How Much Paternity Time Should Dads Take? (From a New Dad)

I’m 3 months and 3 days into being a dad and I’m incredibly thankful I took the full amount of paid paternity leave my job gave me. How much paternity time dads should take isn’t an obvious thing, though.

I wondered for some time before the birth if I wanted or needed to take all of it. 

My company gave me the option of up to 6 weeks of paid paternity leave and I took every day possible.

Now looking back after a few months of dad-ing, there’s a few things I learned that I would suggest for future dads preparing for their first paternity leave.

How much paternity time should dads take?

How Much Paternity Time is Needed?

For the first week after my son was born, I felt like a zombie. 

My sleep schedule was basically nonexistent. My wife and I were figuring out how to get our son to sleep even a few hours at a time and not have screaming fits several times throughout the night (poor guy was hungry and we didn’t know it). 

I still only barely felt like a human after two weeks, but two weeks was the leave timeline I felt like I could have done if I had to make it work

Several dad friend friends told me they took two weeks off when their first kids were born and it was enough to help with the immediate needs of the changes around the house and enjoy some time as a new family. 
So if you asked me how much time you’ll need, I’d recommend taking no less than two weeks.

How Much Paternity Time is Ideal?

I’d always suggest taking as much time as your job and financial situation will allow, but I think a month would have been enough in my experience. (For context, we had a generally healthy pregnancy and we don’t have much family locally, but we did have family come stay with us starting the same day we got home from the hospital).

Where I started to get antsy was around the one month mark. Weeks 5 and 6 were still great to have, but I found myself wondering what to do with the extra time. 

Again, I would absolutely take all 6 weeks again if I did it over (or have more kids I guess) but I don’t think I needed my 5th and 6th weeks off

Within a month of my son’s birth, I started to feel a bit more normal and semi-rested, we were in a bit of a routine, and I could have gone back to work and not caused a bunch of extra havoc in my house. 

What I learned through my own paternity leave

There’s a handful of things I wish I would have done differently now that I’ve gone through it once.

(If you’re coming up on the due date, you might also want to read how I’d suggest preparing for labor and birth as a new dad and first time dad tips.)

1. Take healthy rest

If you’re like me, then sitting around doing nothing isn’t all that fun. Scrolling social media makes me anxious and I have a tough time enjoying Netflix series that feel like they take too long. 

With a tiny baby that just eats, sleeps, and poops, we had a lot of time to sit on the couch and basically watch him do one of those three things.

And that relaxing time was super helpful and I appreciated it. But if I could do my first paternity leave over again, I would go into it with 2-3 healthy things I know I’d enjoy that help me relax.

I could have picked a book I knew I’d like or picked a basic workout plan to follow. Something to spend my time on when my little man napped. I eventually did these on my leave, but I didn’t plan on doing any of them and that made for some very slow days (almost too slow) laying on the couch. 

Going into each day with one thing planned I’d enjoy doing when I had free time would have helped me rest more intentionally and I would have spent less time doom scrolling social media.

2. Decide on your family visiting timeline

In the first month, we had both my parents and my wife’s parents (and some of our siblings) come visit at separate times. Not having to do work while they were here was fantastic. It was precious time together. We just enjoyed being with our new little guy. 

I had heard a lot of couples say they preferred to have a few days to themselves with their newborn before their family visited and I wondered if we should do that. 

In our case, my wife’s family arrived from out of town on the same day we came home from the hospital and I would do it the exact same way over again. 

Having their help with the baby and things around the house made the first week (which I think was the hardest of the first few months) far easier. We don’t have much family locally, so planning for them to visit right away worked best for us. 

Everyone has different family dynamics, so I understand why some people wouldn’t want their family visiting immediately. But if you think you’d appreciate the help and company, go ahead and have them come. I almost over-thought it and preferred they wait a few days because of what I’d heard from other peoples’ preferences, and I’m glad I didn’t.

3. Maybe travel (if you have the time)

The only experience I have with traveling during paternity leave is thinking about it and then deciding against it. I’m told paternity leave is a great time to go someplace since you have lots of time (though it’s not really “free” time) and your baby is so little.

If you know you can take quite a bit of time off and have multiple months away from work, then flying or driving a long way to see family can be great. A newborn will still do the same eating, pooping, and barely sleeping elsewhere. (Here are some tips on flying with a baby.)

You might as well make the most of the time off and go visit someone you care about. Just expect there to be bumps in the road and have to adjust your plans.

4. Don’t plan stuff

This will sound contradictory to what I just wrote about traveling, but one thing I did do that I didn’t realize would be so important was not scheduling anything for the few weeks after my son was born. 

I didn’t commit to a certain time to see friends, to go to the gym, to check back in on my work, or really anything else. And boy was I glad. 

Not getting normal sleep and constantly having to adjust to my son’s schedule and needs made my schedule unpredictable each day. I would have really regretted it if I had overcommitted myself and planned on getting a lot done besides helping my son and wife with what they needed.

5. Take as much time as possible

If you only get one thing from this, please let it be that you should take as much time for paternity leave as possible. 

I wondered if I needed all 6 weeks my company gave me, and I probably could have been fine with less, but you can’t get that time back. 

Spending extra time with my son, being available to help my wife with whatever she’d need whenever she needed it, and giving myself the time to adjust to the lifestyle change that a new baby requires was all worth it.

There will always be more work to do, so don’t rush back to working if it isn’t absolutely necessary.

There won’t always be time you get to spend with family like this. 

One More Paternity Leave Suggestion:

I recently came across a picture from author Justin Welsh about comfort zones. It made me realize something I’ve experienced for all of my three months of parenting and especially paternity leave. 

When you become a parent and add a child into your life, you’re forced to have to learn. And not just learn one or two things like how to change a diaper or mix baby formula. 

You immediately start needing to learn a lot.

Without prior experience spending time with babies, you just can’t know how to do all the new things. How to operate on far less sleep. How to shush a baby. What baby products to buy. What not to buy. What to do if the baby is gassy. Or sick. Or spitting up a lot. 

Some of the learning is fun. Other parts of it aren’t so fun. 

But it’s all important to embrace and not be stubborn about. 

The image from Justin is below.

When you have a kid, you’re constantly forced out of your comfort zone. And how much you enjoy it and how well it goes depends on whether you embrace the learning. 

This need to go out of your comfort zone won’t change as your kid grows either. So it’s not a temporary thing. But it is a good thing. 

It’s worth remembering that being forced to learn isn’t a failure. It’s a sign of growth. And embracing the learning makes it much more fun and doable. 

I already know your paternity leave will be full of learning. I just encourage you to make it learning you choose to enjoy.

In summary:

You’re about to experience one of the coolest (and also challenging) changes I think life can offer in becoming a dad. 

Don’t underestimate the significance of the time you’ll spend with baby and mom after the birth. You’ll be glad you rearranged things at work and made it work to spend time away. 

And congrats on dadhood! (I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions on paternity leave. Feel free to email me at