I’m writing a guide for guys who are about to become Dads for the first time over four posts. The topics covered will be Pregnancy, The Birth, I’ve Got A Baby and Toddling. This is part three.

Disclaimer: This is aimed at Dads. It’s not meant to be flippant, condescending or demeaning. It is what it is. One Dad documenting and sharing what he has observed and learned. I would be interested, however, in hearing Mum’s views on these posts.

Here, then, is the

Looking for the Postman Guide to Impending First Time Dadhood
[Part 3] : I’ve Got A Baby

Congratulations! You’ve now got a baby. All has gone well and now it is time to leave the hospital. If this is your first child, a thought will cross your mind when the nurse tells you it’s okay to go home. “Are you sure?”, you think. “Aren’t you all going to come back with me?”

BabyLeaving the maternity ward with your baby in a car seat, or held in your arms, is a huge leap in becoming a Dad. It is the removal of the safety net. Your training wheels have been removed and it is now up to you to avoid swerving into oncoming traffic.

The reality isn’t anywhere as dramatic, of course. What you are really heading for is a total upset to your previous way of life. You are now a slave to the demands of your new arrival. You will sleep, eat and relax only if your little one permits. Even if they are sleeping and peaceful, you probably won’t sleep. You’ll be using that time to sterilise bottles, wash clothes and bedding and then all your regular household chores. And yet it is all somehow worth it.

garish pink frilly kitten vest

You’re going to need to have your house permanently tidy, too. The number of visitors to your place will triple, and none of them are interested in you. They want to see your baby and deliver their presents. Presents are mostly good but occasionally horrendous. You will get baby-grows that you wouldn’t have ever, ever chosen. Tip: If Auntie buys you a garish pink frilly kitten vest for your baby, you have to make sure they are wearing it the next time she comes over.

Safe and happy

So how to keep this baby safe and happy? Well, it’s not tremendously difficult to work out what is wrong. Newborn babies needs are very simple. They’re most likely hungry, tired or have digestive issues.

Hungry

So, babies only drink milk. This milk will either be from the mother (drunk direct from the tap or expressed for later use) or formula. I’m not going to get into the argument of which is best but I do know that there is a lot of guilt involved with this decision.

When Jenny was born, Emma fed her herself. In order to allow me to feed during the night, Emma expressed the milk with the aid of a breast pump and kept it in the fridge. Now, I know that this is all a ‘beautiful experience’ but breast pumps are not a thing of wonder. They turn your other half into the equivalent of a cow hooked up to a milking maching. Their sucking, slurping sounds still haunt me to this day. (Fact – when a breast-feeding baby’s mother hears crying, she starts to lactate. These also works if you do fake baby crying yourself. Try it!)

After a month, Emma had developed a massive abscess in a milk duct which resulted in her being hospitalised. This ruled out further breast feeding which caused Emma a load of anguish. We turned to formula.

Eve had to be a formula baby from birth. When she was born, we were provided with the tiniest bottles for her. She was a tiny 5lb 5oz and had no fat on her. A long bony creature. She had problems eating and was put into a specialist ward for a while because she was losing what little weight she had. Luckily, within a day or two, she’d changed her mind and decided to eat up.

Feeding your baby is a wonderful way to bond with them. It’s also wonderful if you’re looking for ways to get covered in sick.

Tired

baby3-03A baby will cry when it’s tired. I always found this to be a major flaw in human design. A creature is tired but will make so much noise that it can’t sleep. Fool!

There’s a little more to it than that. We all get grumpy when we’re tired. A weird baby quirk is that they will find it somewhat easier to get to sleep if they are not lying still. A rocking motion will send that critter off to sleep in no time. Seriously, rocking a baby off to sleep in your arms is one of the best parenting moments you’ll have.

Top tip for tired babies – cars. Driving around with your baby in the car will send it off to sleep every time. This can be heaven, but it can also be a nightmare. You’re driving home with the wee one and looking forward to some peace while they have a nap when they get home. But NO! They’ve fallen asleep in the car. DON’T FALL ASLEEP IN THE CAR! But it’s too late. You’re robbed of your chill out time and even sometimes have to sit outside your house in the car, or drive around in circles, so you don’t wake up baby. They’re in charge.

Digestive Issues

Here’s a fact for Dads-to-Be – babies find it difficult to burp without your help. It’s true.

All that slurping when drinking milk draws in lots of air to their wee tummy. So much so that you get special teats that claim to reduce air-flow. All that air needs to come out and it’s your job to burp or wind them. This involves you lifting the wee one to your shoulder and patting or rubbing their back.

At first, you may take a while to find the right burping method. You’ll suffer frustration as the burp doesn’t come and the baby will begin to feel like a bloated balloon ready to pop. The back of your shoulder will attract milky dribbles and puke . Hint – put a towel over your shoulder before you burp!

At some point, your baby will let rip. This tiny bundle will deliver a thunderous burp of such magnitude that you’ll momentarily believe you’ve just winded Brian Blessed. You’ll master your winding method in time and, once perfected, you’ll have that baby burping the theme tune to Balamory.

A Million Things

So, once you’ve got feeding, tiredness and burping out the way, you’re sorted? No chance. There’s still another million or so things to concern yourself with. Like…..

BabyBaby temperature

Is the baby too cold? We have a collection of a dozen blankets from relatives. Shall we just put them all on? The answer is a clear no. The rule as explained to us was that you give the baby the same amount of layers that your are wearing, plus one. Easy enough?

Cleaning and wiping

I’ve been a boy my whole life. My first kid, Jack, was a boy. I was 39 before I had to change a baby girl’s nappy and I couldn’t help but notice that the stuff in the nappy was not the same set up as the boy area. What do I wipe? What don’t I wipe? A midwife gave me a pointer. She said just wipe what there is. Don’t go looking for stuff. So I did. Sorted!

Leaving them unattended

You’re going to feel bad about walking out the room when they’re newborns. It’s okay to do that if they’re asleep, safe in bed and there’s a baby monitor for peace of mind. (Bear in mind that tens of thousands of generations before ours managed without baby monitors.) Beyond that, I think you’re wise to exercise a bit of caution. My son’s gran left him unattended in a pram while she nipped away for a cigarette. Jack flipped himself forward and was apparently left swinging upside down by his safety straps out the front of the pram. Luckily, a neighbour spotted him. I was at work and was horrified when I found out. Still, that’s what safety straps are for.

Moving on to solid foods

We tried Jenny and Eve with solid foods when they were just over five months. Baby rice and tasteless gunk is the order of the day. Honestly, I’d prefer the formula milk myself, but apparently it’s pasted porridge and smushed carrots on the menu. At least it makes their sick a different colour.

Being babysat

baby3-04And there will come a time when you and your other half will beg, borrow or steal a baby-sitter and be able to go out together sans infant. This is important to get this out of the way because this night out will probably not be that good. If there isn’t worry about how they’re doing, then there will be constant staring at the phone, thinking the worst. Do it, get it out the way, then make plans to do it again with a little more confidence. I recommend going out without kids around five or six nights a week. I recommend it often here, but I’m never listened to so I can recommend what I like.

So there you go. You’re a proper Dad and Mum. You’ve got the baby there and everything. Enjoy your baby’s first gurgles, giggles, moments of recognition, wind-breaking, finger-grabbing and face pulling. It’s seriously one of the best things that can happen to anyone. Take a million pictures a day, read to them even though they don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, sing to them, pull faces, do silly voices, dress them up funny and hold them until they sleep.

These are great days. I hope you enjoy being a parent as much as I do.

Next time : Toddling.