February 8th, 2017:
Lessons Learned By A New Father (Part 2)

Christmas Eve Kara and DuaneWe’re almost at the 7 month mark with Kara. Everyone said that we should take lots of pictures because time moves so quickly. It’s true! It’s hard to remember the tough parts in the first 3 months and the progress made in months 4 – 6 is incredible! Here are more lessons learned:

  1. I mentioned in my last article that it gets a lot better after week 10… that’s true! But, 3 months is like cresting a hill and seeing nothing but sunshine, green trees, and blue water. You finally feel like your effort is paying off.
  2. That bedtime routing really starts to pay off after 3 months. We got a few full nights of sleep and it was amazing. We also woke up the next morning, double checked the baby monitor, and went to her room to make sure she was ok. We couldn’t believe she slept for 11 hours!
  3. Don’t get cocky, though. Babies occasionally regress. Our first experience with a regression was also Kara’s first cold. She just started sleeping through the night (at least a few times in the same week) and then she got an upper-respiratory/head cold. She barely slept for an hour at a time. It was rough. Then, we got sick. I was afraid of coughing and waking her up, so I slept on a sofa in the basement. It took a lot of effort to get back into a routine after Kara recovered from that cold.
  4. If your baby attends daycare, they’re going to get sick. Our line of thinking is that she will have a better developed immune system eventually… but it can be tough. She’s had 3 colds in the past 4 months… each time making her fussy and depriving us all of sleep.
  5. Despite the previous note on daycare, it’s so worth it. We think that Kara is very well socialized. The schedule at daycare helps establish a rhythm that we continue on weekends and holidays and it keeps things running smoothly. She participates in a lot of activities and the staff has helped her make a number of keepsakes. Kara is genuinely happt to see the staff when we drop her off in the morning.
  6. Around 4 months or so, Kara needed less constant handling and was happier to be on her tummy to play (with supervision, of course). She also started playing in an exer-saucer… kind of a bouncy seat that helps develop leg and core muscles. We could set Kara in her exer-saucer or on a play mat within eyeshot while we cook dinner or clean.
  7. Diaper rash and dry skin… we’ve figured out the few occasions that we’ve encountered to far… but it’s probably going to happen for you too. We found that a 2-layer approach to diaper rash works best: thick coat of bag balm followed by a zinc-oxide moisture barrier. Spread that stuff on like cake frosting! The dry skin ended up being a combination of winter (dry air and furnace heat indoors) and the baby-safe liquid soap we were using. We switched soap and mom lotions Kara up with Aquaphor every night before getting into her sleeper and sleep sack… and no more blotchy dry skin.
  8. At 6 months we started to introduce real food: blended sweet peas, bananas, pears, carrots, squash, mangos, chicken w/ sweet potato, etc. Each are blended and frozen into little 1 oz. servings. We can then pop them into the microwave for 10 seconds and mix with a little nursing milk. Kara has been very excited about this new activity. It’s mostly for fun, as the majority of her calories still come from nursing.
  9. Baby isn’t the only one to enjoy new activities with real food… get ready for baby turds. I noted in my last article that diapers from nursing weren’t too bad. While not the most horrifying experience, that first turd can be quite a surpise… especially if baby just enjoyed carrots! The smells are a little worse, but honestly, if you’ve been changing baby’s diapers regularly, you’re pretty well conditioned for the task by now
  10. At 6 months, Kara is focused on things around her. She anticipates things (like the next knee bounce or kiss). She watches the door and waits for us to get her when she cries in her crib. She is more engaged with us when playing and she gets a focused, intense expression on her face when she’s trying to figure something out (like reaching for blocks, trying out a new toy, or discovering a button on her outfit).
  11. We’ve gone on a few outings together and she’s had a blast: a week ago we went to the computer store for the first time. I was pretty confident that it would go well as Kara has been going to the supermarket with us since she was a few weeks old. She generally enjoys looking at all of the colorful boxes on the shelves as we roll down the isles. The computer store was a little more challenging. We went on the observed New Year holiday… along with what seemed like every other technophile in Southeast Michigan. Kara was starting a cold, but was still an absolute angel. She wanted to get out of her carrier and have me hold her… but really wanted to see all of the exciting new things on the shelves of the store. It was a little scary… especially because we ventured out on our own. I asked my wife if she would like to see a movie while Kara and I went out. This weekend, we went to Legoland in a nearby mall with my brother and his family. It was our first “kid activity”… also a huge success, it’s given us confidence in our decision to visit Disneyworld in April!

Kara is just starting to babble. She’s holding herself up on all fours, turning around on the floor and sitting up on her own. She’s not crawling yet, but we feel like it’s right around the corner. Gina and I refer to Kara as “smooshy” for the first 3 months. She had not yet developed much of a personality, lacked eye contact, and rare smiles were like oxygen to a drowning person. At 6 months, it can be hard to remember those times when your baby smiles when she wakes up and recognizes your face, giggles when you play together, or reaches for you when she’s ready to be picked up.

Stay tuned. I’m pretty sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of this whole new dad thing. I doubt I’m right about a lot of this, but it’s working pretty well for me at the moment. Let’s see what happens in a few more months…

- Duane