You’re a dad! Or soon will be, congrats! 🙂
Many new parents find out the sex of their baby at their 12 week scan. We didn’t.
We figured you don’t really get many good surprises in life, so we never found out.
Claire, my wife, thought we were going to have a girl, and I thought we were having a boy. So when this huge pair of testicles came flying through the air in the immediate moments after his birth, I was overjoyed (for us having a baby, but also because I was right *smug face*). Welcome to the world, Benjamin.
Since then, the 8 weeks to this very day have been a whirlwind. A wonderful whirlwind, I should add.
Like me, as a new dad, if you are reading this, it is likely you are about to be – or already have been – thrown into the deep end of nappies, milk, wind, poo and lack of sleep.
Fear not, help is at hand. As a change from my usual travel or adventure blog posts, I thought I’d write some advice for first time dads, and draw on the lessons I’ve learned over the last 8 weeks.
In no particular order…
HELP EACH OTHER
If you are a single mum or dad, I take my hat off to you. For couples, this is all about time management. Before baby was born, dishes needed washing, clothes needed to be cleaned and dried and the carpets needed hoovering. Those things haven’t gone away. They still need doing. So the first lesson is help each other. If mum is feeding, you do the dishes, the washing or the hoovering. If mum and baby are napping, you make dinner. If mum is sleeping, you change the nappy and entertain baby so mum can get some rest. In the early weeks, helping each other is a form of survival!
Also try and get outside for an hour each day, either as a couple of individually. It will keep you sane, I promise. We’ve got a Springer, so once our baby had a feed in the morning, I would them put him into a sling or carrier, and take the dog for a walk with him strapped to me for an hour. Great for me, great for baby, great for the dog, and great for mum as she has an hour to herself.
LITTLE AILMENTS ARE NORMAL
You’ll find yourself fretting over the smallest of noises, and that is completely normal. In the first few weeks, baby is getting used to life outside of his or her cosy womb, and is building up their immune system. I was amazed how little spots would come and go in a day, and rashes would come and go in a few hours. Speak to your midwife if you’re worried of course, but more often than not you’ll be told the ailment is normal. Baby Ben had spots of blood is his nappy for the first week or so, and we were really worried, only to be told it was simply the hormones flying around mummy’s body, that made their way into Ben’s milk, through his system and into his nappy. So effectively he was having a little daily man period!
RIDE THE ROLLERCOASTER OF EMOTION
Carry on where you left off before birth. The first few weeks really are a rollercoaster of emotion, for everyone concerned. From the exhaustion of the birth through to the baby blues, mum is going to be all over the place, hormonally speaking in the first few weeks. Your job is to be there, support, reassure and feed her snacks.
CRYING IS NORMAL
Get used to the crying, and try and keep calm. Getting irate and irrational simply makes baby irate and irrational. Crying is usually a result of one (or a combo) of five things: hunger, being too hot, being too cold, wind, (or pain for some other reason), or nappy needs changing. Find the problem, sort it, and the crying should stop.
THROW ROUTINE OUT OF THE WINDOW
You might read books and articles that talk about starting a routine. My advice is don’t worry about a routine in the early stages. In the first few weeks, especially when you’re on paternity leave, follow babies lead. If he’s hungry, feed him. When he’s tired, he’ll sleep (and your should too!). Ignore the clock as time doesn’t matter. If baby sleeps between 3pm and 6pm, so should you. If baby is awake between 2am and 5am, it’s likely you will be too. And you know what? That’s absolutely fine and normal.
MAKE THE MOST OF PATERNITY LEAVE
It flies by. And mum needs as much help as possible in those first two weeks. And when you’re back at work, check in often. Video call at lunch, just to make sure mum knows you’re thinking of her.
DO NCT CLASSES
Okay, this is during maternity rather than after birth, but these classes and especially the support network have helped us both immensely. NCT classes take place once a week for seven or eight weeks, and costs around £250, but they are worth every penny. They prepare you for every element of the birth, and what to do and what to expect in the first few weeks after birth.
You’ll probably have friends and/or family that have had kids, and they are going to give important advice, but there is no substitute for chatting with other mums and dads who are going through exactly the same experiences as you, at exactly the same time. If mum is up breast feeding at 2am, it is more than likely another NCT mum is also breast feeding at 2am. That kind of support is priceless.
LEARN TO DO THINGS WITH ONE HAND
This relates to the first point above. If it’s your turn to look after baby, you’ll probably find yourself wandering around, doing household tasks with baby in one arm. That leaves one arm free. One hand to make a cup of tea. One hand to eat dinner. One hand to have a wee (not easy with button flies, believe me). You’ll quickly master the skill of opening a tin of dog food with one hand, if you have a pup. If you’re right handed, try the same things with your left hand. Pretty difficult, right?!
TIME TO YOURSELF
Get used to having very little time to yourself. If this was the norm before birth, you’re in for a shock. Unless mum and baby are both asleep, and you have no chores to do, you’ll have some time to yourself. But more often than not, there will be something to do. Mum to feed or help. Baby to change.
I’m incredibly lucky as I played golf a couple of times in the first 8 weeks, and escaped for 2 nights in the Lake District, but mum was exhausted and it quickly taught me not to be selfish with my time. Mum carried and grew baby for 9 months. Now it’s your turn to help.
MILK, MILK, MILK
If mum is planning to breast feed – and does so successfully – then you’re in luck, feeding time for baby is fairly straightforward. If not, you’ll enter the world of teets, expressing, formula and milk temperature. Learn about all of the above, and learn quickly!
Is there a new dad lesson I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!