Anything your partner can do for your baby (except for breast-feeding), you can do, too. Among many other things, you can:
- Feed him from a bottle
- Change his diapers
- Give him a sponge bath (or later, a tub bath)
- Get him dressed
- Rock him to sleep (or just to calm him)
- Take him on walks
- Take him to the doctor
- Sing lullabies and songs to him
- Read to him
- Play with him
Of course, just because you're now expected to share (if not equally, at least wholeheartedly) in baby care doesn't mean you'll be a natural at it (though you may very well be). You may have to work on building the patience, tuning in the radar, expressing the gentleness, and unleashing the playfulness that caring for an infant often demands. But it may surprise you to find that many mothers, including your partner, probably need to develop these skills, too.
The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act applies to you as well as your partner, provided that you work for a company with 50 or more employees. By law, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for family reasons, yet too few new fathers take advantage of this law.
In addition to love and caring, all you need to become a good father is time. You've got to put in your hours, whether it means changing diapers, bathing your baby, feeding her, putting her to bed, hugging and kissing her, or playing, singing, and reading with her.
If you already feel pressed for time as the family breadwinner, this amount of time can seem like a big demand. Even if you work 60 or more hours a week, however, you can still probably manage to set aside at least four hours a day to spend with your baby. (Time when one or both of you are sleeping doesn't count.) But you have to make your baby and family a real priority in order to accomplish this scheduling feat. You may need to cut back on leisure activities, for example. Set aside blocks of time, daily if possible, when you will have absolutely nothing to do but devote yourself to your baby. Your baby will come to cherish these special times with her daddy-and you probably will, too.
The more hours you put into baby care, the better you'll feel about your parenting skills. In addition, given enough time, your baby is just as likely to attach to you as to your partner. Indeed, when hurt or scared, your child may even begin to turn to you for comfort as often as or even more often than she turns to her mother. But again, you need to put in your hours in order to win your baby's confidence, build her trust in you, and help her to feel secure in your presence.