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Becoming a dad

12-minute read

Key facts

  • Becoming a dad might be one of the happiest and also most challenging times in your life.
  • You can play a meaningful role in supporting your partner throughout pregnancy, birth and parenthood.
  • It is common to feel stress in your relationship with your partner as you both adjust to parenthood.
  • Open communication with your partner is very important since your relationship changes when you become parents.
  • Males can also develop postpartum depression or anxiety and getting help is very important and courageous.

What does it mean to become a dad?

Becoming a father is one of the most important and fulfilling jobs you will have in your life. It can be one of the happiest times in your life. It can also be one of the most challenging and confusing times in your life. Being a loving, involved dad is one of the best things you can do for your child.

Some aspects of this page focus on males who are becoming fathers in a heterosexual relationship. You can also read more on same sex parents.

How is my relationship with my child important?

Children benefit from close and stable relationships with both parents. The type of dad you choose to be will influence your child throughout their life.

You play an important role in your child's emotional, social, physical and brain development. By being an engaged role model and playing with them in a warm and loving way you are actively taking part in their development.

Fathers generally do a lot more than males did in previous generations. Being involved early on with the care of your baby helps you build a strong physical and emotional bond. You will be more tuned in to their needs.

Even if you're not the biological father of a child, being a father figure who gives them love, support and involvement will benefit your child.

What will becoming a father mean for me?

Becoming a father can bring about a range of emotions, and your emotions may change over time.

Finding out you're going to be a dad can be an incredibly happy and exciting time. Becoming a dad can be daunting too. Many dads-to-be can feel confused and worried. You may feel anxious about how you will provide for your family.

Dynamics in your life will shift. You might worry about how you will balance your work, hobbies and social life with your and baby. You may be concerned about how you are going to be the best father possible, especially if you want to do things differently from how your father did them.

When you're a dad, you may not be able to go out whenever you like. Rather, you may need to negotiate time off with your partner as you navigate your new responsibilities. Talk with your partner to work out when you each get some time out to do the things that are important to you.

Your baby's needs can feel very overwhelming and intense at first. Remember, your needs and your partner's needs are still important.

You might not be used to asking for help and advice — you may not have needed it in the past. Now is the time to seek support if you need it. Remember, you and your partner are in this together. Working as a team and being prepared for the changes ahead will give you the best possible start.

How can I prepare to be a father?

You can prepare for fatherhood by being as supportive and involved a partner as possible. For some couples, this can start even before your baby's born, during pregnancy, through labour and birth.

You can use the time during pregnancy to plan. Think about your workload and booking parental leave if possible. This is also an opportunity to make healthy changes to your lifestyle. People who drink alcohol may wish to consider how much they have. Quitting smoking is the best thing smokers can do.

You can also start to think about the sort of father you want to be. What special times will you have with your child? Imagine yourself taking them on an outing, such as a sporting event, teaching them music or playing games with them.

Create space for your baby in your home. At first, your baby won't need their own room, but over time you may need to make some changes in your home so they have a safe place to sleep and play.

How can I support my partner during pregnancy and birth?

There are many ways you can support your partner during pregnancy and birth. If your partner is pregnant, some ideas include:

  • attend prenatal health appointments
  • complete antenatal classes together
  • encourage them to look after themselves (for example, help make healthy meals, or do some of their household jobs so they have time to rest)
  • develop a birth plan together and be prepared to make some important decisions during the birth, either with your partner or on their behalf
  • be there for your partner both physically and emotionally (ask them how they are feeling and really listen to the answer, check in with their emotional needs, as well as your own)

How can I support my partner after the baby is born?

After your baby is born, there are many ways you can support your partner.

Ideas to help support your partner include the following:

  • Take an active role in learning to care for your baby – learn to change nappies, dress, feed, burp, bathe or settle your baby.
  • Try to understand your partner's needs as a new parent.
  • Give your partner a break; for example, offer to settle the baby so your partner can get some extra sleep.
  • Discuss with your partner how you will divide household chores and errands.
  • If your partner is breastfeeding, offer to take care of baby's other needs.
  • Try not to give the baby back to your partner every time they cry. The more you practice caring and settling, the better and more confident you'll get.
  • Nurture your relationship with your partner by spending quality time together when possible and making time to talk.

Providing your partner with support helps you play an important role in the health and wellbeing of your family and is very rewarding.

How may becoming a father change my relationship with my partner?

As you and your partner become parents, it is normal to feel stress in your relationship.

Often couples feel very close after their baby is born. They feel connected and are excited about their baby. As time passes, exhaustion and real-life demands build up. It is normal for tension to develop.

There may be changes in your dynamics. Priorities change as your baby's needs may come first. You may have less time for each other. You might feel resentful, distant or disconnected from your partner.

There may be changes in your intimate relationship with your partner. They may be coping with exhaustion, changes to their bodies and breastfeeding. They can have a loss of libido. Try not to take changes in your sexual relationship as a personal rejection. Remember to show affection and love to your partner. See this as a transition phase. Build on what you have as a couple. Your partner's sex drive will return to normal with time.

Research has shown that postnatal depression can also cause a decrease in sexual interest. Talking openly with your partner about how your sex life is important.

If you are struggling with changes in your relationship, it may be useful to speak to a counsellor to help navigate challenging times.

How can I communicate better with my partner?

Your dynamic as a couple change as you become parents, here are some useful communication strategies that can help you:

  • Schedule time to talk and share when you are both calm and not too distracted.
  • Maintain open communication and do not bottle up your thoughts and feelings.
  • Try not to blame each other or ignore how your partner is feeling.
  • Be a good listener and practice being empathetic — do not always try to solve problems, sometimes listening is enough.
  • Remind your partner you are always there for them, and try to understand their needs.
  • Discuss your roles and expectations with each other.
  • Be your partner's biggest champion and acknowledge their achievements.

Depression and anxiety in fathers

Dads can get postnatal anxiety or depression too. It can start during pregnancy.

Up to 1 in 10 males experience postnatal depression anytime between the first trimester in pregnancy and first year of their baby's life.

Anxiety affects 1 in 6 dads during pregnancy and 1 in 5 dads during the postnatal period.

This a medical condition and it can be treated.

You may be at a greater risk of developing postnatal depression or anxiety if you:

  • have suffered from depression in the past
  • have minimal emotional or social support
  • feel the burden of financial stress
  • have a sick baby
  • have a problem with drug or alcohol addiction, or have recovered from addiction
  • feel parenting is different to your expectations
  • have major relationship or life challenges now or in the past

It is very important you talk to a healthcare professional if you are feeling very tired, irritable, angry, overwhelmed or cannot cope. It can take courage to seek help, but it's the best thing you can do for your family.

If you're feeling depressed or anxious, or feeling like you might hurt yourself or your baby, call the PANDA Helpline on 1300 726 306 (Mon to Fri, 9am – 7.30pm AEST) or Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

Mensline offer support and counselling services on 1300 78 99 78.

To find mental health services or child and family health service near you, use the Pregnancy Birth and Baby Service Finder tool.

Resources and support

Looking for information for sexually and gender-diverse families?

  • Rainbow Families and Gay Dads Australia have resources for sexually and gender-diverse families.
  • QLife offers peer support and referral for the sexually and gender-diverse community — call 1800 184 527 or access their webchat from 3pm to midnight every day. All calls are anonymous and free.

Looking for information for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people?

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2023

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Need more information?

Becoming a Dad

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