kind of all you see... All of a sudden, when that goes away, you realize someone does the dishes; someone washes the breast pump; someone helps cook. I think it helps to step back and realize all the things they're doing, before we accuse them of all of the things they aren’t doing."

— Veteran Mom

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