Being a dad is one of the best jobs but can sometimes be a learn-as-you-go kind of job. Whether your dad was a part of your life growing up or not, there is much you can learn from the men you looked up to in your community. Read more below about how to be a great father.

One of the most important parts of being a dad is being healthy for your family. Remember to eat a healthy diet, get 30 minutes of exercise a day, manage your stress, and see a doctor at least once a year. These tips will ensure the healthiest you today!

Father lying on sofa, holding daughter (2-4) up

keys to a healthy you

  • Eat Right

    Proper nutritional habits are the key to more energy, brain & heart health, disease prevention, and weight control. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products are healthy choices. Include protein foods such as poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts and lean meats. Make sure to choose foods that are low in saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars.

  • Be Active

    Adults need at least 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week. It might sound like a lot of time but you don't have to do it all at once. Spread your activity throughout the week and even during the day. Just make sure you’re doing activity at a moderate to vigorous pace at least 10 minutes at a time.

  • Protect Yourself

    Visit with a primary care provider like a doctor, nurse practitioner or other healthcare provider that you trust. You should be able to share your medical history and work together as partners to address all areas of your health. Your medical home should be easy to get to, affordable and comfortable. During these visits, be sure you get tested for STIs and remember to use protection (like condoms) the right way every time you engage in sexual behavior.

  • Manage Your Stress

    Stress is hard on your physical health and can cause high blood pressure. Manage your stress by confronting the issue, breathing, getting plenty of rest, talking with a friend, or getting some exercise.

  • Avoid Alcohol & Other Substances

    Eliminate alcohol, tobacco, and any illegal drugs as they can all negatively affect your health and the health of your family. Expand below for a few additional tips to help you be the best father for your family.

What To Know

Why Is My Baby Crying So Much?

Babies cry a lot between two weeks to five months old, with the peak at six to eight weeks. Some babies cry as much as five hours a day. It’s completely normal. Remember that crying doesn’t mean the baby is angry with you or that you’re a bad parent. It’s their only way to communicate with you.

All of this can get very annoying and frustrating, but never shake your baby to stop the crying. Shaking can cause blindness, permanent brain damage or death. If you need to take a break by putting the baby in a safe place and stepping away for a few minutes, it’s okay.

There are several things you can do to calm a fussy child: rub the baby’s back, rock the baby, or take a walk or a drive. Swaddling and whispering “shush” repeatedly into the baby’s ear can also help. Smile while comforting your baby. Stay connected, look into your baby’s eyes and reassure your baby everything is going to be ok because daddy is here.

Sweet Dreams

During the first few months, your baby will sleep between 15 and 20 hours a day. Babies sleep safest when caregivers follow the ABCs of safe sleep:

  • Alone: Babies should sleep alone, without parents, siblings or stuffed animals.
  • Back to sleep: Babies should sleep on their backs. The Back to Sleep national campaign has reduced SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) deaths in America by 50%. It’s hard for babies to breathe when they sleep on their sides or bellies, and they can suffocate.
  • Clean and clear crib: The safest place for a baby to sleep is a crib with a tight-fitting mattress and no toys, blankets or baby bumpers. Dress your baby in a light onesie and try to keep the temperature around 70 degrees, as babies don’t regulate their temperatures well and can easily overheat.

If your baby is not sleeping in a safe place, he or she can easily slide into a position that won’t let him or her breathe. To make sure your baby is safe:

  • Never let your baby sleep unattended in a car seat, swing, bouncy seat or stroller.
  • Never put your baby to sleep on a pillow, sofa, quilt, rug or other soft surface.
  • Never put your baby to sleep on a couch or armchair.

Get Those Shots

There is a lot of misinformation out there about vaccines. Vaccines have not been shown to have any connection to autism. They do not cause learning disabilities or any other disorders. Vaccines are the best way to prevent infection from many serious illnesses that used to kill many babies every year, including polio, rotavirus and measles. Without the protection of vaccines, your baby’s immune system would be at risk for diseases that could leave him or her with lifelong disabilities or even death. Make sure your baby goes to all of his or her well child visits and gets all of the recommended vaccines.

Visit the Immunization Clinic at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District to receive all necessary vaccinations.

Keep Your Baby Safe In The Seat

Car seats are your baby’s best protection during a crash. Babies are especially vulnerable during crashes because they are so small. Adult restraints are NOT built to protect them. The impact of a crash can easily cause damage to their heads and necks. Make sure you read the manual for your car seat and know how to install it and buckle your baby in properly.

Click here to find a car seat expert to inspect your seat to see if you’re doing it right. Don’t forget to buckle up yourself. Be an example for your children as they grow and show them you’ll always be there for them by not taking unnecessary risks — like texting and driving.

It’s A Dirty Job, But Somebody’s Gotta Do It.

Nobody loves it, but changing your baby’s diaper immediately after it gets very wet or dirty helps prevent painful diaper rash (and earns you points with mom). Perhaps the most important reason to change your baby’s diaper is that it helps build a dad-baby bond.

Make sure too much time doesn’t pass between changings. Every half hour or so, check your baby’s diaper with a tap, a peek or a sniff. Doing so keeps the baby happy by ensuring he or she doesn’t sit in a wet or dirty diaper for too long.

If it is time for a new diaper, make sure it fits properly. It should never be too tight. If two fingers can fit between the diaper and the baby’s tummy, the fit is just right. A tight diaper makes a baby unhappy. A loose diaper makes a baby leaky.

The Best Menu For Your Baby

The only thing your baby should be eating for the first four to six months is breastmilk or formula. Breastmilk is best. Foods like juice, tea, sodas, fruit-flavored drinks, cow’s milk and soy milk don’t provide the nutrients a developing child needs. You should also avoid solid foods (like cereal) until the baby’s clinician says its okay — usually after the first six months.

If your partner is breastfeeding, make sure she’s drinking plenty of water and eating healthy foods. Breastfeeding is better for her health and can get her back to her pre-pregnancy figure sooner.

Check out these resources in Waco to help support your partner through breastfeeding.

Additional Resources

Check out the Live Like a Dad website to see how to make the most of your time with your baby.

Learn more about car seat safety at Safe Kids Texas.

Care Net Pregnancy Center offers free educational classes on parenting and life skills. Visit their class calendar to learn more about how to get involved.

Providence Hospital offers classes on breastfeeding, infant CPR, and newborn care. To learn more, contact childbirth@phn-waco.org or visit their page.

Why Dads Are So Important

Sometimes it can feel like it’s all about the mom and baby. But as a dad, you’re a very important part of the family, too. If you stay involved, your little boy or girl has a better chance of being healthy, strong and smart.

Early on, your attention and support can help your partner have a healthier pregnancy. Around four months in, your baby can hear and feel you from inside the womb. Gently rub your partner’s belly to build a connection with your baby. And after birth, he or she will love to watch, listen, touch and even smell you.

Research shows that sons who have involved fathers are less likely to enter the criminal justice system. Daughters of involved fathers are more likely to delay their first sexual experience, which decreases their lifelong risk of infection, and are less likely to enter into abusive relationships.

Women without involved partners have more complications during delivery, are less likely to get adequate prenatal care and are more likely to smoke. You are vital to your family’s long-term health and success.

Be The Best Dad Possible

If you didn’t have a father growing up, you may not understand your role. Being a father isn’t easy. Neither is being a good partner. But whether your role model for fatherhood is your own dad, your grandpa or a character on a TV show, the important thing to know is your own worth.

Stay involved with your partner and your baby. Ask questions and offer help. Let your baby know you are there to comfort and support him or her and let your partner know you can be counted on. Being a father is one of the hardest, but most rewarding experiences in life. Don’t miss out. Do your best and enjoy the ride.

Additional Resources

The National Center For Fathering is a great resource on how to become a better dad. Their DIY Dad Training can help you see where your strengths and weaknesses are and guide you towards tools that work for you.

As a new father, you may have a lot of questions. Check out the Parenting Two-gether guide from the Attorney General of Texas.

Get involved with Maps for Dads, a guide to taking care of your new baby. It’ll provide you with information, tips and other helpful ideas.