A Dad’s First Year: What to Expect

The first year of parenthood is one of the most transformative periods in a human lifetime. The biggest thing to expect from yourself? Big Change. Getting yourself in a prepared mindset is the key to the best start for your parenthood journey, and DWALY is here to help with a few starter ideas. 

Because being prepared is everything in life–and in parenthood. 

A sleeping dad with his infant asleep on his chest.

Baby Bonds Take Time

Bonding takes time, and it begins during pregnancy. Hearing the voices of parents is one of the comforts of growing in the womb, and that means that we hear our mom’s voice way more because, well, we’re inseparable from our moms in her womb. 

So, how do dads get in on the bonding game? 

Understand your own responsibility for bonding with your child and offer it up with a spirit of help, love, and giving. Talking to your baby in the womb can seem weird at first, but you get used to it when you consider it a “getting to know you” kind of thing. 

Tell your baby your hopes, your dreams, what you ate for lunch–it doesn’t really matter. Just talk with love. 

After your baby is born, continue the conversation, but understand that you have to continue to be active about it. Hold your baby; talk gently to them through what you’re doing with them using your regular, adult voice. 

But, realize that it takes time on both ends. Your baby isn’t born with an automatic bond with you–and vice versa. Take the time to get to know this new human with whom you’ll share the rest of your life. It’s a beautiful process. But give it the time it deserves. 

Mom Needs 50/50 Help–From YOU

It literally takes a LOT of resources to raise a happy, healthy human. 

At the core of the process are two parents, for a reason. 

We often think about moms being the most important person in the life of a child, but dads are equally important, and sharing the responsibilities 50/50 takes bonding with your child so that they don’t depend more on one parent than the other for EVERYTHING. 

That can be exhausting, and everyone needs to be as rested as possible to pull this off. Help your parent partner as much as you can, with everything you can, with everything you’ve got. Remember, everyone giving 100% is what it takes.

Two parents engaged with their infant.

Diaper Changes Aren’t Forever

Diaper changes will feel endless, exhausting, and gross at first, but you get used to it. 

And it will feel like your child will never grow out of it. But, they will. 

The more you help them understand what potty training is for and the value of it for their lives, the more empowered you feel that the infinite string of wipes, diapers, and…let’s face it…money (!) will end in time (and that’s the truth of it, we promise). 

Crying Isn’t Forever

It’s incredibly hard to get used to the sound of your baby crying. 

Fun fact: the sound of it has the exact decibels (130 dB) of a jackhammer–and everyone runs from the sound of that. 

Another fun fact: no one is good at hearing babies cry. No one is a rock through it. And for good reason. 

When a baby cries, they need something, and until they learn to speak, this is how they say: “Hello! My stomach hurts. Can you help?” 

But, it won’t be long before they begin talking–and, on that day, you may wish for the old jackhammer because, on that day, they have hard questions that it’s your job to answer. But that’s for another article. 

In the meantime, listen to the different types of cries (there IS a difference), talk about it with your partner to compare notes, and respond as quickly as you can with what they might need. That builds trust and comfort which is the absolute best foundation for the entire rest of their life. 

A closeup image of a baby’s small hand wrapped around a father’s finger.

Poop 101

Okay, so, poop. It’s not as gross as you think it will be. Amazingly, your own child’s poop isn’t as gross as…well, other poop. There’s probably an evolutionary reason for this–evolutionary MIRACLE, actually. 

The color and smell of it change depending on what your little human ate–and that has the potential to teach you not to freak out too much over these things if that’s been your lifelong MO. 

Poop is just all the toxic or useless things your baby’s body doesn’t need. It’s just the fact of it. There’s no mystery to it. It’s not precious or gross, really. It’s just…poop. It’s just a fact. 

If you eat food, you poop. Read “Everyone Poops” and learn to cover the baby with a diaper when you change them. Everyone poops, yeah, but sometimes it’s explosive. 


Let People Help You

Being a new parent is hard for everyone. If you think you can handle EVERYTHING (and a lot of people get the wrong idea about this), you can’t. 

If people you trust are offering to help you IN ANY WAY, say “yes, please. And thank you!” Because none of us can do it alone no matter how much money or energy or love or resources we have. 

It’s never enough when you’re exhausted and hungry and covered in poop. 

When you allow people to help you, you’re helping your baby (if you have to think of it in some way to get over it) because whatever extra you have to give in energy, love, money, resources, you give to your baby–especially in the first year. 

Two parents bonding with their infant during nap time.

Be a Dad, Not a Babysitter

Contrary to the last 100+ years of parenting examples for the current generation of dads, dads are PARENTS, not babysitters. 

And there’s a big difference. 

A dad doesn’t just watch the baby/child when their partner parent can’t, a dad has OWNERSHIP in the well-being of this little human. (By that, we explicitly don’t mean you own this person because you don’t). It means that you’re invested in their happiness, peace, future, life. 

You’re their guide, their helper, their…DAD. You care about them. That means that to have the very best chance at a future for your family, you’re responsible for 50% of literally everything your child needs. 

That means play, diaper changes in the middle of the night, cuddles, feedings, cleaning up after them, and taking good care of their minds and bodies. 

It also means that you learn on your own how to do these things so that you build your own confidence, and so that your partner’s job (in addition to THEIR 50%) isn’t to teach you how to do things. Be a good listener, an open learner, a researcher. 

The internet is your friend; the DWALY community is your friend. Ask questions of people in our community. And, in time, you’ll be a dad leader yourself.

Welcome, dad!