The first year of fatherhood can be wonderfully soul-lifting and utterly awful. It is full of perfect moments, and terrifying ones. Being a first time dad can be awe-inspiring and deeply frustrating - within the space of an hour.
But forewarned is forearmed, and there are ways of making sure the brilliant bits outweigh the madness. The 100 + tips collected in this guide are based on the real lived experiences of countless first time dads here at DaddiLife, out in the blogosphere, and much beyond. There’s something here for every new dad. We hope you find it useful.
What To Expect
Perhaps the best advice is to expect the unexpected. But more specifically, here are some of the joys and pitfalls the first year can bring.
1. You'll be swept up in big changes as a first time dad: don’t forget to enjoy the little moments.
Time flies and before you know it they will be toddling around trashing everything so enjoy the quiet moments too like @thelifeofrileyfamily - “This has been my view for most of the afternoon. Perfect."
2. Nappy changing can feel a bit relentless.
@thedididad observes - “Why do babies always wait until just after you’ve changed their nappy to do a massive poo?”
3. Don’t be tempted by unnecessary stuff.
Dadtastic Voyage tells us: “You don’t need to spend huge amounts of money on items to ‘help you’ look after your baby”. His blog tells you about new baby things you definitely CAN live without. Don’t be convinced that any product will magically make things easier, because it will only hurt more if it doesn’t and you’ve wasted the money.
4. Bonding may not be an instant thing and that’s totally ok.
Raymond Baxter talks about the first time he held his baby: “He did eventually try and look up at me, (but) it wasn’t like the movies where there was an insta-bond, he sort of looked up at me in a half asleep “what the hell are you?” type gaze. Our bonding took a few days.”
5. The doorbell is NOT your friend.
You may want to consider limiting any visitors for the first week or so, and also creating a sign for the door to save the doorbell waking any of you up from a well deserved nap.
6. No matter how tough it gets, it’s 100% worth it.
@daddy_to_triplet_girls explains: “You will have tough days and sleepless nights, but when your baby is laying on you and you can smell them and hear their heartbeat you will realise it’s all so worth it and how lucky you are.”
7. You won’t always make the best decisions but the mistakes make great pictures.
Prime example from @youthedaddy: “Throwback to that time when our Greek hotel room only had a shower, so we thought it would be a good idea to give Teddy a bath in the sink…”
8. You’ll see many different shades of poo.Matt Orlando of therunnerdad.com explains: “Newborn poop. Like Skittles, it comes in a rainbow of colours (just don’t “taste the rainbow”). From green to brown to yellow to orange to even blue sometimes, you never know what you’re going to get.”
9. Learn to become a sleep ninja.HowtobeaDad.com tells us: “It can be risky when it’s just you around your sleeping baby, to check on them or simply sneaking about your daily routine.” His hand signals for checking on a sleeping baby will help you out.
10. You’ll get cried at….A LOT.
Both baby and mum will be going through a lot during this time (as will you). The best thing you can do is be there to support, whatever that looks like.dadofboy advises: “Be that shoulder, lend that ear and be that stress ball.”
11. Baby sick really isn’t so bad.
As a first time dad there’s a good chance you’re going to see a lot of it and it genuinely isn’t too bad. Most of the time it’s not been in that little tummy for too long so just focus on it being milk….
12. The bad smells that a tiny person can make are just unbelievable.
How can they be SO cute but those nappies smell SO bad?! Unfortunately it doesn't get much better the more babies you have, as @dadventurer explains!
13. You may see a lot of boob but they’re not for you.
Focus on being the best breastfeeding helper possible and you’ll have them back in no time!
14. You will feel guilty.Are you doing enough? Are you around when you should be? Are you actually making a difference? You may find yourself feeling guilty in a way you never imagined, as you try to balance work, time for yourself and new parenthood. Be reassured; you’re certainly not alone.
15. Stock up on coffee.
If you don’t drink it, now is an excellent time to start...go to a generic coffee chain immediately.
16. Your child will self harm.
Pick up several pairs of scratch mitts - your kid will love to scratch its own face off initially.
17. Save a penny, save a pound.
Join lots of Facebook selling sites and sign back up to Ebay. Grabbing second hand toys, prams and so much more is a must and saves you a lot of money. Also look out for tech that will help you save money - Skint dad has a whole load of tips here.
18. Cars really are baby sleeping machines.
If you are ever stuck at 3am with a wide awake child, pop them in the car a go for a drive, (just make sure you stay awake when they nod off).
19. Food glorious food.
Grab some microwave meals or do some bulk cooking and stock up the freezer for those first weeks. Better yet have a hot meal rule where any visitors have to bring a meal with them!
20. Upgrade your phone.
You’ll take a million snaps in the first year. When you are papping your baby until it goes crossed eyed you'll be glad your camera phone is top quality. And plenty of storage is a must.
21. You may experience some pretty strong feelings.
Meeting your baby for the first time brings up some pretty strong emotions but don’t forget there are many more milestones to come. When you first bring them home, be prepared for the weirdest mixture of fear, excitement, joy and inadequacy….it’s quite a concoction.
22. You’ll probably eventually end up with feet on your face during sleep.
As Phill from Corporate Dad shows us, even the simplest Sunday morning wake up may be about to get toe-sy.
23. You’re about see parenting gadgets in a whole new light.Before you became a dad, did you even know what a Squirt Spoon was!? Well, you’re about to.
24. Get the doctor on speed dial.
If this is your first child, you will fret about your baby’s health a lot of the time. Your local doctor will know you by your first name. You’ll have NHS Direct on speed dial. This anxiety is natural, but as we’ve mentioned before, it’s usually unnecessary. Baby’s look fragile and delicate. In reality they’re often tough as old boots.
First Time Dad Skills You'll Learn
It’s like going back to school - except there’s only one teacher and they just threw up on your suit.
25. Distracting a breastfed baby when there’s no available boob.
A top tip from @papa_pukka: “If you don't have a dummy or lactating nipples, but do have a nose, this can buy you up to 20 seconds of Happy Infant Time.”
Some top tips here from Brett McKay at The Art of Manliness.
27. You’re going to become a nappy changing pro.With potentially 6-10 nappy changes a day you’ll get pretty good at this, as shown here in 24 hours of a newborn by Christian at howtobeadad.co.uk.
28. You’ll create your own dad hack for calming a crying baby.Every dad finds their own very special way to calm their baby. That may be by singing, rocking, pulling faces or perhaps you’ll master the “Tiger in the tree” hold shown here by Dad about town.
29. The ability to function on VERY little sleep is about to be mastered.
You just will get things done, even if you might feel like this...
30. You’re king of the house chores.
If you didn’t do many house chores before, you’ll now be a hoovering, washing and cooking machine. But hey, if you do it, do it in style - like this dad - @Sunfire28
31. Brushing their teeth will be the bain of your life.
When they get teeth, of course. And until you become a Jedi Master of it like Westopapa.
32. You’ll learn to balance all the important things, in all the wrong ways!
From clothes through to food, and even milk like @Thebeardcommission.
33. Any OCDs will soon be forgotten.
Pre kids you may not have been comfortable sleeping until the home was perfect. Now, you just don’t care!
34. But you may develop some new ones.
We know, it sounds like we’re contradicting ourselves, but it can go one of two ways. You may be too tired to care about anything. On the other hand, you may become obsessive about making sure doors or locked, plugs are switched off and fires are out. Or something as innocent as flushing the toilet...
35. Your Lego skills are about to get reborn!
36. Become a photo master.
Taking the right photo isn’t just about that time and place, it’s also a frame of mind.
37. You’ll become a multi-tasker extraordinaire…
Especially with the aid of a baby sling, as Dan Jackson shows us.
38. Games at bathtime are about to become one of the highlights of your day!
Rich at Onehullofadad shows us a tiny glimpse into one of the new best dad moments - bath time!
39. You’re about to get real creative (for a beer).
As Phill from Corporate Dad shows us, even your socks can be a great allie in your new dad-life!
40. You’ll learn the very best sleep position - the snuggle!
It may cause you to get up later than usual, as @thatchamdad shows us.
41. You will find strength you never knew you had.
Your arms are about to get a whole lot stronger, as @theunlikelydad shows us.
42. You will become Dad Joker - international man of mirth!You’re a first time dad. You have now taken on the responsibility of keeping your family entertained, amused and often appalled from now until the end of time. For a new baby, stick to silliness. As they grow, you’ll be able to move on to excruciating one liners. Your family will love you for it.
43. You will learn the true love of a man cave.You will be a great dad. You really will. But learning and applying all these new skills can be exhausting. To properly recharge your daddy batteries, you may need a space to call your own, as previously discussed on DaddiLife.
Creating The Dad/Baby Bond
Much of it will happen naturally, but here’s a few tips to hurry it along.
44. Skin to Skin, part 1.
Embrace that skin-to-skin contact in their first few hours and days. There’s nothing quite like dad’s heartbeat to say hello to the world, as @yoee_baby shows us.
45. Learn to love the carry...
@daddy_freckle shares his love for baby carrying - “I am a massive advocate of these things because they provide me the opportunity to be close to Edith, allowing us to bond whilst saving my back.”
45. ...Especially the hands-free version.
There are plenty of ways to carry your baby hands free, and you can be super busy and still keep them close. And by super busy, we mean having a pint in front of the game. Being a first time dad is all about adaptation.
47. Baby Massage.“Massaging my little ones, with a dollar flask of baby oil and some gentle mom/dad hands is one of the best memories I have from our first weeks with our kids.” As described by Serge Bielanko.
48. Finding ways to hold and calm your baby.
It’s massively satisfying being the one who calms the baby mid-meltdown. Here’s how:
One of the best and easiest ways to create a bond is by simply spending as much time with your baby as possible. If you work you can still do it. It takes effort and sacrifice, but it’s worth it.
50. Skin to Skin, part 2.We mentioned this before, but don’t stop with the skin-to-skin when your newborn gets a little older. Time to get that top off and that dad bod out! Skin to skin has so many benefits and can help calm your baby as well as helping you to bond. It’s also an awesome excuse to snuggle up.
51. Play it out.
As your baby starts to move and grow, get playing. Make it fun, make it silly, and make it a real quality dad time. Just be warned, things can turn weird really quickly, as Zen found out!
52. Sweet dreams.
Even as they grow (quickly), a sleep in dad’s arms never gets stale @WimbartHope.
53. Pile on.
Who needs a mosh pit when you’ve got kids. Even as they get older, embrace the art of the pile on, by @jodiclews.
Going through premature birth is challenging all round. As your little fighter is growing, the dad bond is just as important, even in the simplest of ways, by @thepremdad.
55. Giving them the control.
Be ready to lose control of the household, as @DaddyPoppins shows us.
56. Quiet time.
Dad time doesn’t have to be boisterous rough and tumble time. Just sitting and chilling with your baby can be wonderful (and the chilling won’t last long, so make the most of it!). They’ll sense your presence, keeping them safe, and be happy in companionable silence (for two minutes).
57. Don’t sweat it.
He hasn’t smiled at you. She only wants mum when she’s upset. Sometimes he barely seems to realise you’re in the room. We’ve all had these thoughts in the first year of our children’s lives as first time dads. Don’t worry. If you’re committing time and effort, you are bonding with your baby, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
58. In fact creating the dad baby bond, may just be great for the entire family!
That’s the unsurprising conclusion of a new Australian study, but the research – published in Infant Mental Health Journal – takes our knowledge of father-baby bonding in a new direction. It suggests that forging a good bond early in the child’s life increases the wellbeing of the whole family.
Dad's New Activities
Aside for the fundamental stuff - keeping baby safe and fed - the following is likely to be an opportunity for new activities together one time or another.
59. Get down to their level.
Your baby spends a lot of their time viewing the world from ground level. They love it when you get down and dirty too. Hit the floor dads!
59. Kids love slime!Never underestimate the power of slim, especially as they get older. You can even make your own.
60. Explore local activity clubs.
If you need inspiration, there’s probably loads in your area for dads (and mums) and babies, from baby zumba to baby yoga and much much more!
61. Sing to them.
Whatever their age, your kids will be soothed by your singing voice. And that’s true even if you sing like a strangled cat. When they’re old enough, encourage them to join in with clapping, drumming or maracas.
62. Bath time is splash time!
Bathtime is playtime. Put toys in the bath and let them splash, fill and pour. Just accept the inevitable: you’re going to get wet.
63. Shoot the breeze.Sometimes doing the best by your baby just means hanging out and shooting the breeze. Seriously, they might not be the best conversationalists, but your baby is most likely listening to everything you say. The more you talk the better, as Mr Dad explains.
64. Reading rules.
Read to your baby. It’s good for them and it’s good for you. In fact story time can be the most relaxing and magical time of the day.
65. Take them swimming.
It’s ace. They love it. So will you. And they’re never too young to start.
66. Hang out.
Sometimes just hanging around is the best thing, as this little beauty from @diaryofthedad shows.
67. Instill an appreciation of the finer things.
That’s a dad job. Maybe save the lesson on the delightful craft ales of central Europe for a few years, though.
Your New Dad Survival Kit
Don’t leave home without this little lot. Hell, don’t leave the room without this little lot.
68. Teething toys - a must.Around the house or out and about, if your baby is teething keep the required gum-soothing toy near at hand.
69. A change of EVERYTHING.If you take a baby outside, anywhere, take a change of everything. You’ll need it. And as Dad or Alive explains (possibly with swearing), sometimes it’s best to bow to the inevitable and just chuck the old stuff out.
70. Cold and flu remedies.Always keep cold and flu remedies close at hand. Not for the baby. For you. Parenting is tough at the best of times. It’s an absolute beast if you’re under the weather. You the Daddy has some advice on what you’ll need…
71. Your sense of humour.
Things won’t always go to plan. Things will often go wrong. Expect it, accept it, and keep smiling throughout.
72. Weather proofs.
Rain proof clothes in winter. Hats and sunscreen in summer. In fact, before you go out anywhere, check the weather forecast. With a baby, any trip out can be ruined in an instant by a sudden change in climatic conditions.
For the baby, for you, for the ducks...After nappies, age-appropriate snacks are the most important item in any survival pack. Nothing distracts an unhappy child like feeding, whether that’s themselves, their daddy, or any passing wildfowl. Forget the snacks and anything can happen.
74. The Water Bottle.
Water is essential, and especially as they get older you'll want to pack a kids water bottle that doesn't leak, can hold a good amount, and can set you up for the day ahead.
75. Reading matter, part 1.
Keep a copy of a favourite book in your baby rucksack at all times. In cafes, on trains, in shops, in fact anywhere, a good book will give you ten minutes respite from the grouching (and possibly save your sanity).
76. Wet wipes.
For goodness sake, don’t forget the wet wipes. Like, ever!!
77. Your sense of wonder.
Seriously, these sweet times don’t last forever (even if for the moment it feels like they do). Make the most of them.
78. Reading matter, part 2.
The first part was for the baby. Now get one packed for you. Grab any opportunity you can, even if it means reading one of your books for new dads again!
79. Random stuff.
You know your child better than anyone, so after the essentials it’s really up to you what you take to keep them amused (and keep yourself sane). But here’s a few suggestions (some more serious than others...).
The Alternative Baby Milestones
Stuff that makes it all worthwhile, and some stuff that really doesn’t.
79. The first time your kid experiences sugar.
Chocolate, cake, cookies? Whatever snack is chosen as the gateway drug, sugar will no doubt be very well received and potentially end up in your first experience of a very hyper child.
80. First “poosplosion.”
The dreaded Poosplosion is defined by the Urban Dictionary like this: “When a baby has such a massive poo that it shoots out the top and/or leg holes of the diaper”. It will happen. It usually happens at the most inconvenient of times (i.e mid car journey, or just when the waiter brings your food out, etc).
Dadultlife has another name for it - the Poozooka (warning this is seriously pooey!) Welcome to first time dad life!
81. When you go from baby bath to big bath (and chaos ensues).
@dad_for_it tells us: “Bath time is now like a cross between an episode of Deadliest Catch and some sort of Olympic synchronised swimming display....”
82. The first time you’re left alone with the baby.
What a crazy mix of emotions. You have never even held a baby before and now you’re in charge of one! Just trust your instincts and go with the flow. You got this dad!
83. The first smile (Ok it’s probably just wind but still…).
Days in and you think you just caught a glimpse of the first smile, and best of all it was aimed at you! Take that mama! OK, chances are it’s actually wind, but claim it and stand strong. Your baby just smiled months before any other baby….are they a genius?
84. The first time you manage to stop the baby crying by doing something really random.
Like sticking on the shades...
85. First time out of the house with a newborn.
Not a big deal eh? Until you actually do it! How many layers do they need on? How much stuff should we take? What if there’s nowhere to change them? Just get that first trip out of the way - once you’ve done it the rest is easy.
86. For dads of boys - the first time he sprays the room.Don’t worry, in time you’ll learn to expect it and be prepared. Tom briggs of Diaryofthedad.co.uk explains: “You get Matrix-style bullet time reflexes that will help you evade the ‘fountain’, whether you’ve had any sleep or not.”
87. First time your child falls off something.
Tragedy! Disaster! Hospital! But how come they’re still giggling? Maybe it’s a head injury! As you’ll quickly learn, babies are really durable.
88. First time your child eats “floor tapas”
As the name suggests, floor tapas is when they eat something off the floor of indeterminate origin. Unfortunately, it’s long gone…..best of luck.
89. First time they eat something new.
They quickly become raging food critics…
90. The first time you completely misjudge it.
This will happen a lot. We’ve all been there. We mean, come on, the massive, cuddly and somewhat sinister rabbit seemed like such a good idea.
91. The first time you hear the word 'daddy.'
That moment is just pure gold, and that feeling of being called it isn't going to go anywhere soon. Billy Flynn summing it all up pretty well.
Summer has just said Dadda clear as anything best feeling everrrrrr!— Billy Flynn (@Flynnie93) September 6, 2017
92. The first time you feed them solid foods.
You may have everything prepared like an absolute Commando.
It's still going to end up looking something like this:
93. The first time you become a total lightweight.
There was once a time where 3 pints would be no problem. But as a first time dad, the combination of no sleep plus reduced alcohol means that when your lips next touch a pint you're likely to feel the effects even worse than when you had that first pint all those years ago!
94. The first time you dry them after the bath.
Bathtime is your new happy. Something about the special quality moment will just get better and better. Just don't forget to keep it at the right temperature, and don't forget to make the babies look like little bears after it!
95. The first time you loose all sense of being just a 'tough' guy.
You thought you were 100% tough, but when you need to dress like the Princesses little helper, you're going to do it.
96. The first time you get the death stare.
Everything was going so well, you thought, and then you get a level of shade you've never experienced before, as @mazymoo12 shows us!
97. The first 'cute' outfit you put them in.
The temptation to dress them as a little animal is just too much not to deliver on, and as @lasertwins shows us, two bears can be even better than one!
98. The first time you start to notice the dad resemblance.
Lots of dads are told their children look like them, and in fact a number studies have shown that dads who perceive their children to look like them are more likely to be involved! For some dads, that resemblance can even happen in the baby's first days, as @shereeniee shares below.
99. The moment one of your arms gets freakishly strong.
After all that holding, milk feeding, and carrying, you may start to notice that power arm getting very, and we mean VERY, strong! As @human_person_friend shows us, you may have just developed a 'dad arm'!
100. When you start thinking they're an evil genius.
The 'stewie-griffin' effect can strike at any time, just ask @dafs82.
101. The moment you realise, life has changed forever.
It's your own journey as a first time dad, and there is no 'one size' of parenting. All you can do is go with this crazy, mad cap journey of ups, downs, and a hell-of-a-lot in between!
Enjoy the DAD-LIFE!