Survival guide for the dad of a newborn
Dad, your baby has finally arrived. Congratulations! Surely by this time, Mom has read several books on pregnancy, caring for a newborn, and how to look like a rock star post-baby bump. What have you read? If you’re like most guys, you probably haven’t read much of anything and you’re hoping your “instincts” suddenly take off. I’ve come up with five simple strategies for how to survive the newborn period as a dad.
- Sleep all you can, whenever you can. Being the parent of a newborn is one of the most tiresome experiences you can imagine. I’ve been up for 30+ hours while on call in residency without having a newborn, taken a nap for 6 hours, and felt totally fine the next day. Unfortunately, there are no “post-call” days in parenting. Even if you’ve dealt with incessant crying all night, you will still have to get up and go to work the next day. If the baby is nursing (and mother is pumping) or taking formula from a bottle, offer to give a feeding in a bottle during the middle of the night to help out Mom. Try to take short naps at the same time as the baby. Ask for help if you need it. Enlist family members who are offering to give you a break.
- Be involved and stay hands-on. Some men let the time just pass by and wait for the baby to start interacting with them. By the time the cooing and laughing out loud come, mother and baby have surely made a bond and dad can certainly feel left out. Read and sing to your baby. Be a part of a bedtime routine, participate in bathing and feeding/burping, and go to the well baby check-ups. I love seeing a dad go out of his way to invest in his child’s health. In order to make the transition to fatherhood more smooth, take advantage of any paternity leave (or FMLA) you are entitled.
- Help out where you can. Voluntarily change a diaper. It isn’t rocket science, and there is nothing more helpful to a mom! Newborns can soil a diaper every 1 to 2 hours. Get used to hauling the (soon to be often) stinky mess from the diaper pail to the trash toter. You are on diaper duty for at least the next two years. If mom is unsuccessful at calming the crying baby, give it a try. Dads are usually very good at providing a comforting presence for newborns. Help prepare the meals.
- Invest in your partner. From day one, nearly 100 percent of the focus is on the baby. Sometimes, strain can develop on the relationship between mom and dad. Take time to reconnect, even if it means sitting on the couch in the living room after the baby has fallen asleep. Disconnect from social media after a certain time each night. Be patient and positive. If you are trying to be supportive, your partner will realize you are the real deal—not just a man, but a DAD.
- Enjoy the ride. Before you know it, your baby will no longer need you to be rocked to sleep or fed or changed. Developmental milestones will come and go quickly before your eyes. So take photos and video! Savor the present time so you’ll have fond memories for the future. Oh yeah, sleep…seriously. Go take a nap right now.