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Whether you feel ready or not, you're now a father! Step up to the plate with our top tips for surviving new parenthood
You've left the hospital on a high with your new baby and arrive home as a family for the first time.
So what happens next? It can be bewildering for sure, but just keep a few things in mind and you'll feel like an old hand before you know it.
Don't be scared
Everyone gets nervous to begin with. After all, you have a new arrival who looks – and is – totally helpless, and doesn't come with a manual. The only thing you can do is get stuck in. You're highly unlikely to do anything to harm your new baby – just relax, and the anxiety and any clumsiness will disappear soon enough.
Look after yourself
If you're not healthy, you're no good to baby or to mum. Make sure you eat well, grab whatever sleep you can, and stay off the drink. Make use of any paternity leave you can get through work, too.
Get used to no sex (temporarily)
You know you won't be having sex any time soon, right? The first few weeks are exhausting for your partner, so just concentrate on being affectionate. After a few months it won't hurt to remind her that you still fancy her. Remember this is only a temporary thing.
Look after mum
Being a supportive partner will make everyone's life much easier. With hormones zooming around her body, as well as being exhausted by the new relentless routine, mum won't find things easy. Time for you to put on your superhero costume and help out in any number of ways, from nappy changing, bath time and night-time feeds, to making meals and generally keeping the place shipshape. As a father, you need to pull your weight all of the time, but right after birth is your opportunity to really get stuck in.
Put yourself in baby's shoes
A crying baby can make you feel like howling at times, but before you get too frustrated, think about what they must be feeling. Every smell, sight and sound they experience during the first few weeks and months is totally new. Along with this, they're trying to let you know something's wrong – and the only way they can articulate it is with a cry. It's tough out there.
It's not that hard
There will be times when you wonder if you're coming or going. You're tired from minimal sleep the night before, and when you come home from work you immediately have to take over from mum. But hang on. You're not exactly navigating the Amazon river in a wooden canoe, are you? In the grand scheme of things, looking after your new baby is a manageable task. You can do this.
There are times when you'll wonder how you'll ever recover from the lack of sleep. But then there's baby's first smile, the way they grab hold of your little finger or simply fall asleep in your arms. That's when you stop, feel grateful and enjoy the moment. It's great being a dad.
By Rob Mansfield