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Health & Baby

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Let Dad Be Dad: 6 Ways to Encourage New Fathers

How to empower and support your partner as he gets the hang of fatherhood.

3. Plan for Paternity Leave, if Possible

You’re probably looking forward to at least 6 weeks home with the baby, but chances are your partner has only a week or two before he must head back to work.

“If it’s possible for the father to take time off, it’s really important,” says Scott W. Cohen, MD, a pediatrician in Beverly Hills, CA, and author of Eat Sleep Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby’s First Year. “I took the second 2 weeks off work once our family had left and things calmed down, so that I could help and learn about the baby.”

Once your partner heads back to his job, he may feel out of the loop. Email him photos and updates so he knows what’s going on. You both will have to try a little harder to keep him involved. When he gets home he can enjoy taking baby for a stroll or sitting outside while you enjoy a few quiet minutes.

“If dad is working and mom is home with the baby, he can use that time away as an excuse,” Cohen says. “He may think, 'She always cries when she’s with me, but when you hold her she stops crying immediately, so you should comfort her.' But these things don’t get better unless you try.”

4. Encourage Dad to Bond

It can be difficult to relate to a newborn. “For me, the first couple of months were really hard,” says Tony Sacco, father to 4-month-old Carter, in Chicago. “You don’t get much back at the beginning at all. I struggled with that before Carter started engaging me with his eyes and making noises.”

One of the best ways for fathers to establish a connection in the beginning is by soothing the baby. “While dads are very comfortable in a stimulating role they sometimes worry that they’re not good at nurturing, Hill says. “But dads have a special role to play in nurturing. Babies who are unhappy love to hear a deep voice. Dads can serve as source of calm sometimes when mom is tired, stressed, and going through emotional ups and downs.”

You both will soon figure out how to tell when your baby needs to eat and when she just needs soothing. That’s why Cheri Barber, RN, president of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, talks to parents about the difference between nutritive and nonnutritive sucking. “Just because a baby is crying doesn’t mean she needs to be fed,” Barber says. “Infants suck to soothe, too. Dad can offer the baby a pacifier or rock him to soothe him.”

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