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'How to Dad' author shares best advice for new fathers

"Nobody tells dads what ‘postpartum’ means."
Todd Detwiler
Todd Detwiler, author of "How to Dad," with his son, Teddy, and daughter, Vada.Courtesy of Todd Detwiler

New fathers don't get much parenting advice compared to moms, but a new book hopes to change that, talking about everything from conception to toddlerhood.

"It's important for dads to absorb some basic information (from the beginning)," Todd Detwiler, a Michigan illustrator and the author of “How to Dad," tells "Then, they can learn on the job."

"How to Dad," published April 25, is a humorous reference manual to pregnancy and baby care: There's advice for giving a prenatal massage, cleaning baby bottles, making a pregnancy announcement, identifying false signs of labor and even delivering a baby in the event of an emergency.

Detwiler doesn't cut corners.

"Mental health is so important because nobody tells dads what 'postpartum' means or about hormonal imbalances; things that affect (new) moms in a huge way," he says, adding, "I’m trying to get some buzzwords out there."

"I’m trying to get some buzzwords out there."

According to Detwiler, "co-pilot" partners make the best parents.

"Because dads are in a position to observe and support, they need to find (opportunities) to be exemplary, step in, and understand when they're not necessarily needed in the conversation," says Detwiler. "That lays the groundwork for becoming a father. It's a transition and I’m still working on it."

A father to son Teddy, 3, and daughter Vada, 2, with his wife, Allie, Detwiler imparts insight on entering and surviving new fatherhood.

Todd Detwiler
"How to Dad" author Todd Detwiler pictured with his 3-year-old son, Teddy.Courtesy Abbey Moore Photography

Be patient with yourself

In the book, Detwiler illustrated a series of typical male facial expressions when learning about their partner's pregnancy. While tongue-in-cheek, one's reaction to impending fatherhood is "a moment that will speak to your character," he wrote.

"There can be anxiety, excitement or panic," Detwiler tells "Mentally, you're doing a lot of self-reflection. Recognize whether there are things you want to improve on and work toward those goals. Allow the moment to benefit you and make you a better person."

Ride with any emotion you feel, he advises, even if you're scared. "If you don't have a reaction to this news, then maybe something is wrong," he notes. "Realizing that you're going to be a father, especially for the first time, needs to be impactful. To think that it's not is a mistake."

“How to Dad" by illustrator and author Todd Detwiler.
“How to Dad" by illustrator and author Todd Detwiler.Media Lab Books

Prepare for babies to change relationships

New parents usually face a hard but fleeting disruption to their relationship.

"Babies will enhance the positives and the negatives of a relationship," says Detwiler. “You should prepare and understand that after a baby arrives, your relationship is fundamentally changed."

Keep in check what brought you together as a couple.

"When things were stressful or my wife and I weren't seeing eye-to-eye, I'd remember the delivery room when my children were born," he says. "I have never been prouder of my wife than in those moments — she was an absolute rock star."

Todd Detwiler
Author and illustrator Todd Detwiler, pictured with his wife, Allie Detwiler, and their children Teddy and Vada.Courtesy Abbey Moore Photography

Dads can also expect friendships to shift as family life supersedes social events; some new dads may also lose interest in topics of conversation that don't revolve around immediate life. According to Detwiler, friendships can be replenished with effort and patience.

Protect your new family bubble

A new baby is a great reason to get together with friends and family — or to draw space and create new family routines. If you are inviting loved ones to meet your bundle, remember your boundaries while keeping the peace.

"Your baby, your call," says Detwiler.

If in-laws or other family members push advice on how to soothe, feed or hold your baby, don't bend your principles in order to appease them, he says.

"When a baby is crying, everybody has advice but your wishes need to be respected," says Detwiler. "If you are passionate about something, parents and grandparents don't get a say anymore."

Don't lose yourself in new fatherhood

"After having a kid, some people feel like they're losing some of their identity but it's important to retain," says Detwiler.

Self-care generally comes last on a parent's priority list, but both moms and dads should periodically connect with themselves through hobbies, sports or anything else that sparks joy.

"Let's say you loved playing tennis before your baby came along but now you have less time," says Detwiler. "You need to build that time in. Don't let something you love slip away."

And if you're lucky, your kids may want to join you when they're older.

New dads can learn these tips and from Detwiler's book, which also offers instructions for making chili, riding a motorcycle and splitting firewood.