Dear first-time daddies, let me start off by saying your new baby isn’t breakable. Go on, and carry him (or her) in your arms. Trust me; the first time is the best feeling!
(One veteran dad gives six pieces of timely advice for first-timers in the “daddyhood” neighborhood.)
I am the father of three kids. It’s safe to say that I’ve been through a baby’s first year three times. Yes, the first few months of the baby’s life are arguably the most challenging, but I’ve survived them and enjoyed them all.
And since I feel like I’m already a veteran at this parenting thing, below are my top six pieces of advice for those who are still new at being fathers or are still expecting their first bundles of joy. Ready? Here they go!
First off, your new baby is sturdier than he or she looks.
Like you, I was afraid to carry my firstborn for the very first time thinking that he’d slip and fall if I do. But then, he didn’t. And the wonderfully warm feeling I felt being skin-to-skin with my baby for the very first time was priceless.
Bonding goes two ways: instantaneous and it takes time.
If you bond with your new baby instantly, that’s great! If you didn’t, don’t get frustrated. Some bonds take time to build. It’s what happened to me when my second child came. We didn’t hit it off immediately. She cried when I held her for the first time. It was also the reaction I always got from her for about two months. But throughout that timeframe, I didn’t stop carrying her, singing to her and talking to her. In the end, I got her to sleep in my arms, and all was smooth-sailing from then on.
Let your pets get used to the new arrival even before he or she comes home.
We had two dogs before our firstborn came. The day after my wife gave birth, I took the blankets we used to swaddle the baby home with me and let the dogs sniff them so that they would get used to the baby’s scent. I also placed the things in a place inside the house where they can quickly get a whiff of them. Indeed, when we came home two days later, all our dogs did were sniff out the little one briefly before running out to the backyard. No loud barks, no surprised reactions.
Limit your visitors the first two weeks you’re home from the hospital.
Many – and I mean many – people will want to take a glimpse, a photo, a kiss, an anything from your new bundle of joy. But don’t let them go “Jumanji” into your house right after you come home from the hospital. Let your wife or partner rest first from all the pains and hassles she’d been through carrying your baby for the better part of the year and delivering him or her right afterward. Additionally, the first two weeks should be your getting-used-to-the-changes time – for the baby and both of you new parents.
And seriously, you need all the sleeping time you can get!
Have an accepting spirit.
We, men, don’t have an accepting spirit. I mean, if somebody offers to pitch in or help us with something, we’d almost always turn the offer down graciously with an “I can manage.” Simply put, we don’t accept help readily.
But when you have a new baby in the house, you have to tone down that “turning the offer down graciously” thing because you need all the help you can get. If a close relation or friend offers to do the laundry, by all means, let them do it. If someone calls and asks what kind of food to bring, tell them your food preferences. Let your parents or in-laws pitch in to take care of the little bambino or bambina. Then, get some time off sleeping or resting.
Help your wife, partner, baby momma in whatever way you can, seriously.
I wasn’t the household chore type of guy before my kids came. Heck, I wasn’t even the “fathering” type! But seeing my wife lose sleep, struggle with chores and taking care of the baby, think of what meals to cook, and work on top of all these things (she’s a freelance writer) were more than enough reasons to change my mind.
I can proudly say I did diaper changing for all my three kids, learned to do the laundry (even those soiled cloth diapers without gagging), and most of all, I can now whip up dishes like a pro.
Parenting, much like a relationship, is a give-and-take thing. Besides, there’s nothing more challenging yet so amazingly satisfactory as taking care of your family.
Contributor: Luke, busy father of two school-aged kids and one active toddler.