Congratulations! Becoming a dad is one of the most exciting and rewarding things you may ever do.

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 for your family!

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. Your role is vital. So is your health. Take care of yourself- your family is worth it. Below are a few additional tips to help you be the best father for your family.

Healthy Body

It is important to take care of your health so you can lead a long, happy life with your family. It is also important to encourage your partner to do the same- taking care of your health during pregnancy can lead to less complications during pregnancy. 

Get At Least 30 Minutes Of Exercise Daily.

Exercise is a great way to manage stress and keep your body healthy. Daily exercise gives you:

  • Stronger heart, muscles and bones
  • Less stress
  • Better sleep
  • More energy
  • Healthier weight
  • Fewer illnesses

Find an activity you enjoy and make it a part of your day. Visit the gym, go running at a local park, or join a recreational sports team. If you don’t have a lot of time, take a walk around your neighborhood or do some simple exercises at your home.

Exercise can also do wonders during pregnancy.  Encourage your partner to get 30 minutes of exercise a day to feel stronger, have more energy, sleep better and have fewer aches and pains.

Check out the parks, pools, community centers, and recreation areas to be physically active around Waco.

Eat Right

Fast food fixes don’t satisfy you. The high salt and carbohydrate content often make you feel stuffed for a while, but you’ll be hungry soon after. High-fat diets also have been shown to affect mood. Choose a diet with lean protein, vegetables and fruits. Look for healthier options that will fill you up and give you energy. Think about the following when you’re making meal choices for your family:

  • Grains: These are foods made with wheat, oats, rice, etc. Try to make at least half of your servings “whole grain.” Grain foods are a major source of iron and fiber.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Eat plenty of them — especially dark-green, red and orange fruits and veggies. Eating plenty of fiber like peas and beans will help you feel full. Plus, it’s good for your heart.
  • Milk, yogurt and cheese: These can be part of a healthy diet, but switch to fat-free, low-fat or reduced-fat versions.
  • Meat: Limit your red meats, but maintain your protein intake. Look for lean, low-sodium choices when possible; baked chicken, lean beef and turkey are great ways to get the nutrients you need.
  • Seafood: Increase your seafood consumption and try eating fish, shrimp and other shellfish at least twice a week.
  • Soda and Alcohol: Try to limit your soda and alcohol consumption as both have high amounts of sugar, empty calories and dehydrate the body.
  • Water: It flushes the bad stuff out your system, increases energy and boosts your immune system.

During pregnancy, help your partner avoid certain foods to make sure your baby stays healthy. Staying away from the foods below will prevent your baby from getting salmonella, listeria and other bacterial infections. Contracting these infections can cause miscarriages, stillbirth and other complications.

  • Coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks and other drinks with caffeine
  • Unpasteurized milk and juice
  • Raw or undercooked seafood
  • Smoked seafood, meats and meat spreads
  • Soft cheeses like feta, Brie, blue-veined varieties (such as blue cheese) and Mexican-style cheese (unless the label says they are pasteurized)
  • Raw sprouts of any kind
  • Swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark
  • Deli meats and hot dogs, unless heated until steaming hot

Visit the Waco Downtown Farmers Market (400 South University Parks Drive) year-round every Saturday from 9-1pm. SNAP can be used to purchase fresh produce and groceries at the market.

Also visit the Veggie Van, a mobile produce unit that travels all around Waco with affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. They even offer discounts to SNAP users and senior citizens.

For some healthy and easy recipes, check out our Pinterest page.

Know The Effects Of Smoking

Using tobacco, drugs and alcohol can cause serious health problems for you and your unborn child. Some things you should know:

Secondhand smoke can cause early death and disease among children and adults who do not smoke. A pregnant woman who is exposed to secondhand smoke has 20% higher chance of giving birth to a baby with low birth weight than women who are not exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy.

When a baby is on the way, quitting smoking should be your partner’s #1 goal. Stop smoking together to encourage each other, provide accountability, and protect your baby’s health. It’s much easier for moms-to-be to quit these dangerous substances if you do, too.

If you are having a hard time with quitting drinking, smoking, or using drugs―get help by checking out our resource map.

Find A Medical Home.

Don’t wait to get until something is wrong. It’s important for you, like all men, to get a yearly checkup and discuss with your doctor any health problems you might be having. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, cancer or diabetes, make sure to let your doctor know and be aware of warning signs. Take advantage of this time to learn about how to handle any chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension you may have.

Additionally, visit your dentist at least once (and ideally twice) every year for healthy teeth and gums.

Make sure to encourage your partner to get into prenatal care right away. Your baby grows a lot in the early weeks of pregnancy and getting prenatal care helps make sure your baby stays healthy along the way.

Check out our resource map to find a medical home near you.

Make The Choice To Get Checked.

It’s always important to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) regularly. It’s a step in the right direction towards good health. STIs can cause problems down the road.

You may think you’re ok, but men can stay infected for a long time. They also are much less likely to show signs of infection than women. You won’t know you’re passing something on to your partner if you don’t think you’re infected. If you are unsure about whether or not you might have an STI, be sure to use protection (like condoms) the right way every time you engage in sexual behavior  with your partner as untreated STIs in women can be very dangerous for a pregnancy & your unborn child.

Visit the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District (225 W Waco Drive) to get tested today.

Healthy Environment

Now more than ever, your surroundings play a role in your health and the health of your baby. Use the below tips to ensure a healthy environment for you and your family: 

Build Your Support System

It is important to have people to support you and your partner through your new roles as mom and dad. You will be getting a lot of information, and your support person can help make things less confusing. Know who to turn to answer questions or lend an ear. Most important in this system is your partner- make sure you are a strong support for her.

Childcare Needs

Selecting childcare is one of the most important choices you and your partner will make about your baby. Visit our resource map to see where childcare is located around you. 

Violence Between Partners

Healthy relationships are built on respect, open communication and the freedom to be comfortable, happy and honest. If you’re having trouble managing your temper or have been in an abusive relationship in the past, you can get help to keep the cycle from repeating itself.

If you start to feel angry, try taking some deep breaths. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Concentrate on positive thoughts while you breathe and continue this until the anger subsides.

Additional Resources

Get a more extensive list on Household Chemicals to Avoid from The March of Dimes.

For other resources around Waco that can help you maintain a healthy environment, check out our resource map.

Healthy Mind

Taking care of your mind is an important step in taking care of your body. Use the below tips to work towards a healthy mind for you and your family:

Address Your Stress.

Your emotional and mental health can impact your physical health. Stress at home or work can cause unhealthy weight gain or weight loss. It can significantly increase your risk of heart disease and other medical problems, too. To reduce stress, remember this advice:

  • Deal with the stress directly and move on.
  • Take deep, slow breaths when you feel stress coming on.
  • Try to get about eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Try to laugh by watching a funny web video or TV show.
  • Sweat it out with a solid workout or run.
  • Talk to someone you trust.

Recognize When It’s Something More.

Getting ready to welcome a new baby into the world can be stressful. Feeling the strain is normal. Sharing the good times with your partner along the way can make it easier to deal with the hard times.

Here are some other tips for handling stress:

  • Tackle stress head-on, addressing the problem and moving on.
  • Take deep, slow breaths when you feel stress coming on.
  • Try to get about eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Make sure you talk it out with someone like a friend or family member. Sometimes they are the best at helping put things into perspective.
  • Sweat it out with a solid workout or run.
  • Stay positive with your partner. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a break. Find a place you can chill out and gather your thoughts.

If things get bad, sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you need a little help. You can talk to your family, friends, priest or pastor. Your healthcare provider can suggest a good counselor, too. All you have to do is ask.

You can also call the National Lifeline for Support 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for help.

Utilize our resource map to find local resources in Waco that can help support your mental health. 

Additional Resources

For other resources around Waco that can help you maintain a healthy mind, check out our resource map.

Welcome to Fatherhood

Pregnancy and childbirth can seem complicated and confusing. The good news is that you don’t have to know all the details. Healthcare providers can help you with that. When you go to the visits, ask questions and learn, just like your partner is doing. Here are some basics for now:

What’s Going On In There?

Pregnancy includes three periods or “trimesters” that total 40 weeks. That’s a bit longer than the 9 months you’ve probably heard about. Your baby has the best chance of being healthy if your partner can make it to the 39-week mark, but making it to week 40 is even better. That’s the most important thing to remember.

Even though your baby can survive if delivered as early as 34 weeks, the risk of problems and the likelihood of a long hospital stay, including greater cost, are almost certain. Important development of the brain, digestive system and other organs happen during weeks 36 to 40.

It’s a rough world out there. Give your baby the time he or she needs to develop fully so he or she will be ready for the challenges of life on the outside.

If your partner has delivered a premature baby before, there are medications that can help stop some women from going into early labor again. It’s important for your partner to make sure the doctor knows her entire medical history. She should share this information with her provider at her first prenatal visit.

Your support for your partner can have a positive impact on the pregnancy and health of your baby.

Know Your Stuff

There are many organizations around Waco that offer classes for you and your partner as you transition into parenthood.

Centering is group prenatal classes in which 8-12 women at similar points in their pregnancies meet for 2-hour sessions over 10 visits. At these visits, you will learn how to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery while meeting other expectant mothers. Centering pregnancy is currently available at more than 50 sites in the United States. In Waco, Family Health Center host Centering classes.

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

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

Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest also offers a variety of classes on topics including childbirth and breastfeeding. To learn more, check out their website.

Here Comes The Baby.

This is the moment you’ve both been waiting for. Being with your partner during labor and delivery (L&D) can help you feel connected and more in control. Your presence can also reduce the mom’s stress, which helps the labor go more smoothly for her and the baby.

Be ready for childbirth by knowing what to expect. Plan for the type of pain management and labor support your partner will want. Understand her Birth Plan, which allows you and your partner to decide how you want the birth experience to go and discuss that information with your healthcare provider.

Another resource for support during the labor and delivery process is a doula — a birth companion whose role is to support you and your partner throughout labor. A doula is in your corner, talking with the medical team, keeping you informed of progress and supporting pain management. Ask your healthcare provider for recommendations.

Support Your Partner

The role of the father during pregnancy is so very important. Whether things with your partner are good, bad or somewhere in between — during pregnancy — you become parents together.

If your relationship is strong, enjoy it, but know that it’s not unusual for the process to be stressful at times. If you and your partner aren’t close, you still have a common goal — doing what it takes to bring a healthy baby (your baby) into the world. Here are some ways you can help set the stage for success:

Make Decisions Together

Pregnancy is full of important decisions. Things like where to give birth, childcare, what kind of baby gear to buy and more. Making these choices together takes the burden off each of you while also allowing you learn about each other in the process.

Support Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding gives your baby a big health advantage and is also good for the mother. But it’s not always easy. Mom will need your full support to keep up this important job.

A partner’s support is the biggest reason a woman will be successful with breastfeeding. Don’t put off talking to your healthcare provider about breastfeeding and learning more about the benefits of breastmilk.

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

Respect Her New Healthy Lifestyle

It’s not easy for her to give up the foods and drinks she loves. No more happy hours, and foods like deli meats, sushi and soft cheeses are off-limits for pregnant women. Don’t bring home things she is trying to avoid. You can support her by helping her get well-balanced meals.

Also, support the things that will help her pregnancy — taking vitamins daily, getting exercise and controlling her stress. This will help keep baby and mom healthy.

Buckle Up For Life

Encourage your partner to always wear her seatbelt and make sure you’re buckled up, too. A seatbelt should be worn low and snug across the hips. As your partner gets bigger, make sure she doesn’t stop using the seatbelt just because it is uncomfortable.

Thousands of Texans lose their lives each year in car crashes and research shows that a woman’s likelihood of being injured in a car crash increases with pregnancy. Wearing your seatbelt means you’re both thinking about your future, as well as your family’s future.

Discuss Your New Roles

Being a dad is a big deal. Remember, there are a lot of new responsibilities for your partner, too. Talk about how you’ll both step in — and step up — to your new jobs as dad and mom before the baby arrives.

Be Patient And Understanding

Sometimes your partner’s emotional and physical reactions to things may surprise you. But they’ll also surprise and frustrate her. Try to be patient, and remember: it will pass.

Respect Her Hardworking Body

Your partner’s body is working overtime to make a baby and may be sore and tired in ways that are different than before she was pregnant. Ask how she would like to be touched and made more comfortable. A back rub or foot massage can show you care. 

Get Your Team Together

Even though you might want privacy or don’t want to ask for help, put your support team together to help you after the baby is born. Sooner or later, you’re going to need the help. Talk to your partner about who should be on the list and how you want them to help and get them involved now. Having loved ones you trust to help ease into parenthood makes the transition much easier. 

Do You Know The Signs Of Premature Labor?

When a pregnant woman goes into labor before 37 weeks, it’s called premature labor. If your baby is born too soon, he or she can have serious health problems. If you have any of the following signs before 38 weeks, call your clinician or go directly to the hospital:

  • Contractions every 10 minutes or more often (with contractions, the belly will tighten like a fist)
  • Leaking fluid or bleeding from the vagina
  • Pelvic pressure; feeling like the baby is pushing down
  • Low, dull backache
  • Cramps that feel like menstrual cramps
  • Belly cramps with or without diarrhea

Additional Resources

Help your partner and your providers by documenting your ongoing health history by creating a Family Health Portrait.

Know what’s ahead in pregnancy and how to support your partner best in every stage here.

No amount of alcohol is safe for your partner to consume during her pregnancy. Learn the about myths and facts about alcohol during pregnancy and the long-term effects it could have on your child.