Advice from 10 Real Dads in the Little Bellies Support Village
Parenting is a challenging and rewarding journey that requires constant learning and growth. To gain insights into the experiences and wisdom of real fathers, we reached out to 10 dads in our Little Bellies ‘village’ of parents and asked them to share their wisdom. Here are their invaluable insights:
The first years of parenthood can be a whirlwind of unpredictability. Embrace the art of flexibility and practice patience like never before. Babies have their own schedules, and what worked yesterday might not work today. Whether it’s sleep routines, feeding patterns, or just finding a moment to yourself, being adaptable and patient is key. Remember, you’re learning and growing together, so take each challenge in stride and celebrate the little victories.
Embrace the Messiness: Parenting is messy, both literally and figuratively. From baby burps and diaper blowouts to the emotional rollercoaster of watching your little one grow, there’s a lot of mess to embrace. Embrace the messy moments with a sense of humour and a camera ready to capture those spontaneous, unfiltered memories.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what you’re doing the right way. Be open to learning, have the right mindset, and you’ll learn the ropes quickly, your little one will make sure of it! Don’t worry if you don’t master nappies right away – there will be plenty of opportunities to practice!
Every single time you change a nappy, get vomited on, or have a sleepless night – remember that one day this baby will be deciding on which old age home to put you in.
In the early days, the baby can be very reliant on the mum for feeding and care. That doesn’t mean Dad doesn’t have a role, make sure you take the time to bond with your new addition with lots of cuddles. It’s important that you work as a team with your partner to support all the important tasks to keep the household running which can fall over in the whirlwind of having a new baby – meal prep, cleaning, and domestic chores.
Get involved from the start – changing nappies, bathing, feeding, settling and dressing, and reading bedtime stories. Helping with the daily care of your child is the best way to gain confidence and naturally build a connection together.
A solid baby routine can mean the difference between a happy, relaxed, fed baby and a cranky baby that keeps you up at night. This includes routines for different activities, such as sleep routine, where you may have some cuddles and let them soothe themselves to sleep.
Everyone tells you that you are going to be sleep deprived for the first few months, and it’s true. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Accept that you may not get a straight 8-hour block of sleep for a while. So, try to sleep when you can (even when babies are sleeping).
Embrace the changing sleep patterns – Sleep when you get the chance rather than trying to stick to your old routine. Maximise your sleep where possible to reduce the frustration that your old routine is being disrupted.
Get some exercise in for your own time and general well-being – helps with recharging.
Take care of yourself – If you don’t look after your overall health and wellbeing you won’t be in the right state of mind or spirits to look after your child and partner.
Don’t forget to look after yourself – with so much going on in the first few weeks, things you used to take for granted like sitting down for a meal can fall by the wayside. One of the best tips I received as a new dad was to do lots of meal prep and fill the freezer with easy meals to reduce the burden of cooking for you and your partner.
Amid the sleepless nights and endless nappy changes, it’s easy to put your own needs on the back burner. However, taking care of yourself is crucial. Find those pockets of time to recharge – whether it’s a quick walk, a hobby you enjoy, or a moment to read or watch something that makes you happy. Remember, a well-rested and mentally balanced dad is better equipped to handle the ups and downs of parenthood.
Never be afraid to ask for help from absolutely anyone…other than your wife. Be honest with the people closest to you and ask (or beg) for help.
If you have immediate family (parents, parents-in-law, siblings, friends) that you are close with – don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept assistance when it’s offered. Knowing someone else is taking care of things such as babysitting, feeding, bath time, laundry or cooking dinner, allows you and your partner some time to recharge for the next day.
Remember, you’re not alone on this incredible journey. Reach out to fellow dads, share stories, and support one another. Each day brings new challenges and joys, so take a deep breath, cherish the fleeting moments, and relish the privilege of being a new dad.
Mothers groups are common, but dad groups are pretty much non-existent. It helps to chat through your experiences and challenges with other dads. Even if it’s just a messenger chat where you share funny parenting experiences. Having a few dads, you can chat to and ask questions is a big help.
Support Your Partner (very important). However tired you think you are, your partner is 10 times more exhausted.
If you are bottle feeding, take over some of the night feeding shifts from your partner so that she can also get a full night’s sleep regularly. If you aren’t feeding overnight, take responsibility for the last one before bed or the first one in the morning, as you are teammates & partners in this.
Prioritize your relationship with your partner – get some date nights in.
Don’t listen to all the noise. All babies are different and more importantly every father has a different story to tell. So much of parenting is listening to what your gut tells you and not what the books or other dads have to say.
You’ll be bombarded by advice of all types from a variety of different people – not all of it will be relevant, and not all of it will be helpful. Every baby is different and remember to trust your instincts as a new parent.
Show them from early on the importance of caring for others less fortunate, they will grow up to be caring adults.
Have fun and joke with them from early on, this will develop their sense of humour and ability to laugh but also teach them not to necessarily accept everything they are told at face value.
Make time to enjoy the first few years with your kids. Do things together. Go on adventures and explore with them. It can be as simple as a short hike through a local park. They are like sponges. It’s amazing how much fun can be had with empty cardboard boxes and some art materials. More often than not, toddlers find the boxes more exciting than the toys they carry. It lets them imagine & create.
The days can be long, but the years are short – just be present and play with your child as much as possible. They grow up so quickly!
Take lots of photos/movies – awesome to look back on.
If you’ve freaked out a bit at the beginning of having your first child, it will be all good mate.
Many thanks to the Little Bellies’ dads village: Clive, Steven, Adam, Joshua, Chris, Bowan, Anthony, Guy, Gareth and Rob!