How To Cope With Your Brand New Baby!
So the baby is here / nearly here. What do you do?
Before I start this article, I want to tell you that I'm not professing to be an expert on parenthood. I am not here to preach about the rights and wrongs. I'm just a man, who became a dad and as I'm writing this, have got through the first few months of my little darling's life. I thought I'd share the tips that I have learned along the way, to help out any other new dads who don't know what to expect. I hope you find them useful!
The big day itself and immediate aftermath..
I have written another article about what happens at the hospital when the baby is arriving, so if yours hasn't emerged yet then please feel free to read that one.
Anyway this is what happened for us and how we coped.
We got home with our baby after a few days of stress and general worry in the hospital. I'm sure there are labours that are problem free with babies that come flying out, but unfortunately ours wasn't one of them. My wife went into labour at 5am, after I'd had a late night and gone to bed at 3am. Obviously the baby had decided that it would be best if daddy was tired for the big day and that is something that she to this day (5 months in) still thinks is extremely important to maintain.
Anyway I wont go into the medical side of things in the hospital, but I will say that as a man it is extremely stressful when your wife is going through the whole experience. Obviously she's the one doing the hard work, but at least she has something to focus on, as a man all you do is hang around like a spare part, completely powerless, other than just pacing around the room and hoping for the best.
After many hours of stress we finally had our new little tiddler. After the inevitable tears, kisses, cuddles etc etc at some point I was I was told that my wife would be in hospital for a few days. If this happens to you then you're going to want to be with her in the day. At night however you could sleep uncomfortably in a chair by the side of the bed, but there really is no benefit to doing that other than making certain that you're a grumpy ill mess. So I did the next best thing.
Fancy a drink guys?
Blow off some steam / celebrate
After the extreme stress of the hospital experience, when I thought that either my wife or baby would die, then I felt like a pressure cooker. Everything was fine in the end, but it was certainly stressful. The next day I met some friends and we demolished a lot of whisky and blew off some steam. I would definitely recommend doing something similar as you need to release all of the pent up emotion from the whole experience. I ended up crying my eyes out and getting very, very drunk. If you do the same just make sure that you are at least capable of looking after your wife and baby the following day as otherwise it wont go down too well...
Ready to go home
Prepare for bringing the baby back home
Obviously you need to make sure you've got your baby seat sorted and fitted in the car. Make sure you know how to get the seat out of the car. I spent about 15 minutes in the hospital car park swearing with frustration as I fiddled with the seat as I had fitted it with no problems, but hadn't practiced taking the thing out and of course they are designed to not come out unless you know how to do it. That's tip number one!
Of course your wife is going to feel beaten up and dirty as hospitals are generally not very nice places and she's just been through a bit of an ordeal, so make sure you've got some good food in so you can run about looking after her and the baby. My friends grandfather didn't know how to cook so when his wife got back from hospital after they'd had their baby (my friends uncle), then he ended up taking a camping stove upstairs so she could cook him his meals while being in bed. Although that is a funny story, I don't think it would go down too well in most houses to be fair, so you're better off just doing it yourself.
Baby bedside sleeper / crib
Baby needs to sleep somewhere
We bought a Snuzpod for our little tiddler. This thing is great as the side of it comes down and you then place it right next to the bed so it's almost like a little bed extension. The mattress is the same height as the mattress on your bed. The baby can sleep in there and if it needs comforting in the night your wife can feed it or stroke it or whatever without needing to get out of bed.
You can easily slide the baby in and out of the thing, so I highly recommend a co sleeper. At about 6 months then they're too big for them so you'll need something for after that, but it will get you through the first few months. You can't get the snuzpod in the US (I'm in the UK), but the one linked is the American equivalent.
Get used to this
Sleep? Yeah right!
The hardest part of being a new dad (or mum) is that your baby has no idea what day and night is and frankly doesn't care. They get hungry every couple of hours, wake up and scream their heads off, day or night. The first couple of weeks of this didn't bother me too much. The baby was such a novelty that we jumped out of bed and changed her nappy or fed her and didn't care. After a few weeks though, it starts to really get you down. To make things easier, I highly recommend doing the following:
Get into a bedtime routine and enforce bedtime
For the first four weeks we didn't really have a routine. Then we started a strict 7pm bedtime and our lives immediately improved. Nowadays she will cry for a minute or two when we put her down at 7, but then she passes out and sleeps, leaving us to have a bit of time to ourselves. It took us a few nights to get her used to this, but she is a good girl now and apart from her initial protests, she then gives up complaining and goes to sleep. We are strict with this when we're at home, but we do occasionally have her up a bit later when we're out of the house. After all you do need a life, so it's not etched in stone, but nearly every night, she's down at 7 and asleep soon after. She is now at the stage where she sleeps through til about midnight, has a feed, then sleeps through til about 5am (if we're lucky). After that she has a bit more sleep, then you have to get up whether you want to or not at about 8am as she's up and wants to get started on the day!
I know of parents that never bothered with a routine, but their kids now stay up til whenever they like and I think you have to be strict with kids and not allow this. After all, you're the boss!
Don't change nappies / diapers more than necessary
This one made a big difference too. We used to change her nappy all the time and a lot of the time she didn't really need it. This did wake her up though and then made it a lot harder for her to get back to sleep. Nowadays we change her nappy just before bed, then we change it for her midnight feed and then leave it til morning. The result is a much more settled baby. Nappies are very absorbent so if your little one needs to empty his or her bladder in the night a couple of times, it'll all be absorbed.
Prepare all of the bottles before bed
If your wife is breastfeeding and expressing with a machine, then this isn't too tough as she'll probably have a couple of bottle to put in the fridge overnight. In our case, my wife did breastfeed, but at first she didn't have much milk coming through and our baby wasn't getting enough, so we were advised by the doctor to give her a little formula as a top up. We carried on with this, most of her milk has been breastmilk, but sometimes we did make a bit of formula (especially when out as it's not always possible to breastfeed everywhere) and it made life a lot easier and made sure that she always gets enough.
The only thing you'll definitely want to do is to make sure all of your bottles are sterilised before bed so in the middle of the night if you do need to get up (and you will), then you have a minimum of fumbling. Some people also make the milk up beforehand and put it in the fridge. This can then be warmed up with 20 seconds in the microwave. This is generally not recommended as you can serve the baby boiling milk if you overdo it, but the simple solution to this problem is to not overdo it, swirl it after every few seconds in there and always check it before serving it up and you'll be fine.
Anti colic bottles are essential for stopping trapped wind
Buy some anti wind bottles to stop colic
These are essential in my opinion. Our little one got trapped wind all the time and would scream her little lungs out with the first bottles we tried, whether drinking breastmilk or formula. Once we got these bottles, then she was much better and now after a little burp, she settles down again.
They have a straw in the bottle which goes all the way down to the end so that as the baby drinks the liquid flows smoothly out of the bottle, rather than bubbling up. If you've ever chugged a beer with a straw in the bottle then you'll get the rough idea.
Electric breastpumps are essential
Get an electric breastpump
If your wife is breastfeeding then you're going to need one of these. Don't waste your time and money with the handpumps, they're not very good. We did and ended up getting rid of it and buying an electric pump.
Electric pumps are far more efficient and apparently less painful, so they're all round better, although they're more expensive. But you knew having a baby was going to be expensive, so you can't really complain..
Have a night off once a week
This is something that helped us. Once a week one of us sleeps in the spare room and the other one looks after the baby all night. I'm usually at work in the week, so I tend to do it at weekends. If you don't do this then after a few weeks/months you'll want to kill yourself as the tiredness really gets to you so even if your wife doesn't want to do it (mine didn't as she didn't want to be apart from the baby) then just insist. She'll thank you for it the next day.
Remember to have fun!
It's much more tiring and stressful than you think when you have a baby. We read all the guides, but still didn't realise how hard it would be. Try your best to cuddle your wife and baby and try not to argue too much. Arguments are easy as you're both stressed and tired all the time, but try your best to not go to bed on an argument and to make sure you make time each day to have a kiss and cuddle. This was a good piece of advice given to us by the midwife. Lots of people forget about each other because they're focussing so much on the baby.
I hope this guide has been of some use to someone out there. I learned the hard way about these things, if any of these tips help anyone then it was the time out writing the article!
If you have any comments or tips for raising a new baby, then please add them below.
Thanks for reading.