New Dads and Mental Health — 8 Tips to Stay Healthy


7/22/2021

Many people know that new mothers can suffer from postpartum depression after the birth of their baby. But fewer people know that new fathers can also suffer from depression, known as paternal postnatal depression, and anxiety that make it harder for fathers to bond with their babies. These fathers suffer from negative effects which can impact the entire family. Here are some tips from Rachel Kradin, MSW, Emerson’s mother/baby and pediatric social worker, to help new fathers have a healthy experience following the birth of their baby.

  • Know the signs and symptoms of paternal postnatal depression (PPND). Though similar to the postpartum depression that 1 in 7 moms experience1, PPND trends more towards anger, irritability, and disconnection from family than is typically exhibited by moms.
  • Make sure that mom gets the mental and emotional support she needs. The occurrence of paternal postnatal depression jumps to between 40-50 percent when mom is experiencing postpartum depression herself. Experts predict that about 10 percent of new fathers experience postnatal depression. Up to 18 percent experience clinically-significant generalized anxiety, OCD, or PTSD in the first year of their baby’s life.
  • Know your value. Dads matter! Studies show that father involvement leads to children who are more ready for school, have a better vocabulary, have stronger social skills, and can better regulate their emotions.2
  • Start talking. Men tend to under-communicate about their emotions and often attempt to ignore feelings of anxiety around pressure that they may feel after welcoming a new baby. A leading researcher on the topic of postpartum stress, Karen Kleiman, LCSW, notes that “ignoring feelings of anxiety or depression is one of the worst things you can do.”3 Talking about it with other male friends, family, or coworkers who have children can be extremely helpful.
  • Increase your knowledge about babies. Dads sometimes feel like they do not know how to interpret their baby’s cues or what to expect, and compare their skills as a parent of a newborn to their partner’s, who may be spending more time with their baby. This comparison can lead to feeling less capable of caring for their baby, and that vulnerability adds to their anxiety. There are lots of great resources that make information accessible. Websites for organizations such as Healthy Families, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Zero to Three are excellent sources of information. Apps like Wonder Weeks and Vroom can help you learn more about developmental milestones.
  • Take time for yourself. While having a new baby can be hectic and stressful, it is important for new parents to have time alone. Take a walk, listen to your favorite music, meet a friend, carve some time out each week to focus on yourself.
  • Seek professional and peer support. Help is available! There are groups specifically devoted to supporting the mental health of new dads. Check out your local family resource center, like First Connections in Acton, which hosts a new dads group via Zoom. There are also groups available online, mental health providers that specialize in working with new dads, and books for new fathers.

Are you a new father? Do you have a friend or loved one who is a new father? What were the most useful to supports? Let us know by sending a note to pr@emersonhosp.org.

Related Content


  1. MCPAP for Moms at www.mcpapformoms.org
  2. National Institute for Children’s Health Equality, www.nichq.org
  3. Seleni Institute, “When Dad Struggles After the Baby Arrives”, www.seleni.org/advice-support/2018/3/12/when-dad-struggles-after-the-baby-arrives