By John Doht & Paul Zalewski, co-founders of Fathercraft, a company that creates tools and resources for dads who want to be involved.
Congrats— You’re going to be a dad!
We’re proud of you for being here and reading this post to prepare for fatherhood. We hope this will act as an informative first look into the need-to-knows, must-haves, and the do’s/don’ts. We’ll first take you through a preparation checklist for your baby. Then we’ll share how to help your partner during pregnancy and share some feeding tips/tricks, mistakes to avoid, and finish off with a nice little takeaway. Capisce?
The new dad checklist to prepare for baby
Preparing for a baby is a little like that giant project you have at work that’s set for 3 quarters from now—you’re excited about it, but it feels overwhelming, and if you’re not careful it’ll sneak up on you fast.
So, let’s get started about … now, huh?
Must-haves for newborns
We take our gear seriously. Every item on this list of must-haves has been personally used by our team of dads. You don’t need everything right away, in fact we recommend waiting on a few things to give yourself time to experiment. Also worth noting, this list of must-haves includes newborn essentials through about six months of age.
Baby essentials for ‘Day 1’ include car seats, sleeping gear, feeding gear and diapers
- Car seats for newborns:
- Was your baby born in the hospital? Well they aren’t staying there! Even if you chose to do a home birth, you will need a car seat to get your baby from point A to point B. A popular ‘point B’ being their pediatrician! Also, we hate to break it to you, but if you and your partner have two cars, then chances are you will have to get two car seats. Having two not only reduces hassle, but it increases safety, because you aren’t hurriedly trying to install it before each ride.
- Our top-rated car seat is the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible – Reversible Car Seat. It has everything: top safety ratings, easy installation, lightweight frame, a dual-stage cushion system (works from birth to 35lbs), and it cleans easily.
- Sleeping gear for newborns:
- Once you get your baby home, they will probably want to sleep somewhere. The guest room futon is definitely not going to cut it, and in fact, neither will a nursery. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should sleep in their parent’s room for at least the first 6 months. We’ll get into best sleep practices in the Must-Do’s below, so for now let’s look at what gear it takes for a successful sleep.
- Proper sleeping arrangements are on this list because your baby’s safety depends on it. We recommend a crib or bassinet, and strongly advise against co-sleeping (as does the American Academy of Pediatrics). We are a huge fan of the Snoo Smart Sleeper Bassinet, because it rocks your child to sleep and keeps your child safe at night. If you choose another crib or bassinet, we like the Newton Waterproof Crib Mattress.
- Sleep sacks are a great way to keep your baby snug at night without worrying about having to swaddle correctly. We’ll dig in more later, but you should never give your baby a loose blanket, as it can lead to suffocation.
- Feeding gear for newborns:
- Whether you are breastfeeding, formula feeding, or both, you will probably need a few things to help. Right away, we want to dispel any negative connotations that come with formula feeding. Formula can be a superhero in a pinch, or a long-term game changer. We’ll get more into this down below in our Advice for Feeding Your Newborn section.
- Bottles are up first. There are a gazillion different bottles out there, so make sure you experiment and find out what works best for your child.
- Bottle warmers are also a super handy tool to have in your dad toolbox, because getting the bottle to the right temperature can be a pain in the rear.
- Drying rack for feeding items might not seem like an essential to some, but trust us, having a specific drying rack for tiny objects that can easily get lost is very useful.
- If you and your partner are planning on breastfeeding and eventually want to go back to work, a breast pump is a necessity. Even if you are staying at home, it can be helpful to have a supply of breastmilk for your baby. There are a lot of amazing brands out there, and we encourage you to find the best fit for you and your partner.
- Diapers, wipes, and creams for newborns, oh my!
- Trust us, you are not going to want to run to the store all the time for baby supplies with a newborn baby at home. The more stock you have, the better, but don’t go buying a year’s worth of size 1 diapers. Babies grow fast, and your baby might grow out of the size you stockpiled, but it’s always better to be prepared.
- We like diapers from Coterie because they are soft and sustainable. They also offer a subscription service with regular deliveries to your home, which is super convenient.
- The Honest Company Diaper Rash Cream is another one of our favorite products. Nothing is worse than an upset baby with a bad diaper rash. Babies absorb things through their skin quicker than adults, so it was important for us to find something that we felt good about putting on our babies.
Must do’s for newborns
Every child is unique, therefore every journey through parenthood is going to be inherently different. However, there are a few universal things that everyone can do to better prepare for parenthood. There are a lot of things that you might not even think about until it’s facing you (looking at you administration/finance/insurance). If this is a lot all at once, especially after the gear, then take a step back and breathe. You have plenty of time to digest this information, so try breaking it down into manageable pieces.
We’ll start with an easy one—research. If you are reading this, then you can start checking this one off the list! Pregnancy is a perfect time to start getting into the nitty gritty, like: where to spend money, what to do for insurance, employer benefits, certificates, and more. Remember, break the research down into manageable pieces. Learning never stops as a parent. Ready to go deep into research mode? Find checklists, to-dos, and more in this post we wrote about preparing for your baby.
Doctor’s visits during pregnancy
Going to doctor’s appointments with your partner will make your partner feel more supported and it will help you stay up to date on what is going on with the pregnancy. Being informed is the very least you can do as an expecting father, and going to the doctor’s office is the first step. There are likely going to be times when it is impossible to go to every appointment, and that’s okay.
Finding a pediatrician for your newborn
Your baby will also need a doctor– a pediatrician. Find a board-certified pediatrician and go interview them. Finding a doctor you jive with and who makes you comfortable is an absolute must.
Whether it’s going to a hospital, or preparing a meal for your baby, checklists are a parent’s best friend. Relying on your brain to remember every detail of parenthood is so last-millenia, so instead rely on a handy checklist! Fathercraft has a ton of free checklists, including: safe and healthy sleep, pre-birth readiness, superfoods for babies, and essential gear. Check out our new dad checklists here!
Packing the hospital baby bag
Packing a hospital bag ahead of time is one of the most important must-do’s. Don’t be caught on your heels, prep early! Things like phone chargers, clothes for you, clothes for your baby, reading material, caffeine (hospital coffee sucks), snacks, camera, a list of names and a comfortable pillow are all great things to bring to the hospital. Whatever you can do to make your trip to the hospital as smooth as possible.
How to help your partner prepare for pregnancy
Pregnancy is no time to coast as the non-birthing person. You might not be carrying a baby or experiencing the side effects of pregnancy, but you better be the nominee for best supporting role! Let’s break down what you can do for your partner for each trimester of pregnancy plus birth.
- Even if you are actively trying to have a baby, it may take a few weeks to realize you are pregnant. During this time, you should be a loving and supportive partner. Enjoy sex, cuddle, talk, enjoy healthy food, and go on dates.
- Start paying attention to physical, emotional, and mental health
- Help your partner through morning sickness. Avoid heavy scented detergents/soaps/cleaners; cook meals high in iron, calcium, and vitamin C; and help them replenish their fluids if they experience vomiting.
- Stress reduction for your partner (and yourself!)
- Massages can help ease your partner’s aches and pains as they adjust to their changing body.
- Reassure partner during physical changes
- Attend doctors visits throughout (as mentioned in Must-Do’s)
- Get deeper into research (insurance and financial planning)
- Avoid inflammatory foods: anything spicy, fried, citrus, chocolate (to avoid heartburn)
- Make your partner comfortable. Massages, gentle walks, breathing exercises, etc.
- Talk to your partner about the baby. What does the birth plan look like? How do you want to raise your child?
- Hospital bag! We mentioned this in the Must-Do’s section. Planning ahead will save you from stressing where stress isn’t due!
- Breathe and do practice exercises
- Reassurance is greatly appreciated here. The doctors and nurses know what to do, and they’ve seen it all, but it’s still a huge moment for you and your partner. Your partner might feel vulnerable, scared, or nervous, so try to talk them through it. Simply listening is a fantastic start.
Tip for soon to be dads:
Don’t coast during pregnancy. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: you still have a major role to play during this time. Don’t ditch your partner and let her deal with pregnancy alone. Go to doctor’s appointments, take up more chores, ease aches/pains, and support your partner.
Takeaway for soon to be dads:
It’s impossible to sum everything up with a single takeaway, but if we had to choose one, it’s that you don’t have to do it alone.
Use your support system like parents, friends, or family. We can also be your support system if you need it. Just being here is at least some connection, right?
If you’re Ready for Part 2 and need some more dad advice on what to do once baby is born, check out our Congrats You’re a Dad post here!