Becoming a dad for the first time is an amazing experience, one that can feel daunting at times. It will change you on a personal level, and you might be surprised at how other aspects of your life evolve. It’s normal and understandable to feel lost or unsure of yourself as you figure out how to take care of your newborn and adjust to your new role.

Remember, all fathers were once first-time dads who had to learn the ropes like you! A little preparation before the baby arrives may help you avoid future stress and let you focus more on those precious early moments with your little one.

If you’re preparing for fatherhood (or know someone who is), check out our list below of handy father-to-be tips and advice, covering some of the things that you might want to consider doing to help manage the arrival of a new baby.

Health and Fitness

With a new baby, the way that you spend your time and energy will change. Taking some time before your little one arrives to focus on building a healthy lifestyle will help give you the stamina for this new experience.

As a dad-to-be, eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly are all steps you can take to help prepare for the rigors of fatherhood.

1. Build Healthy Eating Habits

A well-balanced diet will help expectant dads maintain a healthy weight, which in turn can help prevent or manage stress, obesity, and other health conditions. Those who eat well also tend to be more active.

As any regular gym-goer will tell you, the key to getting—and staying—fit starts in the kitchen. Building good dietary habits in the weeks and months leading up to the birth will help later on. This is especially true after the baby comes, when many expectant dads find themselves with less personal time to focus on physical fitness.

Getting plenty of water is essential for good health, even if you’re not becoming a dad. As a bonus, don’t forget that water and other fluids aren't the only option you have to stay hydrated: Many fruits and vegetables are virtually 100 percent water by weight, like spinach or watermelon.

2. Get Regular Exercise

Experienced parents know that once children arrive, they’ll be putting their children first and spending less time on themselves. First-time dads might find themselves surprised that the time they have for workouts plummets on the priority list. On top of that, parenting will take a lot of your energy, and general fatigue is going to take its toll on your physical fitness.

As you’re preparing for fatherhood, you might want to think about putting an emphasis on being active and staying fit to help keep up with the demands of parenthood. Prior to your newborn’s arrival, consider building an at-home exercise routine that can be done in minimal time and doesn’t require a gym full of equipment so you’re comfortable with that type of exercising before your little one comes.

3. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Sleep

Sleep allows the body to function properly, and first-time dads will learn that it’s a precious commodity. Getting enough sleep is crucial for allowing your body and mind the opportunity to recharge—much needed when you're becoming a father.

Once your baby arrives, it will become that much harder for both you and your partner to get adequate rest, so you may want to discuss a sleeping plan/schedule with your partner ahead of time, and then make adjustments as needed.

4. Look After Your Mental Health

If you’re going to be a father soon, know that taking care of a newborn will bring joy and excitement into your life, and that you’ll encounter difficulties as well. Combatting stress and fatigue will be a challenge as you encounter a rollercoaster of emotions on top of the day-to-day activities of looking after your little one. Developing good habits to manage stress will help you maintain the energy you need to care for your little one.

Do your best to find time for yourself, which can be a tough task in the early days of parenthood, and to make sure that your partner also has some personal time. Prior to the baby’s arrival, consider picking up a hobby or another activity that can be done at home, such as yoga or listening to podcasts.

5. Be Aware of Your Emotions During the Postpartum Period

During the first six weeks after the baby is born, known as the postpartum period, you and your partner will both acutely feel the difference in lifestyle.

Be vigilant in watching for signs of postpartum depression, which can affect fathers as well as mothers. Keeping open lines of communication with your partner will be crucial after the baby comes and is something you and your partner can work on while you’re preparing to be a dad.

A major life change (and a lack of sleep) can stress out anyone. Be careful not to get so wrapped up in looking after your newborn that you forget to take care of yourself or pay attention to your own feelings and that of your partner.

Domestic Tasks

Becoming a dad for the first time means adjusting your lifestyle and preparing your living space for the arrival of a newborn, including assembling the many things babies will need (both nice-to-haves and must-haves) in their first weeks and months.

6. Make and Freeze Some Meals Ahead of Time

When you're tired and hungry, nothing beats pulling a ready-made meal out of the freezer. Not having to think about what you want to eat, and being able to get a hearty plate of food in front of you or your significant other within minutes, will be a relief, especially during some of the more exhausting days.

Dedicate some time leading up to the baby’s arrival to cook up batches of your favorite foods and have a freezer full of healthy meals that you could eat at a moment’s notice.

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7. Begin Babyproofing the House

Babies become mobile more quickly than you might expect, so why not get started on baby-proofing your home now. This can involve everything from installing locks on cupboards and blocking stairs with safety gates to covering outlets with plugs and moving cords and breakable items up and out of your little one's reach.

Try getting on your hands and knees and crawling around your living space, the way your baby would! You might be surprised at what you see when you put yourself into the perspective of your little one and help you anticipate what to expect when becoming a dad.

8. Choose Baby Gear and Equipment

When you walk into a baby store for the first time, whether to buy something or add it to your baby registry, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed at the selection of equipment available. However, not all these items will be essential, though they will all likely be tempting. Here’s a short list of basic things every new dad needs in terms of baby gear and furniture:

Babies sleep a lot, so when you’re choosing a crib, make sure that the one you select meets federal safety standards, with a firm mattress, no drop-down side railings, and crib slats that are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.

9. Clear Up Storage Space

Preparing for fatherhood will likely require making some changes to your living space. One thing that a father can do before the baby arrives is to help design the living space for function. Be sure to do this in conjunction with your parenting partner, since they’ll likely have a lot of thoughts about your shared living space as well! Putting things within easy reach of when and where they will be used will save time as well as help prevent accidents.

As a new dad-to-be, consider parting with things that you no longer use or getting rid of extra furniture that takes up space. With an extra (little) person on the way, it may be a good time to declutter the home. This way you’ll be bringing your newborn into a welcoming, organized environment. Plus, with fewer items in the house, you and your partner will be better able to visualize all your baby nursery ideas.

10. Deep Clean Your Living Space

A clean, healthy environment is important for your little one, so it may be a good idea to give your living space a thorough cleaning before the baby’s arrival. Plus, in those first few weeks, you and your partner will likely be busy with a litany of baby-related tasks and may not be especially inclined to do a deep cleaning then.

Best of all, your partner will probably thank you!

11. Get Your Car Checked and Install the Car Seat

If you’re going to be a father soon, it may be a good idea to make sure your car is running smoothly before the baby arrives. And now is the time to install the infant car safety seat, which you will need when bringing your baby home from the hospital. The car seat should be placed facing backward in the back seat of your vehicle, and you'll want to paying attention to the manufacturer's instructions as well as the section on car seats in your vehicle’s manual when you’re installing it.

Relationships

When you’re becoming a father, your relationships with your partner, colleagues, friends, and family will become a very important source of support. However, they may change in some ways as your own perspective shifts into that of a first-time dad.

12. Talk About Parenting With Your Partner

You probably already know that becoming a father means that you and your partner are equally responsible for your baby’s care and well-being. In the upcoming months prior to the baby’s arrival, it would be well worth it to spend time with your partner to agree on an appropriate division of labor.

You’ll be able to co-parent as a team more effectively if you draw up a game plan together beforehand. Divvying up critical tasks (who changes the diapers when, who gets up at night for feedings, etc.) clearly and appropriately will help ensure that one parent doesn’t carry an inordinate proportion of the parenting load.

Not planning for this division of labor ahead of time is a recipe for resentment (especially if one parent ends up doing more), which is not an emotion you want to add to the rollercoaster you will likely already be on when the rigors of raising a newborn kick in.

13. Don’t Neglect Romance

Expectant fathers can expect that a lot of things will change when the newborn comes and takes over the no. 1 position on the list of priorities. It may be worthwhile to acknowledge that your sex life may change under these new circumstances, but that romance, affection, and intimacy can take on many forms.

Being physically present with your partner-parent will strengthen the bond between the two of you. Some thoughtful planning (and possibly candles) can go a long way—and if you’re wondering if sex during pregnancy is OK, it definitely is!

14. Connect With Friends

Your friends will all likely be happy and proud to watch you take the next step in your life’s journey. While you might be in the thick of planning for your baby’s arrival, consider making plans to make some pre-baby memories with your friends.

Taking some pre-baby time to bond with your friends over a drink or good conversation may pay off down the line if you feel overwhelmed with figuring out how to be a good first-time dad and you need some external support.

15. Find Fellow Dads

If you're preparing to be a dad, it may help to speak with other dads who have gone through the same process as you and encountered the new feelings that come with first-time fatherhood.

It’s well worth it to be a part of a community of people with shared experiences and better yet to have a support system of similar perspectives to help discuss the fatherhood journey.

Colleagues at work or in other social groups you’re a part of would be a good network to tap, and you might be surprised to find out how many dads will be enthusiastic about sharing their experiences or giving advice.

Financial and Legal Tasks

First-time dads can benefit from having a game plan for approaching all the financial and legal things to do before a baby is born. Setting up a plan and following through will help you provide a secure future for you and your family.

16. Work Out the Family Budget

Having a baby will very likely shake up your finances if you don’t prepare ahead of time. Taking some time to create or update a family budget, in conjunction with your partner-parent, will help you financially navigate your parenting journey.

You can make the transition a little easier by reassessing your household budget and determining what’s essential for your lifestyle, given the new expenses that will come with raising a child. Some costs you’ll need to consider will include childcare, healthcare, and insurance changes among others specific to you and your partner.

17. Make Workplace Plans

Understanding your workplace’s policies is a useful thing to know as a first-time dad as you plan on welcoming a new member to your family. Take some time to learn what workplace benefits are available to you.

Every company will likely have a different set of internal policies regarding parental leave, paid/unpaid leave, and vacation days, so consider these paternity leave policies when you’re making plans for how much time you can take off. It’s also worth a look to check out daycare facilities close to your workplace for convenience and cost!

Doing this prior to the baby’s arrival will be one less thing you’ll need to worry about during those first few months when you and your partner are adapting to other lifestyle changes.

18. Consolidate Important Financial and Nonfinancial Information

Topping the list of financial and legal things to do before the baby is born is making sure that your important documents are organized and centralized for easy access. In case of an emergency, it may also be a good idea if someone you trust knows how to access any important legal or financial information as well.

You’ll want a safe space (physical and/or digital) to keep the following:

  • Bank and/or investment accounts

  • Health/life insurance records

  • Your will or trust

  • Medical power of attorney (as in who you grant the ability to obtain medical care for your child)

  • Information regarding household bills with account numbers

  • Documents that you need to provide at the hospital (along with other hospital bag items)

  • Key contact info (like your doctor or accountant)

Developing a system for your important financial and medical information prior to the baby’s arrival will help you later as well when you also will need to keep track of your child’s records.

19. Automate Your Accounts

You might find yourself with less time and capacity than you’d like to keep track of your bills. After all, you’ll be busy with the full-time job of caring for a newborn, and it’s easy to lose track of when things are due.

You can make your life a little easier by signing up for automatic bill payments wherever it’s possible. Automated payments may help you manage your expenses and help make sure that you don’t miss any due dates.

20. Consider Opening a Savings Account for Your Little One

Opening a savings account will pay dividends (literally) down the line as your child gets older, so it makes sense to do this as soon as you can.

21. Clear Up (Digital) Storage Space

Make sure that your digital space (cloud account, hard drive) has enough room to accommodate the presence of your new little one. You and your partner will likely want to document this special time with lots of photos and videos.

Skills to Work On for First-Time Dads

“Dad, how do I . . . ?” is a phrase that you can look forward to hearing quite often as your child gets older. Part of what makes becoming a dad so meaningful is being able to impart the knowledge you’ve gained to your little one.

Before you get to that phase, though, keep in mind there are some skills worth brushing up on while you’re preparing for the baby’s arrival.

22. Making a Swaddle

Swaddling can be beneficial for many young babies, particularly during the early months. For some babies, being securely and safety wrapped in a swaddle helps promote better sleeping, which you and your partner will be grateful for. Leading up to the baby’s arrival, you might want to learn how to swaddle your little one.

23. Using a First-Aid Kit

Another smart move is to both prepare and learn how to use a first-aid kit. It’s a good idea to be ready for cases of mild illnesses or injuries like cuts, scrapes, or burns. Some useful items to have (and know how to safely use) include:

  • baby thermometer

  • bandages

  • antiseptic wipes or fluid

  • pain/fever medication, such as infants' acetaminophen.

Learning how to treat minor scrapes and bruises, as well as being able to recognize when there are larger issues that require professional attention, is a key step in how to prepare to be a dad.

24. Communicating and Listening

Over the course of the parenting journey, you’ll vacillate between feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you don’t know anything to feeling confident that you’re the only one who knows how to properly care for your little one, particularly during the early stages.

Your partner will likely be feeling a similar way, so remember that while you’re learning how to be a dad to a newborn, your partner is encountering their own challenges as well. Anticipating that the stresses of parenthood can sometimes overwhelm the lines of communication is something to keep in mind if you’re wondering how to mentally prepare to be a father.

Good communication will be key: with your partner, anyone else who might be involved with your baby, and with your child as they grow older. Empathy and active listening are skills that you can work on leading up to your baby’s arrival.

25. Packing a Diaper Bag

You probably already know one of the main things dads need for newborns: diapers. Do you know how to pack a diaper bag, though? When you’re out and about with your little one, a properly organized and well-stocked diaper bag will provide everything you need to make sure your baby stays clean and dry (and happy).

Another quick first-time dad tip: You can use large resealable bags (or other plastic bags) to conveniently divide items in your diaper bag. In addition to diapers, useful items can include:

  • Spare change of clothes (for both your baby and you)

  • Wipes

  • Diaper rash cream

  • Hand sanitizer.

With a diaper bag in your car or stroller, your baby essentials are always conveniently in reach. Under the right circumstances, a diaper bag can be one of the dad must-haves for a new baby!

The Bottom Line

You’ll have your hands full when the new baby arrives, and both you and your partner will likely encounter a rollercoaster of emotions. To get ahead of this lifestyle shift, consider implementing some of these preparation tips ahead of time regarding your health, first-time dad skills, as well as all the financial and legal things to look after.

As you think about how to prepare for a baby, keep your shopping list in mind. Becoming a dad for the first time will involve not just new experiences but also new equipment and household items. Stocking up on all the things dads need for newborns in the weeks or months prior to the baby’s arrival will pay off later on, in terms of reducing the impact of unexpected expenses.

One expense that you’re likely already prepared for: diapers. Join the Pampers Club and we’ll help you earn back on all those future diaper changes. Plus, in the app, you’ll find helpful parenting tips to help you along your parenting milestones.