Be at the scans. Around 90% of dads in the UK attend ultrasound scans. Seeing and hearing your child will help you develop a bond before the birth. If you can get a copy of the scan, rewatching will deepen your connection.
Picture your child and your future relationship. It may seem unimportant but your imagination is an incredible tool. It can help you consider the type of dad you want to be and the changes needed to make that vision a reality.
Prepare for baby’s arrival. Lots of dads like to nest, the process of building a cot, painting the baby's room or looking for the perfect buggy can help you to get involved and feel like you're contributing. Towards the end of the pregnancy it's good to share or take over the household chores to give your partner time to rest if she needs it. Attending antenatal and parenting classes can also help you prepare practically for the birth and becoming a dad. For example dads who know a lot about pain control, help birthing women have shorter labours and are less likely to need epidurals.
Interact with your partner's baby bump. Feel your baby’s movements and remember they can hear in the womb from 18 weeks so take time to talk, sing and read to the bump whatever you feel comfortable with. Dads are often amazed that their newborn responds to their voice after the birth.
Talk about life when the baby arrives. Spend time talking to family, friends about how you envisage life with a new baby and what support you might need.
Plan changes to your work life. The weeks after you have a baby can feel overwhelming, so if you can, take time off from work to concentrate on your family. If you are employed make sure you understand what leave you're entitled to (before and after the birth) and what flexible working policies are available to you, then plan the changes you want to make with your partner and discuss them with your employer. Find out more HERE
Make healthy choices. Even though you're not carrying the baby, making healthy choices matters to your partner and baby. You already know smoking is bad for you – and becoming a dad is the perfect opportunity to do what you know is right, and give up. If dad is a heavy smoker there is an increased risk of early pregnancy loss, respiratory disease in infants and low birth-weight. Dad's heavy drinking is associated with their greater irritation with their baby and aggression towards the mother. Pregnant women are almost four times more likely to have consumed alcohol and over twice as likely to have used drugs, if dad has drug and alcohol related problems.
Spend time with your partner. Research shows mum’s most important support person is almost always the baby’s biological father. Spending time together helps parents-to-be form a close supportive relationship or a “parenting team” before birth. The better the relationship between you and your partner the lower her stress levels will be.
Take care of your mental health. As well as tuning in to how your partner is coping, (dad is generally first to know when mum is developing depression), you may also feel worried about becoming a parent. Anxiety & depression are not unusual while going through such a big life change but it is important to get the help you need for you and your family. Depression in dads-to-be may cause mum to become stressed. Maternal stress is associated with low birth weight, preterm birth and child behavioural and emotional problems later on. If you cannot sleep or relax; if you feel down or anxious; if your relationships are strained; if you feel that you cannot enjoy anything it is important to get the help you need for you and your family.
Start early. The strength of your attachment to your child before they are born combined with the quality of your relationship with your partner is the strongest indicator of how well you will relate to your child after they are born. So get started early.