With Father’s Day approaching, guys expecting to be dads for the first time have been asking me for some parenting tips. Let’s see if I can help dads-to-be get ready for their new role.

Guys, if you are somewhat anxious or overwhelmed about welcoming a new baby into your home, rest assured that you are not alone and it’s normal. If you feel you don’t know anything about babies, there are videos you can watch and childbirth classes available.  Some classes are even designed for dads only and will teach you everything from how to hold a baby to how to change a diaper – not to mention proper installation of a car seat and childproofing your home.

The good thing about those classes is that you meet other dads-to-be who feel just as anxious as you do. The instructors know this and encourage any and all questions, no matter how hesitant you may be to ask them.

Don’t worry about whether or not you will be a good dad. Any new role requires learning with experience. And don’t worry that being a father means an end to having time for fun. You can certainly have fun playing with your baby, but you can also find time for your partner and yourself – either when your infant is asleep or through the magic of having a friend or relative baby-sit. If you enjoy the outdoors, you can take your baby along with the help of a baby carrier.

It’s important to remember that you can do everything your partner can do when it comes to parenting, except breastfeed. (Although you do need to support mom and be a champion for breastfeeding.) Parenting a baby is a shared experience, so make sure to share responsibility for the things you can do: changing, diapering, or bottle feeding pumped breast milk in the middle of the night while mom sleeps.

Doing these things will allow you to develop your own unique style and will make sure your infant knows from the start that you’re essential to the mix.  In turn you’ll love parenting and truly understand why Father’s Day is celebrated not just for your own dad, but for the dad you are about to be.

Hopefully, tips like this will help everyone go “father,” I mean farther, when it comes to striving to be a terrific dad for your new baby. 

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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