Father holding baby

Fathers & Partners – Adjusting to Your New Role of Parent

You’re a new dad, a new parent; you’re coming to terms with interrupted sleep, mounting piles of nappies and tiny bodysuits, and there’s been total upheaval in your day-to-day routine — and this is just in the first seven days with your newborn.

You will, however, learn about fatherhood on the job and through all the hard work and many frustrations, you will eventually reap the rewards. Even now, right at the beginning, there is perhaps no better feeling than holding your baby in your arms as she is lulled to sleep. But it also pays to be realistic by understanding that adjusting to your role as a new parent may take time. In the article below we guide you through some of the biggest adjustments new fathers/parents have to make.

Learn to call on support

Perhaps you were a very independent and self-sufficient person before becoming a new dad, but now you have the responsibility of a new child, it is natural for you to require support from parents, in-laws, extended family, friends and neighbours.

Whether this support is family members or a best friend bringing you a pre-cooked meal, running the hoover around your sitting room, doing some supermarket shopping or just being there to keep you company, if that is what you need, having extra support can help lift the pressure you might be feeling right now.

Recognise the signs of anxiety and depression

It is normal to feel anxious and it is normal to feel emotional peaks and troughs, particularly if you’re tired, but if you have strong feelings of dread, distress or all-consuming anxieties or are struggling to bond with your baby, it may be a sign that you’re experiencing a mental health condition. This is not uncommon, around one-third of new dads report having mental health concerns(1), while between eight and ten percent of new fathers are thought to experience postnatal depression.(2)

Acknowledge your mixed feelings

You do not always have to look and feel like the photogenic and idealised images of new fatherhood. It can be difficult accepting that you have mixed feelings and might even have a looming sense of foreboding or regret about your new role. This, however, is all normal, so you should not feel guilty or ashamed if you have mixed feelings about fatherhood.

The best you can do is to be honest with yourself about these feelings, be open with others and continue to develop your relationship with your baby by cradling her, playing with her, and ensuring plenty of tactile interaction. Also, by staying supportive of your partner, you can affirm your new bond as parents together and minimise any regrets you may have about losing your old life as an independent couple.

Be open to new experiences

The more new experiences you take on the better you are likely to feel about adjusting to your new role. Breastfeeding aside, there is no aspect of parenthood that is likely to be off limits to you. Change your baby’s nappy, sing her to sleep, dress her, bathe her and take her out on your own. The more tasks you try, the more skills you will develop and the more confident you will become. And if it doesn’t work out exactly right the first time, keep trying; if you simply pass baby back to mum, you risk limiting your abilities.

Interact with your baby

The only way to form a bond with your baby is to establish regular interaction. Not only will this benefit you and your relationship with your baby, it will also benefit your partner by giving her a break.

Even though baby cannot understand speech in the first weeks and months, she will enjoy hearing your voice and eventually will even try to imitate you.

Interacting with your newborn shouldn’t just be during nappy changes and at bedtimes, there is also time for play. Take time to recite nursery rhymes, sing songs, play peek-a-boo and, have some lovely skin-to-skin contact.

All these interactions will help to aid your baby’s social, linguistic, emotional and physical development, they will also cause both you and your baby to release a hormone called oxytocin, which fosters bonding, engenders feelings of love and, for baby, helps to stimulate brain development.

Establish a strong pattern of interaction between you and your child as early as possible and you will be doing the groundwork for the future – repeated studies have shown that having actively involved fathers benefits the social, emotional and cognitive development of children over the long-term.(3)

Tend to your relationship

Your relationship with your baby’s mother will inevitably change and you are likely to face challenges following the birth of your child. This may not be immediately apparent in the first few days of jubilation, but you will soon both be tired, facing new uncertainties, and you may find that after a few weeks, you disagree about certain aspects of childrearing. You may also find that the issue of postpartum sex causes problems, particularly if your sex drives do not match, or if your partner does not feel ready for sex after childbirth when you do.

These are challenges that are experienced by many new parents. The best thing you can do is to keep talking calmly to your partner, take time out for your relationship whenever possible and, as the new dad/partner, remain patient and loving and available to help your partner with day-to-day stuff that might be getting her down.

And if sex is not something one or both of your feel like, be inventive in finding new ways to be intimate. Simply spending time holding hands, cuddling, kissing or giving each other a massage can help you stay connected and make it easier for your sex life to return when the time is right.


It will take time to adjust to becoming a new father so it is important that you acknowledge your feelings and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You are embarking on a wonderful and rewarding journey but it will be challenging so take whatever support you need and contact your health professional if ever things feel overwhelming.

Above all, remember that looking after your new baby during the first year of life is a constant and demanding job. Lots of people need a bit of extra support at this time. There is no shame in asking for help, if and when you need it.

1. https://www.nct.org.uk/about-us/media/news/dads-distress-many-new-fathers-are-worried-about-their-mental-health
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6659987/
3. http://www.fatherhoodinstitute.org/2013/fatherhood-institute-research-summary-fathers-and-their-childrens-education/

Important – If you or your child are unwell you should seek medical advice from a professional – contact your GP or visit an A&E department in an emergency. While My BabyManual strives to provide dependable and trusted information on pregnancy and childcare 24/7 via our website pages, we cannot provide individual answers to specific healthcare questions.