Advice for partners and dads-to-be

Baby on the way

Your pregnant partner is not the only one expecting a baby. You are in this together. You will both experience a lot over the next 40 weeks, which may bring with it intense thoughts and emotions. Your role is crucial and we hope this information helps you on your journey to becoming a parent.

Becoming a parent can be an emotional rollercoaster

Dad reading to his baby

Emotionally, you may experience any or all of the following:

  • joy
  • excitement
  • eagerness 
  • sadness or low in mood
  • anxiety
  • fear 
  • worry 

It's OK to feel these emotions, and for them to change often. You may get swept up in the excitement of others as you share your news. Or perhaps you could feel like you have taken a back seat as attention focuses on the baby’s mother. 

If you would like to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, remember that your midwife, health visitor, and GP are available to support your whole family – including you. You may also have a family hub or children’s centre near where you live. These can be great places to meet other people going through similar experiences. You can check if there is a Barnardo’s service near you.

There are lots of ways for you to be involved in pregnancy

Some partners and dads-to-be can find it hard to feel involved during pregnancy. Try to remember that you have an important role to play during pregnancy. You don’t need to wait for your baby to be born to become a parent. Here are four ideas of how you can get more involved. 

1. You can help your baby to grow and develop before they are even born

Did you know that by the time your partner is 15 weeks pregnant, your baby can hear sounds and voices? If you talk to them during pregnancy, they will recognise your voice when they are born. It may feel a little strange, if so here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • Why not start by reading them a bedtime story? 
  • You could tell them the story of your day – what did you get up to? 
  • Do you have a favourite song? You can sing to your baby, and remember that it does not matter if you think you’re not a good singer, your baby will enjoy learning how your voice sounds! 

2. You can play an active part in pregnancy appointments

Your pregnant partner will be invited to attend lots of appointments.

Stage of pregnancy Appointment
8-12 weeks Booking appointment
11-14 weeks Dating scan
16 weeks Midwife or GP appointment 
18-21 weeks Ultrasound Scan
25 weeks Midwife or GP appointment if first baby
28 weeks Midwife or GP appointment 
31 weeks Midwife or GP appointment if first baby
34 weeks Midwife or GP appointment
36 weeks Midwife or GP appointment
38 weeks Midwife or GP appointment
40 weeks Midwife or GP appointment if first baby
41 weeks Midwife or GP appointment
42 weeks Midwife or GP appointment if baby not yet born

Ask your partner if they’re happy for you to join the appointments with them. As well as being important opportunities to check on the healthy development of your partner and baby, there are lots of special moments. For example, seeing your little one on an ultrasound scan and hearing their little heartbeat. 

You may also have questions of your own. You should feel confident to ask these during any of your appointments. Midwives, health visitors, and GPs will be able to help answer your questions. Some people find it hard to remember questions during appointments. You could help your partner write a list of questions ahead of the appointment so that you don’t forget anything that’s important to you. 

3. You can join antenatal classes 

Antenatal classes are courses to help you prepare for your baby’s arrival. These classes can be freely available through your local children’s centre or family, some of which are delivered by Barnardo’s. Private classes may also available in your area. If you’re unsure about what is available, be sure to ask your midwife, health visitor or GP for more information.  

Some partners and dads believe that antenatal classes are just for mums. Others may think antenatal classes are for ‘bad parents’ or those who aren’t ready to be parents. This isn’t true – antenatal classes are for everyone.  You may like to read our blog on why we need to support and celebrate new dads. Classes often cover: 

  • How to prepare for labour and birth
  • Feeding your baby 
  • Changing your baby’s nappy 
  • Helping your baby to sleep safely 
  • Caring for your baby when they cry 

If you are not able to attend classes you can find further support on the NHS website.

4. You can help and support your pregnant partner 

Helping your partner during pregnancy will also help your baby. It’s impossible to communicate too much – so start by asking your partner how they’re doing and what you can do to best support them. This will look different for everyone. Ideas include: 

  • Making them a hot drink
  • Buying snacks to help with morning sickness
  • Checking if they would like to take a nap
  • Encouraging and enabling them to relax
  • Asking if they would like to talk about anything that’s on their mind
“Did you know that when you take care of your partner, you are also taking care of your unborn baby? There are ‘feel good hormones’ – such as oxytocin – that are released when we feel calm, relaxed, and loved. During pregnancy, these feel good hormones filter through to your baby. Research tells us that these hormones are really helpful to babies, supporting their development and helping their brain to grow. This means that even before birth the more we can help our partners to de-stress, the more we help our babies to grow." 

Dr Matt Price

Clinical Psychologist for Barnardo's

Pregnancy is a great time to start healthier habits

What better time to start healthier habits than when they will help your unborn baby to grow healthy and strong? You can support healthy habits for your new family. Many expectant parents find it helpful to approach this as a partnership.

1. You and your baby are what you eat 

Eating healthily is always important, but the nutrients your baby needs come from the food they get during pregnancy. Eating a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables will help your pregnant partner and your baby to stay healthy through pregnancy. Could you role model healthy eating by making healthy meals? Perhaps you could prepare healthy snacks for your partner? Remember that there are certain foods that aren’t recommended during pregnancy.

The NHS has some helpful information on foods to avoid in pregnancy

Being aware of how to eat healthily will also support your baby throughout their life.

2. Keeping physically active helps your baby 

couple walking in the countryside

Feel-good hormones are produced when you exercise. Gentle exercise for your pregnant partner will also be good for your baby. Walking and swimming are two examples that you could encourage and do together.

Keeping active will also help your partner to prepare for labour and birth. Other exercises you could complete and also ones to avoid while pregnant may also be useful.

3. Avoid or reduce smoking

Stopping smoking will be discussed at your pregnant partner's appointments with their midwife. This is because of the harmful effects smoking has on your unborn baby.  This can be a hard to do alone and there are support options. Local stop-smoking services are free to access. Further information on stopping smoking is on the NHS site.

You can help by joining your partner on a stop-smoking journey and your GP can support you with this. Or, you can contact a stop-smoking advisor:

4. Avoid or reduce drinking alcohol

Reducing alcohol will support your pregnant partner and the development of your baby. More information and support to help quit drinking can be found on the NHS

Preparing for your baby's arrival

Preparing a safe sleep space

sleeping baby

It’s never too early to start preparing a safe sleep space for your baby’s arrival. Your new baby should sleep in the same room as you for the first 6 months for sleep day and night. Safer Sleep from day one is a practical guide to read before your baby is born and share with your partner and grandparents-to-be. There is information on: 

  • What your baby needs
  • What not to buy
  • Safe co-sleeping
  • Premature and low birth weight babies
  • Slings and baby carriers

Finally, enjoy the journey together. Make the most of the next nine months before you become a family. Spend time talking, listening and enjoying each other’s company. 

You can also find further information on our sleep page.

A crying baby

Your baby will cry. This is how they will communicate their needs in the early days. Many parents and carers find it stressful when their baby cries. This is a natural response to a crying baby and helps us to work hard to try and calm them. However, some babies cry more than others, and some parents may feel especially stressed, worried, or anxious when their baby cries. It’s helpful to be aware of this before your baby arrives. 

ICON Parents Advice provides information explaining: 

  1. Infant crying is normal. 
  2. Comforting methods can help.  Check your baby’s temperature, do they need a nappy change, or feeding? Try singing or talking to them.
  3. It’s OK to walk away, so long as your baby is safe and you can return within a couple of minutes to check on your baby, feeling calmer.
  4. Never, ever shake a baby. 

For local support available, ask your midwife or health visitor for details.

Feeding options

However your baby is fed once they are born, you may like to be prepared and informed of what to expect. There is a lot of information available to help you understand the choices available to you. We’ve written some information on breastfeeding and bottle feeding, which you might find helpful as you think about your preferences for feeding your baby.

Further resources

Five to Thrive - The building blocks of brain development.

ICON for parents - provides lots of useful information regarding crying 

Free Baby Buddy app - Home to the largest connected community of active, involved Dads through its interactive forum, providing great peer to peer support and advice for what can be one of the most challenging and rewarding life experiences. 

Daddilife - An online community developed especially to support dads and dads to be.

'Tips from dads to dads' - a video from the National Childcare Trust (NCT)

Support for LGBT+

Lactation options for LGBTQ+ families

Related content


Whether you’re a new dad or an experienced dad facing a new challenge, we all need some advice at times. Our tips will help you be the best dad you can be. 

Why we need to support and celebrate new dads

Dr Matt Price, Barnardo’s strategic lead for clinical psychology and psychotherapy, writes about the importance of supporting dads.

Last updated on 30 October 2023