Time off after the birth is about feeling at home with your baby and learning as much as possible. Paternity leave is a chance to recover from the birth, learn some new skills and give your baby an opportunity to get to know you. Use it well with our key tips
Do I have to take it all in one go?
Normally you are expected to take it in a block of one or two weeks. But some employers are open to you working part-time for some or all of it (better for them and maybe better for you).
Be your partner’s visitor gatekeeper
This time is for you, your partner and your baby. If there are lots of visitors, your partner may well want privacy for breastfeeding or maybe an empty house.
Keep the home shipshape
Probably the best thing you can do. Make sure everyone’s fed and watered, cleaned and scrubbed.
You will be amazed how much there is to do with a small baby that sleeps most of the time. And your partner needs you, especially if she has had a Caesarean.
Also, around day three, the often tearful baby blues hit new mothers for a couple of days as their bodies adjust after pregnancy.
Do lots of practical tasks with your baby
The next few weeks are vital to how you and your partner work together in the long run. Will you share child raising and support her or leave it all to her? Maybe you feel useless and unsure about your role, particularly when a breastfed baby focuses mainly on her mother.
But you can still wind, settle, change and bath him. Breastfed babies can settle well with Dad, as they are not distracted by the smell of Mum’s milk.
At this point, when you are both learning together, you can prove to yourself that you can do all those things your dad probably never even tried.
Meet the health visitor
She will come every few days to make sure your baby and partner are thriving. But her job includes helping you to be a good dad. So when she visits, don’t disappear into another room. Be there. Introduce yourself. Make her a cup of tea. Listen to her, learn and feel free to raise any of your own concerns.
Getting up at night
It offers great opportunities for you and your baby – and supports your partner – if you are up for the challenge, go through the sleeplessness and be with your partner and baby. It’s tough, tiring and challenging. It needs self-discipline. You have to grow up and stop thinking too much about yourself for a while.
Jack O’Sullivan is author of He’s Having A Baby, the BBC guide to fatherhood (Dorling Kindersley, £12.99) and was a co-founder of Fathers Direct, which in 2008 was renamed the Fatherhood Institute. Father of two children, he is a former associate editor of the Independent. He is currently director of Think-O’Sullivan, a consultancy that supports communications in the social policy and health sectors.