5 Self Care Tips for the New Dad In Your Life
Maintain a good sleep schedule
Difficulty level: high. (Though we’re going to try!) While the Sleep Health Foundation says the average newborn is expected to sleep 14-17 hours a day, any new parent knows that is not always the case. For the new dad on night shift, waking up to soothe the newborn can feel like some kind of obscure military torture. Still, it’s very important to maintain your own sleep cycles. The Foundation suggests a standard 7-9 hours sleep per night is optimal for all adults (though some may need as few as six or as many as ten—your body will let you know).
Even though you have a baby saboteur playing havoc with your sleep cycle, there’s a variety of things you can do to maximise your chances of high quality sleep. You should:
- Try and institute a ‘no technology’ period before bed, thirty minutes to an hour of no screen time to help your brain begin to cycle down. Blue screens and engaging online content like games or streamers are associated with greater alertness and harm sleep quality.
- Have a hot shower as you warm down to sleep. The temperature change as you get out helps promote the release of sleep hormones in the brain.
- Set the air conditioner — if you’re lucky enough to have one — to slightly cooler in the bedroom. Same principle as the above, the cool helps you sleep.
- If you are struggling to sleep, don’t just lay there. Get up, walk to another room, and do something restful like reading (but no phones!) This can help ‘restart’ the sleep process, giving you another chance to shut off.
- Try and exercise as often as you can (details below!)
While there’s nothing that can stop the midnight interruptions, by focusing on improving the quality of the sleep you do get, you’ll find yourself waking up rested and ready to take on the day!
And don’t forget, when it comes to sleep ear plugs and sleep masks are a Dads best friend, regardless of whether you’re aware of distracting noise and/or light. You can shop our collection here.
Meal prep (but also snack prep!)
One of the hardest things about adjusting as a new dad is finding time to eat, and eat well. Often, you can be forgiven for taking the path of least resistance — the cheap, yummy takeaway or the packet of muesli bars — but in the long run it’s far more economical and healthy if you find the opportunity to cook for yourself. The secret to cooking when you’re also managing a newborn is to minimise your involvement. The slow cooker. The one pot wonder. Jamie’s 5 minute meals. These are the most important tools in your fight against the dreaded Dad Bod!
(But hey, we love Dad bods here — and they’re very in).
For eating well, a few simple guidelines apply.
- Where possible, stick to a consistent eating schedule. Like sleep to a cycle, your body thrives on routine. You want to ensure your body is processing food in a consistent way, and this means breakfast, lunch and dinner at similar times.
- Simplify where possible: nothing wrong with weetbix and a sandwich for breakfast/lunch, as long as you’re hitting your targets. The average adult man should be consuming about 8700 kilojoules per day, according to Health Direct. It’s easy to track this off the labels from what you’re eating.
- If you’re finding it hard to schedule consistent meals, look for healthy, portable options. Some mixed nuts or trail mix, fruits like bananas or apples. All of these are great options for the dad on the go.
If you’re looking for meal inspo, we love Taste’s Top 50 One Pot Meals, here. Or you can try Delish’s 80 Best Slow Cooker Meals, here. And of course, we cannot recommend the trusty rice cooker or crock pot enough. It’s like an extra pair of hands (and face it, we all need one!)
They find an opportunity to exercise (using the bub as a companion/coach if necessary!)
One of the biggest adjustments for new parents is the loss of free time. All of a sudden, that lazy thirty minute block you’ve set aside for a run or a walk has been consumed — there’s a baby who needs tending to! Importantly, however, you want to find opportunities to exercise and keep fit particularly as you adjust to fatherhood. Not only is keeping fit associated with risk reduction for diabetes, blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease, it’s an important building block for managing sleep and mental health. A bit of exercise each day will leave you feeling chirpier and more prepared for the various challenges your baby can throw at you.
According to the Department of Health, adults should be aiming for some kind of physical activity as many days a week as they can manage. You want to aim for between two and five hours of moderate activity a week, or one to two and a half of vigorous activity. Moderate might include walking to work, stretching, yoga, exercising with the dog, or carrying your new bub around the block (and for more information on baby carriers for new dads, see here). Vigorous activity includes any activity that gets your heart rate up, running, swimming, social sport or weights are all great examples. You shouldn’t beat yourself up, however, if you can’t get to the gym. Pushing the pram, carrying the baby around shopping, all of these are passive opportunities to stay active. You just want to limit sedentary and screen time and find opportunities to keep moving (as busy as you already are!)
They schedule quality time away from the baby (seriously)
The first few months of parenthood are an absolute miracle, but they also involve a sometimes grueling amount of attention and work. It’s easy to get tired or frustrated as a young dad, particularly when juggling family, work, health and friends (remember those?) If you’re lucky enough to live near family or afford a babysitter now and then, it’s important to schedule some important time away with your partner where you do anything but baby talk. It doesn’t have to be expensive. A cheap takeaway. A drive somewhere. A movie or even just coffee with friends (but make sure they know of the no baby rule!) These little ‘breaks’ give you a chance to recalibrate and restore your energy. Just like exercising, sleeping and eating well, finding opportunities to have fun and socialise are a great way of ensuring a healthy mindset.
Main tip here is: schedule it consistently. In the early days of the newborn, it might be hard to get away, but as they get older you should be aiming for at least one night a fortnight (and ideally one a week) of solid relationship time. This is also a chance to pick up those hobbies that might have fallen to the wayside. Boardgames, bowling, social sport — these are all great ways to ensure you’re connecting to your friends while also adapting to the new dad lifestyle.
Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel
So many new dads trap themselves in an endless cycle of worry: am I doing the right thing? What’s a dad to do? It’s important to remind yourself that your presence is a present in itself. Just participating and being there for your newborn is more than enough. If you want more dad wisdom, you also shouldn’t feel like you need to come up with it all on the spot or through experience. There are a variety of great parenting resources available online that can support you through those early months of parenting.
Relationships NSW has a substantial guide available here. You’ll see that they agree with a lot of what we’ve outlined here, with special emphasis on the importance of scheduling and calling for help when you need it. For a deeper dive, jump into the world of parenting books written by and for Dads here!