How to Prepare for Birth as a New Dad

When my wife and I got pregnant with our son, I knew very little about how to prepare for birth as a new dad.  

I didn’t know how long labor and delivery could take, what to bring with you, or when to go to the hospital. Or lots of other things.

All I knew was I had the easy job because I didn’t have to give birth to a baby. So my goal would be to make it as easy as possible for my wife.  

Throughout the pregnancy, I slowly learned some basics about how to prepare, which I’ll share here. I learned through some googling, suggestions from our doctor, and my wife who did a bunch more googling and scrolling through Instagram posts I didn’t know existed.

So if I had to accompany my wife through the birth process for the first time again, these are things I’d do to prepare.

One Quick Thought

As helpful as these actually were, I obviously wouldn’t recommend going to your significant other and starting with “Hey this dad on the internet said we should do this stuff, so let’s do it”.

Wild guess is that won’t go over well with her. 

I write this list for two potential scenarios:

  1. So you aren’t surprised if or when your significant other suggests these.
  2. So you can show you’re interested in helping. (A “Hey, I looked up some things that are helpful, let me know if you’d like help with these.” can go a long way.)

At the end of the day, she’s the one birthing a child and your purpose is to be as helpful as possible. So she may have different plans that send ideas from this list straight to the garbage.

How to prepare for birth as a new dad

1. Watch the Pampers video series on birth

Thankfully, there’s unlimited info on the internet about birth. But also unfortunately, there is unlimited info on the internet about birth.

I did some googling about what the labor and birth process is like but I found it incredibly easy to get overwhelmed.

We happened to find the Pampers videos about the labor process.

They don’t make it complicated. They explain the important stuff. And most importantly, it eased a lot of my nerves.

They explain stuff you may have heard of but have no clue about. Questions like:

  • What’s an epidural actually do?
  • Where do you go when you get to the hospital?
  • What the heck are Braxton Hicks contractions?
  • What in the world is a mucus plug and do I want to know?

(You don’t want to know what a mucus plug is but yes it is actually helpful to understand.)

Don’t frantically google “birth for dummies” the week of the due date. Just take 15 or 20 minutes here and there and watch the Pampers videos. They saved me a lot of stress.

2. Help with stretching exercises

Another thing I had no clue existed…stretching exercises for birth.

A friend of ours is a Doula and she generously offered to show us some stretches and exercises to help ease the pain during pregnancy and labor, and my wife was so thankful.

I never would have thought to look that type of thing up. 

If your significant other wants help with stretches, do it. And maybe even help her find YouTube videos or an actual Doula to help her learn them. (The Mayo Clinic has basic stretches and Bridget Teyler has tons of YouTube videos about pregnancy and birth.)

The stretches relieved a ton of pain for my wife toward the end of the pregnancy and probably made labor easier too because she’d strengthened those birthing muscles. 

And a lot of the stretches are easier to do with a partner’s help, so it’s a good way to make yourself useful and not feel like you’re a helpless spectator for the whole pregnancy and labor.

3. Buy dates

Weird suggestion, I know. But apparently eating dates make the labor process easier. It’s an unusually well researched thing.

My wife ate several per day and she thinks they helped. 

I’m a new dad and not a dried fruit or birth expert, so I’ll leave it that.

4. Buy long phone chargers

How to prepare for birth: Buy a long phone charger

Weirdly specific suggestion here.

We had everything we could think of already packed except phone chargers, and my wife had the great idea to buy extra chargers for each of us that were like 6 feet long. 

I’m glad she did.

It made it much easier for her to still use her phone in the hospital bed and we didn’t have to worry about grabbing our phone chargers from next to our bed when it was time to head to the hospital. 

5. Get an exercise ball

How to prepare for birth: Buy an exercise ball

This goes along with the stretching suggestion. 

A lot of the stretches and movements that help strengthen birthing muscles are done with an exercise ball or peanut ball. (I hadn’t heard of a peanut ball before. It’s like an exercise ball in the shape of an enormous peanut.) 

Even sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair or the couch can take a ton of pressure off sore pregnant muscles, so it’s worth having one at home. 

I’d much rather spend $20 and have one ready in case your significant other gasps from sciatica pain. Worst case, she never uses it and then you have something to roll around on when you’re bored during paternity leave. (On the topic of paternity leave: I took 6 weeks and wrote some suggestions on paternity leave and how much time to take.)

6. Pack snacks (and pillows and minty scents)

Of course you need to pack clothes in a hospital bag. (I also have some recommendations for a new dad hospital bag.)

But there’s a few things we heard would be helpful to pack and I’m super glad we did:

1. Snacks (protein!)

You’re very likely going to be tired and the only thing worse than being tired in an emotionally taxing situation is being tired AND hungry. 

You might not get much time to go grab food at a hospital cafeteria (which often is bad) or elsewhere. Pack something with protein that you can eat quick and get decent energy from. Nuts and protein bars were my choice.

2. Your own pillows

Unless you’re the type of person that can sleep anywhere and on anything, bring your own pillows.

I sleep on a thick pillow that helps my neck not hurt. And the pillows given to us at the hospital weren’t comfortable. 

My wife was happy to have the comfort of her own pillow and I was in much better sleeping shape because I had my pillow. There’s no way we would have gotten the occasional bits of rest that we did if we didn’t have our pillows.

3. Essential oils (or mints)

One of the tips a friend gave me about what to expect was “Don’t be surprised if there are a lot of smells.”

My wife had also heard that some people put a quick dab of essential oils under their nose to avoid those “lot of smells” my friend warned about. 

We had a few small containers of lavender and mint essential oils so we brought them and then used them when we got toward the end of labor. 

We both put some under our nose. It thankfully worked great. I have a sensitive sniffer and didn’t smell anything unpleasant.

7. Put your hospital bag in the car (seriously)

My wife and I didn’t expect to leave for the hospital when we did. We actually went to her regular weekly doctor appointment on a Friday afternoon and expected to be told to just keep waiting for the contractions to start and get close together. 

Sure enough, they surprised us. Apparently my wife was already having contractions and they were fairly close together, but she couldn’t really feel them until she was hooked up to a machine that tracked the contractions. 

And not only were they happening, but they were happening close enough together that they recommended we head to the hospital.

For whatever reason, we had packed our hospital bags and set them aside but never put them in the car. 

Luckily, before this last doctor appointment, we figured it couldn’t hurt to throw the car seat and hospital bags into the car for whenever we’d eventually go to the hospital.  

Little did we know, we’d be driving to the hospital about 40 minutes after we put the bags in the car. 

Don’t be like us. Take a ton of pressure off yourself and put your hospital bags in the car far earlier than you think you need to.

8. Download an app for timing contractions

I knew part of knowing when to go to the hospital involves timing contractions. But I somehow didn’t realize how stupid of an idea it was to time them on your phone stopwatch and then write down the results. 

For something that important, get an app specifically for that. I don’t have any suggestions because I stupidly didn’t use one, but there are plenty of pregnancy apps you can choose from.

9. Understand the birth plan

How to prepare for birth: Birth plan example

I had no idea what a birth plan was until my wife told me.

If you’re not familiar, a birth plan is like an outline of details describing how you and your significant other would like labor and birth to go (in an ideal scenario). 

You can list anything on there you’d like such as dimming the lights, getting or not getting an epidural, playing particular music, or doing exercises/stretches regularly.

From what I learned, labor and birth often doesn’t go as expected, so a birth plan can’t always be followed perfectly. 

My wife and I had talked about basic things my wife wanted (like playing a music playlist she made, dimming the lights, and switching positions often) but I was incredibly glad she had me write her birth plan down on my phone in the weeks before birth. 

Her list was probably less than 10 bullet points in an iPhone note, but I definitely would have forgotten some of it. And when we got to the hospital and met our nurses, they asked us if we had a birth plan and I was suddenly super grateful we wrote it down because I could barely remember any of it at that moment.  

Don’t overthink it and feel like you need a 10 page document. Just write down the details that are important to you and save them somewhere you’ll remember. 

(And there are tons of birth plan examples online if you’d like ideas to help you brainstorm.)

10. Have a mental dad-plan

No, a “dad-plan” isn’t a normal term. I made that up.  But it’s important and I’ll explain why. 

I’m not great with blood. Or gross smells. Or needles. 

Lucky for me, birth includes all of those things. 

I was surprised to learn from our nurse that I would be asked to help hold one of my wife’s legs up while she pushed. This was a rather large surprise for me as I assumed that was a medical professional’s job and not a queasy dad’s job. Apparently dads holding a leg is fairly common.

So when I had to hold her leg, I made a mental plan. 

To avoid seeing anything that’d make me feel sick that I didn’t want to see, I planned to feel for my wife’s foot with one hand, hold the bed frame with the other, and look toward the head of the bed.

It ended up going far better than expected and I saw gross things (I’ll spare you the details) multiple times but wasn’t grossed out.

I think a major reason I was fine was because I mentally made a plan to stay comfortable and didn’t get too surprised by anything I wasn’t expecting to see.

I’d also go in knowing whether you’d like to cut the umbilical cord and if you’ll stay in the room for an epidural (if applicable). I didn’t cut the cord but did stay to help my wife stay calm during the epidural. 

(You might also be interested in what I found labor like as a dad.)

Final thought

If you’d like more help on how to prepare for birth as a new dad, my last recommendation is to just phone a friend. 

Find another dad you trust and ask them what they did and wish they had done to prepare for their kids’ birth. 

I was glad I asked a few close dad-friends for their thoughts. Their suggestions helped form my expectations and calm some of my nerves.

And then get super excited because you’re about to be a dad and that’s incredible. Congrats!

(And email me at if you use these or have others you find helpful!)