Here’s the first installment of stuff I’ve learned in the past 10 weeks of new fatherhood:
- The first 2 weeks are tough. More difficult than you can imagine. Everyone says this. You think you know what it means. You’re wrong.
- Weeks 3-4 are better than the first two… but your brain will be erased and you won’t remember how bad 1 & 2 were. Weeks 3-4 are about as bad as you imagined 1-2 could be before baby arrived.
- After week 6, it gets a lot better. You come out of the haze and really realize that this new person is in your family. By week 10, you’re interacting with her and you can barely remember the first month.
- Take lots of pictures/videos. Everyone tells you that it goes by so fast and they grow too quickly. It’s true.
- Diapers aren’t as bad as you imagined… especially if baby is nursing. The first few days are a horror show (meconium), but really, it’s not too bad.
- There will be blow outs… big time. My wife is a scientist and bought a case of “blue pads” used for surgeries, etc. We put them on the changing pad as well as line her car seat with them. Keep a few in your diaper bag for impromptu changing. Lastly, make sure the “seal” around baby’s legs is good by pulling the diaper up on her waist after securing it… like you’re putting a pair of shorts on her. Nothing can stop the dreaded “rooster tail”… it’s just going to happen some day(s).
- Gripe water works. All of the articles/books I read said that there’s no scientific evidence for it to work (our baby showed no signs of colic, so that may be a different story), but a dose of gripe water and a little patting on the back and she produces some of the most amazing belches and stops crying
- Your wife will need a break… especially if she’s nursing. As soon as you can prepare a bottle and baby is ready to accept it (check with your pediatrician), offer to take the last feeding of the night and put her to bed… or tell your wife to go out shopping for herself and stay home and feed baby. (Just make sure you time everything right so that you have enough milk and/or mom comes back in time.)
- A bedtime routine is key. Our baby has slept in her room, in her crib, since she was 2 weeks old (before that we tried a bassinet in our room). Having a bedtime routine was key to making that happen. On bath night, she gets a warm bath… but otherwise, it’s the same every night: mom puts on a lullaby and dims the lights. I undress baby and change her diaper (if needed). Mom applies night time lotion. I put baby in her swaddle. Mom feeds baby. Usually she’s asleep by the end of the feeding and mom waits 20 minutes, then puts her in her crib. 90% of the time, that works. The other 10%… well… all bets are off
- Speaking of swaddles: they work… just be sure that you follow the instructions for your swaddle blanket or quick-swaddle. Talk to your pediatrician about positioning baby’s head. Baby should always sleep on her back.
- We found out about swaddles in on of our classes, but we also learned about the 5 S’s for getting baby to calm down/sleep from “The Happiest Baby On The Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp: Side, Swaddle, Shush, Swing, Suck. Look it up… it helps, but as you’ll find, nothing is a guaranteed solution
- We’ve always cooked dinner together, and doing that with baby is a challenge. We found that a bouncer or car seat on the kitchen counter (if you have space) works well. We tried wearing her in a front-carrier, but worried about hot spatter from pans could get her. Of course, be careful with cutlery, spices, or other hot liquids.
- Bonding time helps. If you’re only holding baby when she’s crying, that’s all that you’re going to get out of it. Make time to play with baby (tummy time included) and I find that just a minute of fun when changing diapers or getting dressed means a lot before my day starts or before baby goes to bed.
- Teamwork helps. My wife and I have always teamed up: hobbies, chores, projects, and now baby. We calm each other down and cover for each other when we’ve just had enough. Teamwork can be fun too… and makes bath time a lot safer.
Well, that wraps up my first installment of lessons learned. There’s a ton more and I’ll try to provide ongoing updates.