Becoming a new dad is a life-changing experience. As one source so aptly put it, 'Having a new baby is like a learning cliff'! In addition to all the firsts, and the fluctuating hormones of your partner, you'll invariably experience a lack of sleep! By acknowledging the possible challenges you may face and preparing for them, you can help to ease stress and enjoy this time with your new family.
It is important to get involved before the baby is born. Not only can you attend the pre-natal visits with your partner, but you can place your hand on her tummy as it grows, and feel the baby kick! You might even like to download an app for your phone, to give you an insight into your baby's week-by-week development. It's also healthy to talk to your partner about how you envisage your daily lives and relationship may change.
Once the baby is born, the best way for you to feel at ease is by jumping in and interacting with him/her. Don't be tempted to hand baby back to mum when he/she becomes fretful. When it's all new to you, it's easy to panic, or worry that you're doing something wrong, but you need to be mindful that crying is a baby's only means of communication at this early stage. The more time you spend with your little one, the better you'll be able to distinguish between their cries, be able to respond to them and begin to develop a bond.
By way of introduction, the top three reasons why babies may cry are that they are hungry, uncomfortable (they need a nappy change), or tired. Other reasons might be that they're in pain or ill, they're bored and require stimulation, or they're scared (of loud noises or flashing lights, for example). Helpful remedies include a continuous background noise (like a hoover or running water), going for a walk or a drive, singing a repetitive nursery rhyme, talking quietly, or just rocking the baby. Don't be afraid to make mistakes (and decisions) on your own.
Furthermore, by taking turns to change your newborn and amuse them, you will be relieving your partner and enabling her in her post-labour recovery process. Entertaining baby might be as simple as carrying him/her around, listening to music or reading to them (anything will do, it helps to familiarise baby with your voice and get to know you).
Finally, be affectionate with your partner, through her sometimes unpredictable emotional ups and downs, and continue to talk to each other after the baby is born!