What Do New Dads Want to Know?

No longer do parents-in-training need to whip out a copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”—these days, the entire internet is your oyster when you’re studying up on having your first kid.

But even with a glut of resources out there—everything from mommy blogs to online parenting courses—a lot of new dads say they don’t feel they’re getting the information they need about pregnancy, parenthood and their own mental health, according to a study by researchers at McGill University in Montreal.

New Dads pbs rewire
Source: Source: Pew Research Center

A team of researchers worked with nearly 200 new or expectant dads to learn just what this group of people needs when it comes to preparation for parenthood. What they found was used to build a new website that aims to provide the lacking support for new dads, HealthyDads.ca, which is in its beta stages and not yet open to the general public.

Looking at the new dads’ answers to the researchers’ survey questions, “I was surprised by how much time expectant and new fathers are already accessing the internet to obtain information related to pregnancy and parenting, which shows that men really want to be involved but may also be feeling ill-prepared,” said Deborah Da Costa, a researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and lead author of the study, in an email to Rewire.

“Despite the amount of time they spend searching for information, many are disappointed and don’t find the information out there very helpful which confirmed to us the importance of developing more resources to better meet the needs of expectant fathers.”

Filling in the gaps

New Dads pbs rewire
Source: Pew Research Center

Mental health is often an issue for new dads, wrote Da Costa and her team in their paper. Depression and anxiety is common for fathers before and after their baby is born. However, these new dads rarely seek mental health help, and instead sometimes turn to unhealthy behaviors, like increased alcohol use.

The dads in the study thought the biggest barrier to seeking mental health help was lack of time to get diagnosed or work with a therapist.

What’s more, the researchers found, many expecting and new parent classes leave out training surrounding mental health altogether, especially for fathers.

Services for new parents “need to be more father inclusive,” Da Costa said. “Health care providers need to more routinely include dads during prenatal care visits, ask about how they are doing  and whether they have any concerns or questions.”

Dads are turning to the internet to search for information they need, but they’re largely coming up empty. In this study, 89 percent of dads looked for pregnancy information on the internet, and 67 percent looked for parenting information. But only about 35 percent thought the information they found was helpful.

“A review of online parenting information concluded that many websites remain traditionally gender-biased, with most oriented towards the needs of mothers,” Da Costa and her team wrote.

This leaves new dads with less support than they need. And that’s not good for anyone in the family.

“Increasing fathers’ involvement during pregnancy can make the pregnancy seem more real to expectant fathers and may also lead to better pregnancy outcomes through the reduction” of stress and depression in moms, the researchers wrote.

What info do dads need?

If you want to support an expectant or newly minted father in your life, the men in Da Costa’s study were most eager for information on:

  1. parenting and infant care, including how to settle a fussy baby;
  2. partner-oriented topics, like how to improve their relationship after the baby is born and how to support their partner during pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding; and
  3. managing their own mental health, including stress-management and sleep health.

If you’ve been through the new-parent game before, pass on the information and resources you have. Many of the dads in Da Costa’s study reported feeling pressure to cope without help, but no new parent should have to do that.

“Fathers want information on what to expect once baby arrives, how to support their partner during pregnancy and with breastfeeding, how to care for their infant and how to balance work-family life once baby arrives,” Da Costa said.

“Providing fathers with written resources (beyond how to support their partner during childbirth) and credible websites can… be a far reaching way of trying to ensure that fathers’ needs are being addressed.”

Katie Moritz

Katie Moritz is Rewire’s web editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz and on Instagram @yepilikeit.