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Handy Toolkit for Expecting Dads



Becoming a first time dad is an exciting and daunting experience. There’s so much to learn and prepare for. It can be hard to know things a father should do before baby arrives.

Luckily, we’ve put together this handy toolkit to help you in preparing to be a dad. 

We’ll discuss what you can expect, as well as some tips on mentally preparing for fatherhood. How to manage your mental health and that of your pregnant partner.

If you are a first time dad, awaiting your new baby we’ve got the practical tips you need to prepare for the birth itself.

So whether you’re just starting out on this adventure or are already in your third trimester, read on for some essential advice.

(If the baby has already arrived, we’ve ideas for you too – here).


Supporting your partner during the pregnancy

New dads often ask “How do I deal with a difficult pregnant partner?” or “Why is my pregnant partner so mean to me?” or even “why does my pregnant partner seem to hate me?

It’s common for pregnant women to experience mood swings. Hormones are responsible for most of the changes a woman experiences during pregnancy. These hormones can cause significant mood swings.

Many couples find that their relationship changes during pregnancy. For some couples, the change is positive and they feel closer to each other than ever before. But for others, the change can be negative, with both partners feeling irritable and resentful towards each other.

It can often seem like you are walking on eggshells – or through a minefield – and you can never seem to know what will trigger it next.

If your partner is hostile or unkind to you during pregnancy, it’s important to understand that it’s not personal. She’s not mad at you, she is undergoing enormous physical and emotional changes. Try not to take her moods too personally and be supportive and understanding.

Why is my pregnant partner so mean to me?

We’ve talked about the hormones which affect a woman’s mood swings during pregnancy so let’s take a closer look.

During pregnancy a woman produces a cocktail of amazing hormones designed to grow a human. Unfortunately these hormones can also have a dramatic effect on the mood swings of even the most even-tempered person. It is vital for the dad to not take her outbursts personally but to recognise that she is also bewildered by her moods.

There are a number of hormones that affect a woman during pregnancy, but the most important ones are:

The Hormones

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)

hCG is produced by the placenta and is responsible for maintaining the pregnancy. It is responsible for the production of the hormone Prolactin. Prolactin is important for breast milk production, but it can also cause mood swings in pregnant women.


Progesterone plays an important role in maintaining the pregnancy; i it helps to prevent miscarriage by maintaining the lining of the uterus during pregnancy and ensures that the placenta grows properly. High levels of progesterone can cause bloating, upset stomach, fatigue and irritability. In fact fatigue can often be a cause of friction between a new dad and mom.

Pregnancy can be incredibly exhausting, especially during the first and third trimesters. Most women feel an overwhelming sense of fatigue during these times, and it’s completely normal.

Try to give your partner as much rest as possible. Encourage her to take naps and get plenty of sleep at night. Try to encourage her to eat plenty of healthy foods—nutrients are essential for keeping energy levels up. Make her life a little easier by doing things like taking care of the grocery shopping or cooking dinner. And if she’s feeling up to it, encourage her to get some exercise, even if it’s just a gentle walk around the neighborhood.

Most importantly, be understanding and supportive. Remember that your partner is going through a lot right now and she needs your help more than ever.


Relaxin is released by the body from about the 7th week of pregnancy to help loosen the pelvic joints and to relax muscles and ligaments in preparation for labour. It often causes constipation which in itself can really affect how anyone feels.


Oestrogen is also a hormone that is produced by the ovaries. During early pregnancy these levels increase and help to prepare the breasts for milk production as well as helps develops many of the baby’s organs. Oestrogen is another hormone that can affect mood during pregnancy since it can cause mood swings, anxiety and depression.

Another side effect of oestrogen is that it often causes pregnant women to have a very much stronger sense of smell. Research suggests this increases her tendancy to feel sick at the slightest thing, and in fact women born without a sense of smell rarely experience morning sickness.

How to reduce your partner’s stress levels and babyproof your relationship.

In addition to these hormones there are other changes happening to her body which are going to make it difficult for her to sleep or rest, which is enough to make anyone cranky.

During pregnancy, your partner is going to need all the emotional and practical support she can get.

Do practical things like cooking meals or doing laundry, and don’t hesitate to give emotional support when needed.

Most importantly, try not to take things too personally if your partner is feeling a bit moody or irritable – it’s all part of the process! By supporting your partner throughout pregnancy, you’ll be setting yourselves up for a successful post-birth experience as well.

There may be times she feels ugly and unloveable. Tell her you love her but also show her your love by your actions.

Help your partner sleep

One of the most important things you can do for your pregnant partner is to help her get a good night’s sleep.

As the baby grow during the pregnancy she may find it hard to get comfortable. Support her by giving her a back rub or massaging her feet before bed.

If she wakes up in the middle of the night , try to be patient and understanding. As the pregnancy progresses she is likely to need to get up to pee several times a night.

Read some books on pregnancy and listen to her

She is probably going to have a lot of questions and concerns, so if you do some research ahead of time you will be best placed to provide answers and reassurance.

Many people will advise you to listen to what your partner asks for. This is great advice! Keep asking her questions so that she knows you are at least trying to understand and support her.

Understand the concept of the love bank

What is the emotional love bank?

The idea of an emotional love bank illustrates how each partner can deposit into and withdraw love from their relationship.

We all need certain things from our partners, such as acts of love, or verbal appreciation.

Just like with a bank account those things don’t have to be large – such as buying jewellery – they can be lots of small acts of love such as a foot rub, or making sure she has lots of dry crackers in stock if she is suffering morning sickness.

Invest in her “love bank account” without being asked

Just like with a savings account, it’s better to invest a little bit every day rather than wait until a really bad row and wonder what caused the problem.

No matter how illogical and unfair it may seem, it is common for even small mistakes on the dad’s part to lead the pregnant mom to be angry or even to think he doesn’t love her any more.

It may seem incomprehensible that you buying the wrong type of milk means that she now thinks this is “proof” you don’t care and that the relationship is over. However, new fathers to be are often bewildered by their previously reasonable partner “going nuclear” over something they think is minor. The best way to reduce this is to make lots of little deposits of acts of love into her “love bank account”.

Remember she is also confused by her mood swings and if she suddenly blows up because you forgot to take out the trash one night it will help her calm herself down (don’t even think about telling her to calm down, it won’t help) if she can weigh that against lots of little things you did do without being asked.Doing things proactively without being asked is key. Try to think of little things you can do to help – it’s surprising how much it will help her if you do mess up on something.

Understand and expect mood swings

Pregnancy is a nine-month roller coaster ride for expectant mothers, and their partners often find themselves struggling to keep up. One minute your partner is beaming with excitement, and the next she’s in tears because the dishes aren’t done.

Every father to be should watch the movie “Junior”, where an artificially impregnated Arnie Schwartznegger goes through all the mood swings of a pregnant mother to be.

There’s no doubt about it – your pregnant partner is going to experience mood swings. It’s simply a by-product of the hormonal changes her body is going through. It can be tough to know how to deal with your pregnant partner’s mood swings, but don’t worry – you are not alone.

Keep an open door policy for venting

Pregnancy rage is definitely a thing, and our advice is often sought by bewildered men who think their partner now hates them.

There are ways to deal with it that can help make the process easier for both of you. First, bear in mind that she is undergoing not only obvious physical changes but also massive hormonal changes affecting her moods.

Don’t take her anger personally. It is a way for her to release the stress and emotions she is feeling. Try to be supportive and understanding. Let her know that you are there for her, and be willing to listen to her when she needs to vent.

Help her through morning sickness

As a soon-to-be father, you want to do everything you can to help your partner through her pregnancy. Morning sickness can be one of the most challenging aspects of pregnancy for many women.

There are some very practical things you can do to help you support your partner and make her feel comfortable during this time.

If she is vomiting, she does need to eat even though she is unlikely to feel hungry. It is easier for her to eat bland food such as dry crackers and anything else that she feels like eating. Women’s sense of smell often dramatically changes and she may find certain smells make her nausea worse. It may mean you need to not cook foods which trigger it – yes, including eggs and bacon, if it makes her feel sick.

She may want to be left alone while she is actually vomiting or she may want you to be there to rub her back or hold her hair back – take her lead on what she needs.

If possible encourage her to take short walks with you since a little bit of exercise can help ease the symptoms. As you can imagine, being nauseous makes us all unsociable so she may need you to ward off well meaning friends and family who want to drop in for chats when she may not be up to it.

Vomiting dehydrates the body so encourage her to drink water – add a little bit of freshly squeezed lemon or lime if that helps her to drink.

If she is being sick a lot and you are worried about her, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or healthcare worker.

Let her know that you are there for her and do what you can to make her feel comfortable and rested. Keep the home clean and tidy and proactively ask if you have missed anything.

Accompany her to antenatal classes and doctor’s appointments

Most soon-to-be fathers feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety as they approach the date of the birth. One of the best ways to prepare for fatherhood is by accompanying your partner to antenatal classes. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • It will demonstrate your commitment to being the best dad you can be, and will deepen your bond as new parents.
  • You will learn about what to expect during pregnancy, labour and birth, which will help to ease your anxiety.
  • It is a good opportunity for you to ask any questions that you may have about fatherhood. Try not to be too anxious if you are feeling bombarded with information – just focus on the key points of preparing for labour and birth that you need to know at this point in your pregnancy.
  • It will give you the chance to learn practical aspects of being a dad:
  • How to hold a newborn – did you know that a newborn’s neck cannot support the head and you must always cradle their skull?
  • Feeding options and how to prepare a bottle and burp a baby
  • Changing nappies – and how many to expect
  • How to clean and bathe your baby
  • What to spend money on and what you don’t need to worry about yet (clue: your dream railway set is a while off, yet but you are likely to need a car seat for the newborn)
  • How to keep your baby safe – baby alarms, etc and where they should sleep

Being around other couples who are in the same boat as you can be a great support.

Most importantly, antenatal classes provide you with the opportunity to start preparing emotionally for fatherhood.

If possible, try to attend all of your partner’s appointments – even if it is just a check-up with the doctor – so that you can get an idea of what to expect.

Consider taking paternity leave

Most countries in the western world offer paternity leave; in Sweden over 90% of men take at least 90 days paternity leave.

In the US fathers are not guaranteed any paid leave from work following the birth or adoption of a child, although lawmakers were considering this as part of the “Build Back Better” legislation package. At the moment they have access to unpaid leave of up to ten weeks with job protection, which makes it impossible for families who need that income.

In the UK, subject to meeting certain eligibility criteria, fathers get two weeks paternity leave and have the right to a minimum pay or 90% of their salary.Mothers and fathers also have the right to share “Parental Leave” during the first year where the mother can transfer all but two weeks of her maternity leave to the father.

However in the US and the UK many fathers don’t take paternity leave, fearing the loss of money and career prospects. However there is an increasing body of evidence of long term benefits not just for the family but for society as a whole if the father is able to take the first few weeks and months off work to raise his child and support the mother.

Paternity leave can offer a number of advantages for both you and your family. These include:

  • providing an opportunity for fathers to physically and emotionally bond with their child
  • enabling both parents to help each other adjust to the inevitable sleepless nights without having to get up early for a hard day’s work outside the home
  • helping fathers understand their role in raising a child and encourage them to be more involved in their upbringing
  • supporting the mother and strengthen the relationship between the two new parents

Sex During Pregnancy

Many couples find that their sex life changes during pregnancy. A recent UK survey showed that some couples abstain from sex altogether during pregnancy and many stopped after the first five months, often due to misunderstandings about sex during pregnancy.

Here are some common problems:

-The woman may feel bloated or uncomfortable during sex, and the couple may have trouble finding positions that are comfortable.

This is not uncommon, so most partners find that as the pregnancy progresses the best positions are those that allow for her growing belly, such as spooning.

-The woman may not be interested in sex.

Since pregnancy hormones can make a woman feel nauseous and/or deeply fatigued, it is hardly surprising she may not “be in the mood” a lot.

The best way to work it out is between you and your partner, and to remember the situation won’t last for ever.

-The couple may be worried about hurting the baby

Some couples are worried that the penis or sperm can harm the baby during pregnancy. It won’t. However it’s always a good idea to be gentle especially when your other half is pregnant.

Can I bond with my baby before it is born?

Many fathers don’t know that babies can really start bonding with you very early on in the pregnancy. From just 24 weeks they can hear sounds from outside the mother’s body. They actually start to learn and recognise things like voices, and even music.

This means that dads can bond with the baby during pregnancy by talking or even singing to the baby still in to their partner’s belly. Hearing their father’s voice will help the baby feel connected to him before they’re even born.

This means that once born, that baby will recognise and respond to your voice, which makes it more likely you can help take care of them and calm them when they are in your arms. It will also build your relationship with your partner, and increase your bond as a family unit.

Another aspect of preparing to bond with your baby is to take practical steps to prepare for his or her arrival.

Practical preparations during pregnancy

Dads have been preparing for babies for tens of thousands of years. We may not have the immediate parental role that your partner has in pregnancy but there are other practical steps even beyond preparing the baby’s room. You’ll need to prepare ahead of time with

  • a birthing plan
  • a “birth bag”
  • a cot
  • a pram
  • a baby bath
  • a car seat
  • nappies!
  • nappy cream
  • wipes – loads of wipes
  • travel change mat
  • anything to make life easier for your partner – nipple cream, pregnancy pillow
  • read more about how dads affect their newborn babies

Creating a Birthing Plan together

A birthing plan is a document that outlines the parents’ preferences for her birth experience. This can include things like where the baby should be born, what pain relief options your partner would like to use, and what position she would like to give birth in. These and other similar questions should be researched and discussed with your doctor and midwife.

It’s important to create a birthing plan early in your pregnancy, so you can discuss your wishes to your doctor or midwife and make any necessary changes based on their recommendations. Remember, it’s important to be flexible during labour – you may not be able to follow your plan exactly as written.

This is also where you and your partner decide who should be with her at the birth; if you faint at the first sight of blood you may not be the best person to support her.

Some mothers also choose to include information about their medical history and any special needs they may have. Ultimately, the birthing plan is a way for the mother to communicate her preferences to her care providers so that everyone is on the same page come labour time.

The Hospital Bag

A hospital bag is a bag that you pack with everything you might need during labor and delivery. It’s always a good idea to have a birth bag packed and ready. If possible, try to pack everything in a single bag so that it’s easy to grab and go.

This can include items for you and your partner

  • headphones to listen to music or relaxation podcasts
  • books or magazines
  • snacks and drinks for you and your partner including lots of water plus flasks of hot drinks
  • overnight bags for you both, including toiletries and change of clothes for you both
  • nightwear for your partner including warm dressing gown and slippers
  • for after the birth; nursing bra and breast pads, nipple cream, clothes and blankets for your baby (keep the carry cot in your car)
  • money for the hospital car park if they charge!!!

If your baby is already here, then this next section is for you!

Content List

Priorities, priorities, priorities

Men have evolved over thousands of years to support and provide for their family in very practical ways, supported by a local infrastructure of relatives. In the past men were expected to carry on at work while female relatives rallied round to provide practical and emotional support for the new mom for the first weeks and often months after the birth.

Nowadays, that usually doesn’t happen, and a new dad is often needed to step into the role of sole practical and emotional supporter of his partner, just at a time when he himself needs help and advice. Your mission is now to be a support to your partner and baby; everything else comes second for now.

It is not something men are taught how to do and it’s a bit amazing that they are able to succeed at all.

In addition it is a time of interrupted nights and poor sleep for both new parents. Poor sleep and exhaustion can cause no end of friction at the best of times, so here are some tips for new dads to navigate those first few months.

It is important to Take Parental Leave if you can

The first few months after the birth of a baby are crucial for both parents in order to form a strong attachment with their child. It is also important to use this time to get to know your baby and learn how to do things like change nappies so that you can share the load with your partner.

It is therefore important for dads to take some time off work if they can, even if it is just a couple of weeks.

If you cannot take any formal leave, try to be flexible with your working hours so that you can still be present for key moments such as feedings and bedtime.

1. Get involved in nappy changing, bathing and feeding from the start. It will make things easier for your partner and give you some valuable bonding time with your baby. Do it without being asked. Take those nappy/bathing/feeding/bedtime/night feed routines seriously. If you’re not sure – then ask!

2. Be patient. Babies don’t come with a manual but there are plenty of resources available to help you figure out what to do. Trial and error is part of the process so don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

3. Accept help from friends and family. You don’t have to go it alone – ask for help when you need it and accept offers of practical support.

4. Take turns with your partner in getting up during the night so that both of you can get some rest.

But even if you cannot take parental leave you will still need to do some sharing of the parenting responsibilities.

Self care and self regulation

New parenthood is a wonderful but also demanding time for both of you, but especially for the new mother. New fathers need to make sure they are taking care of themselves both physically and emotionally in order to be able to take care of their partner and new baby.

This means eating well, getting enough sleep (although that is easier said than done), and making time for exercise and relaxation.

It is also important to stay connected with friends and family, as social support can be crucial during this time.

Finally, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you are struggling to cope with the demands of fatherhood.

Supporting Yourself and your partner

Exhaustion as a new parent

Sleep deprivation is going to be an issue for both of you once the baby is born, but dont forget your partner’s energy levels will have also been hit hard by problems sleeping while pregnant, in addition to the exhaustion that usually follows giving birth.

She is going to need you to be on her side against exhaustion. Help her to sneak as much extra sleep as you can, not just at night but also during the day when the baby is taking a nap. Close the curtains, cover her with a blanket if she’s too tired to go upstairs and tiptoe around while she catches some extra shut eye – do the same yourself if you can.

Help her to sleep: Take some of the night shifts

It’s tricky once you are back at work but if you can take some parental leave after the birth then aim to take some of the night shifts with you baby, including changing, burping and feeding. You could also arrange to take “shifts” such as one of you could take charge of the baby from 10pm to 2am then the other from 2am to 6am. 

Healthy eating 

This means eating healthy food and making time to do some exercise , even if it’s just a walk around the block.

Sometimes you or your partner can feel too tired to eat especially since healthy meals often involve more preparation time than simply throwing a precooked meal into a microwave. You may find it easier to eat little and often, around feeding and sleep times. Easy “snack meals” which just take a few minutes to prepare could include:

  • healthy tinned soup
  • fresh fruit and yoghurt
  • porridge (surprisingly filling in the evening!)
  • wholewheat crackers or crispbreads with cottage cheese or peanut butter
  • tinned fish such as tuna or sardines on pitta bread
  • eggs – omelette or scrambled egg on toast

Light Exercise

Light exercise will be especially important for your partner, so encourage (but don’t nag) her to do something like yoga or pilates for new mums – there are loads of videos on Youtube which show exercises suitable for women who have recently given birth. It will also help her to sleep.


It’s likely that your partner will be the one who does most of the feeding in the early weeks and months, but you can still do plenty of things to help her out.

You can make up bottles of expressed milk (or formula), get food ready for when she comes back from a feed, or just keep her company and chat while she’s breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.

Nappy changing

There’s no getting away from it – during the early weeks and months of fatherhood you’re going to be doing a lot of nappy changing. You can prepare for it by having all the necessary supplies to hand: nappies, wipes, talcum powder, cream. More importantly, you are going to have to get over how bad that nappy is going to smell.

It can be helpful to have a changing station set up near where you usually feed and bathe the baby. That way everything is within easy reach.


Babies usually love being in water and find it soothing, so give your partner plenty of opportunities to bath the baby. You can help by getting everything ready before she starts – filling the bath with water at the right temperature, making sure there are enough clean towels and clothes close by , and having any baby products she might need to hand.

Help her to sleep

Taking some of the night shifts

It’s tricky once you are back at work but if you can take some parental leave after the birth then aim to take some of the night shifts with you baby, including changing, burping and feeding. You could also arrange to take “shifts” such as one of you could take charge of the baby from 10pm to 2am then the other from 2am to 6am. 

Ask for help

Ask your friends and family for help when you need it. They will be more than happy to do things like make a meal, take the baby for a walk or do a grocery run so that you can have a break.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or struggling to cope, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. It’s also important for fathers not to feel guilty about accepting help – after all, this is a time when both parents need all the support they can get.

Establishing a Routine with a newborn

One of the most important things for a father to do in the early weeks and months after the birth of their child is to establish a routine. This doesn’t mean that everything has to be rigid and inflexible, but it will help both you and your partner to know what to expect from each day.

The best way to create a routine is to think about what time the baby usually wakes up, feeds and goes to bed. You can then work out when you need to do certain things – like bathing or changing nappies – so that they fit in with the baby’s natural rhythm. The benefits of establishing a routine early include:

– both parents know what to expect each day and can plan accordingly

– helps baby to feel secure and know what is happening next

– can be adapted as the baby grows and develops

– allows for some flexibility so that there is still some spontaneity in life!

It might take a little while for both you and your partner to get into a groove, but once you have, it will make life a lot easier. And don’t forget – the routine can be changed and adapted as the baby grows and develops.

How to babyproof your relationship with your partner

Becoming a father can be a daunting experience, especially if it is your first child. You may find that you suddenly have less time for yourself and your partner, and that your relationship changes as you both adapt to your new roles.

Here are a few tips on how to babyproof your relationship:

– Make time for each other. Even if it’s just 10-15 minutes a day, make sure you take some time out to relax and talk to each other.

– Talk about your feelings. It can be hard to express how you’re feeling, but talking openly with your partner is important.

– Don’t bottle things up. If you’re struggling with fatherhood, talk to someone about it – your partner, a friend or a professional.

– Don’t take things for granted. Just because you’re a father now doesn’t mean that your partner’s role is any less important. Show her that you appreciate all the work she does.

– Be understanding. Your partner is probably just as overwhelmed as you are, so be patient with her and try to help out wherever you can.

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