What do new and expectant fathers need to help them on their journey into parenthood? There’s a lot to learn and potential stressors like sleep deprivation or financial insecurity mean it can be a pretty challenging time.

There’s no doubt that babies bring changes. So dads need support – just like mums – to enable them to navigate their way through. We know from working with fathers’ mental health experts and campaigners like Mark Williams, Scott Mair and Andy Mayers that one really important area is enabling fathers to look after their mental health and wellbeing. It’s also vital that dads know where to go to get help if needed.

Sadly, depression in new and expectant dads is higher than you might think, with around one in ten dads affected, according to one large study [1].

More support, better screening programmes and mental health services are very much needed. 

Here at Best Beginnings we have long held an ambition to work more closely with fathers. So we are delighted to have a new version of our Baby Buddy app which offers daily information updates for dads (and mums!) all the way from conception up until when their baby reaches 1 year old.

Alongside a wealth of daily updates and searchable articles for dads we have now created films looking at how dads experience parenting. These show the everyday joy in moments of interaction between dad and baby, as well as the vital support friends and family can offer. Lots more are planned.

We've talked to new and expectant fathers about the challenges they have been facing and we've worked with some amazing partner organisations who work with dads.

Dads have told us about their challenges related to financial pressures and job insecurity, juggling family time and work, the return to work and the impact this has on bonding with the baby. Many dads were worried about a decline in the relationship with their partner outside of communication about their baby’s needs. Dads also reported feeling side-lined by healthcare professionals who sometimes don’t address or include dads at appointments, while some dads felt side-lined at home by their partner or family.

The new Baby Buddy app is designed to support dads to be confident and engaged as parents, to strengthen family relationships and the father-baby bond. We share a wealth of practical tips and learning to take dads every step of the way through pregnancy, childbirth and caring for a newborn.

Bite-sized resources also help dads to prioritise their health and wellbeing. We invite dads to check-in with their feelings, give tips on nurturing positive relationships and encourage ways to avoid feeling side-lined.

One crucial part of the support we are giving involves enabling mums and dads to both be alert to changes in each other’s mood and to take action. Sometimes all that’s needed is a bit of rest, to make time to talk, or simply to take some deep breaths.

At other times dads and mums alike will need more help. Checklists can help parents to spot the signs of mental ill-health, while signposts sharing resources online help them to know that they are not alone and help is out there. We also encourage parents to seek support at an early stage by reaching out to their GP or health visitor.

With around one in ten dads suffering depression it’s vital that dads feel confident to ask for help. Together with other fathers’ organisations and campaigners we’re working to address the stigma around mental ill-health and to help dads to see that there is a way through.

Sources of help and information
If you have been experiencing symptoms of depression over two weeks or more it's important to talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP.

If you're in emotional pain or a crisis, you can receive free 24/7 confidential support via the Baby Buddy Emotional Support Helpline.

You can find out more about depression and men from the Royal College of Psychiatrists

You can also get help and support at MIND (www.mind.org.uk helpline 0300 123 3393 or text 86463), PANDAS (www.pandasfoundation.org.uk helpline 0843 2898401), APNI www.apni.org, helpline 0207 386 0868) or Dads Matter UK. www.dadsmatteruk.org/

Blog by Best Beginnings Content Lead, Nicola Cadbury

[1]Paulson, J F, Blazemore, S D (2010)Prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers and its association with maternal depression: A meta-analysis. JAMA, 303(19), 1961-1969.