Bringing your baby home from hospital is a major event in any father’s life. It will take time to adjust to your new life as a family, but making the effort and giving it a go will help build your confidence.
Preparing your home for the new baby
Newborn babies don’t need much apart from clothes and nappies. But you will still need to think about where your new baby is going to sleep, where you will give them a bath and where you will change them.
Before the baby is born, you will need to organise an approved rear-facing child restraint for your car, if you are going to drive with the baby in your vehicle. You will also need a cot and a pram. It is very important to make sure these meet Australian/New Zealand safety standards.
You can save money on baby equipment by accepting second-hand clothes, toys and some furniture. It’s best to have a new cot and mattress, and it’s not advisable to buy a second-hand child restraint. If you do get these items second hand, make sure they have the Australian standards label still attached and that everything is in good working order.
Tips for being a hands-on dad
After you come home with the baby, you can boost your confidence by getting involved in everything as often as you can.
Learn how to dress, settle and bathe the baby. Change their nappies, play with the baby and spend as much one-on-one time with them as possible. This will help you bond with the baby and will give your partner a break.
Talking to newborn babies, imitating their facial expressions and responding to their cues will help them to build their first language skills, and will help their brain to develop. Activities should include reading to your baby — even from when they first arrive home.
Breastfeeding is best for your baby. But it can take a few weeks for your partner and baby to learn how to breastfeed properly. Your support and encouragement will help her keep going.
You can learn about why breastfeeding is important and how it works. That way you can help your partner and notice any issues early on. You can also support her to ask for help if she needs it.
While she is breastfeeding, you can help her by bringing her a drink or a pillow, looking after siblings, pets or visitors, and settling your baby after the feed. After 1 or 2 months, when breastfeeding has settled down, you can start to bottle feed your baby with expressed breast milk.
You can also get close to your baby by carrying them in a sling or carrier, or cuddling them next to your skin.
When you go back to work
Many parents struggle to get the work/family balance right. It is a good idea for you and your partner to discuss what needs doing, who is going to do it, and how you are going to manage your finances.
Many men take some leave when the baby is born. You may be able to apply for Dad and Partner Pay, a government-funded scheme that pays for 2 weeks of leave during your baby’s first year.
It is a good idea to talk to your employer about the hours you work and whether there are any family-friendly policies that are relevant and available to you.
There’s no denying that caring for a newborn baby can be exhausting. After a month or so you might be feeling tired, stressed and overwhelmed. You might also be finding you have different ideas from your partner about how to be a parent.
Talking to each other and listening to each other’s point of view is the best way to overcome these feelings. It is best for your baby if you parent as a team, where you make decisions together, agree to your roles as parents and deal with conflict calmly and respectfully.
Sexual relationships can change after the birth of a baby too. Mothers are likely advised not to have sex until after their 6-week postnatal check-up. Even then, a baby’s mother might find sex difficult because of tiredness, physical changes after the birth, or even postnatal depression.
You can keep the bond strong by being supportive while she is recovering, finding other ways to be intimate (like kissing and cuddling) and sharing the work of baby care and household chores.
Looking after yourself
With everything that’s going on, it can be easy to forget about looking after yourself. Eating healthily, doing some physical activity and trying to get enough sleep are all important to keep your energy levels up. Remember, dads get postnatal anxiety and depression too. If you are feeling very tired, irritable or angry, if you feel overwhelmed or that you can’t cope, it’s very important to talk to your doctor. It can take courage to seek help — but it’s the best thing you can do for your family.
Where to go for help and advice
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak with a maternal child health nurse.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association offers support with breastfeeding via the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268.
Mensline offers support and counselling services on 1300 78 99 78.
Beyond Blue offers support and advice for new dads on 1300 22 4636. You can also download Beyond Blue's book, Emotional health and wellbeing: A guide for new dads, partners and other carers.
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).
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Last reviewed: January 2021