You’re going to be a dad—congratulations! These tips, tricks, and guidelines will help you face first-time fatherhood. 

By Ken Gordon
Updated October 08, 2019
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Fatherhood: It's not rocket science, but it’s also not the simplest thing in the world. Get ahead of the game by reading these frequently-asked-questions from dads-to-be— then show off your newfound fatherhood skills when your little one arrives in the world. Learning how to be a dad has never been so easy!

How Do I Prepare for Labor and Delivery?

Even though your partner is actually delivering the baby, it's normal for dads-to-be to feel anxious about the ordeal. Deborah Krahl, M.D., of The Mother Baby Center, has a few pieces of advice: take a class offered through the hospital or your doctor's office, schedule a free tour of the labor and delivery area, read about the stages of labor, and learn pain-relief measures for the mother-to-be. "The more familiar you are with your surroundings and what to expect for each stage in labor, the more relaxed you will be when it happens,” she says. 

How Much Should My Child Eat? 

"It is important to remember that a baby's stomach is very tiny, so the volume required at a feeding is quite small, and it varies within the first few days of life," says Sunny Carlisle, a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and a DONA International Certified Birth Doula. One day after birth, for example, a newborn's stomach is about the size of a marble and holds about one teaspoon, says Carlisle. She adds that by day 10, a newborn's stomach is about the size of a large egg and holds about four tablespoons. “A baby should seem content after a feeding, but if he/she is fussy, try burping and offering the breast or bottle again,” explains Carlisle. Learn more about baby portion sizes here. 

How Do I Prepare a Bottle?

If aren’t relying solely on breastfeeding, learn how to prepare a bottle before checking out of the hospital. You might use a bottle-warming gizmo or heat it with another method. Regardless, warm it to around 98.5 degrees Fahrenheit; use a food-grade thermometer or the temperature monitor on your bottle warmer to measure. Go through the whole routine so that you don't have to awaken your wife/partner at 4 a.m. and ask, "Honey, how does this thing work?"

How Many Dirty Diapers Can I Expect?

According to Carlisle, "A baby should have at least one wet diaper by the end of the first day of life, and this should increase to five to six wet diapers by the end of the first week. Dirty diapers are going to vary a little bit, though, depending on whether the baby is breastfed or formula-fed." Typically, one dirty diaper for each day baby's been alive is a solid guideline in the first week (one dirty diaper on day one, two dirty diapers on day two, etc.) until the fifth or sixth day. "After this, a breastfed baby may have one-12 small stools per day.”

The appearance of Baby’s stool will also vary. “A breastfed baby's stools will change color as mom's milk transitions from colostrum to mature milk, from blackish-green to tan to mustard yellow," continues Carlisle. "A formula-fed baby may have fewer, larger stools that are more formed and tannish in color."

How Do I Change a Diaper?

"Baby boys turn into peeing fountains when cold air hits their little tummies, so learn to create a shield with the front of the diaper (the tape is on the back half)," says author/mom Pam McMurtry, adding that you might also want to keep a hand towel ready. "Little girls need to have their private parts wiped from front to back, so as not to get fecal material in their genital area. Don't let a baby stay too long in a wet or dirty diaper; they'll get a rash and be harder to potty train later on."

Once your baby is sufficiently change, you’ve got a dirty diaper on your hands. Some people have a whole system for wrapping up dirty diapers and popping them into a diaper pail; others have cloth diapers that need washing. Figure out what you're going to do, and be ready to deal before this stuff hits the fan.

How Do I Pack a Diaper Bag?

"Diapers, wipes, a change of clothing (at least one), and a burp rag are essential diaper bag components. If you are using cloth diapers, don't forget to pack a wet bag for toting wet/soiled diapers back home!" says Carlisle. Formula-feeders should pack a few bottles, formula, and water (if using powdered or liquid concentrate formula) unless you are traveling to an area where water safety isn't a concern. "If your baby uses a pacifier, having an extra in diaper bag may also be helpful," she adds. "Other valuable items may be a changing pad, hand sanitizer, baby toys or books, and a clean shirt for mom or dad."

How Do I Swaddle a Baby?

Dad Alex Antonowitsch says: "Ask the nurse how to 'swaddle' a baby.” (Or read our how-to guide here!) “Basically, you make a baby burrito using a blanket. It simulates the coziness of the womb and helps the baby sleep." 

Where Should My Baby Sleep?

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having newborn babies sleep in the parents' room—in either a crib or bassinet—as it helps with frequent night feedings when the baby is close," says Carlisle. Your baby should never sleep in your bed, and he should always lie on his back to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). 

Carlisle adds that you should sleep when the baby sleeps. "Yes, your newborn is beautiful and it's difficult not to watch his/her cherub-like face while sleeping, but parents need sleep, too. If the baby is napping, take a nap as well!"

How Many Car Seats Do I Need?

"You'll probably need two car seats (I know, it's ridiculous)," says Harlan Cohen, author of Dad's Pregnant Too!  First off, you’ll want an infant car seat that snaps into the base to move the baby in and out of the car without waking them up. Then you'll want a convertible car seat (it 'converts' from backward-facing to forward-facing) to use during the next few years. 

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