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Let Dad Be Dad: 6 Ways to Encourage New Fathers

When your newborn finally arrives, it’s easy to feel like there are two stars of the show: mom and baby.

But what about dad? While he didn’t just push a live being out of his body, he’s probably as scared and excited as you are, and his role isn’t as clearly defined.

Read on for our top six tips on helping your partner hit fatherhood with a running start.

1. Don’t Forget to Prepare

So you’ve been devouring everything you can about pregnancy and infants these during your pregnancy. Encourage your partner to do the same.

“A lot of books, instructional information, and magazines are geared to new moms,” says Omaha, Neb., pediatrician Laura Jana, MD, FAAP, co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. “I tell my patients that anywhere they see the word ‘mom’ they should substitute ‘parent.’”

You’ve likely already signed your guy up to accompany you to CPR and childbirth courses (after all, he’s going to be the one rubbing your back during labor) but what aboutbreastfeeding classes?

“I love when dads show up for breastfeeding classes,” Jana says. “Fathers should fight off the sense of being a tagalong.”

2. Enlist His Help at the Hospital

There’s one thing that’s practically guaranteed: After giving birth you will be feeling pretty beaten up.

And the next day? If your baby rooms with you, you can bet it will be your first sleepless night.

That means you’re going to have to rely on your partner. A lot.

He’ll be the one to run out and ask the nurse for more ibuprofen. He’ll be the one helping you to the bathroom. And when you’re too bleary-eyed to hold the baby, he’ll be there.

“More and more hospitals are adopting breastfeeding-friendly practices, which include an emphasis on kangaroo care: placing the baby on mom’s bare chest to promote bonding and breastfeeding,” says David Hill, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician in Wilmington, N.C., and author of Between Us Dads: A Father's Guide to Child Health(due out June 2012). “Obviously, for nursing, we like the chest to be mom’s, but dad’s works great when mom needs a break.”

New York City dad Rob Bischoff says he spent a lot of time holding his son, Jake, now 3 months, while they were still in the hospital. “I rocked him and tried different rhythms to soothe him to sleep. It’s totally rewarding once you’re able to figure out a solution to stop him from crying.”

3. Plan for Paternity Leave, if Possible

You’re probably looking forward to at least six weeks home with the baby, but chances are your partner has only a week or two before he must head back to work.

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