ABCs of Becoming a New Dad – ‘B’

This is the second in a series of posts on the ABCs for New Dad’s


Baby Blues –  occus roughly after the baby is born to two months afterwards.  For some women, feeling sad and down about no longer being pregnant is not an uncommon emotion. As her partner, you need to be keen on looking out for her mental health. As she navigates hormone and body changes  combined with lack of sleep, and her own stress of becoming a new mom, guess what, it should be no surprise that this affects her mood! Where you have to be concerned is when the baby blues develop into a more serious postpartum depression. If your partner has history our family with a history of depression, its important that you be her advocate and seek out professional help from either her OB doc or mental health counselor at the hospital. (See postpartum depression)
Baby Burrito - Yes, this is a thing! And NO, we're not talking about food! Others know this type of wrapping baby as swaddling. Make a triangle from the blanket. Place the baby just slightly left of center with the long side of the blanket about shoulder height, and the baby's head off from the blanket. Fold the left side over and around the baby. Fold the bottom of the blanket up and over the left side. Tuck in that bottom part under the baby's chin. Lastly, fold over the right side across the baby and tuck it in! The best baby burritos are rolled tight! When you're at the hospital when baby arrives, take home one of those baby blankets as they're great for wrapping up that bundle of joy. When your baby was developing in the womb, he had tight quarters, so it's no surprise that babies just love being tightly wrapped, swaddled like a burrito in that baby blanket.  If your newborn is having trouble sleeping for naps or at night, it could be that they're wanting to be swaddled.
Back Up the back ups  - Let this be a cautionary tale for you to have redundant back up for archiving all those precious photos and videos you'll be taking of this special time in your lives. When my daughter was born, like all new proud dads, I took tons of pictures and stored them on my computer. A few months later, we had a horrible storm and power surge. While I thought I had adequate power surge protection, my computer wouldn't ever turn back on and access to my backup device was also lost! My wife and I were crushed! Even though 'saving to the cloud' is more common than ever, don't let all those pictures stay digital. Create a physical album or downloadable video montage in addition to saving to a DVD or other back up device as well.
Balance - You will have to find a new equilibrium with work and your new family life. As many new dads are the bread-winners of the family, it is not uncommon for dads to take one to two weeks off for paternal leave. Seek out your company's HR policy on this. Get familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) wherein you as a new dad are protected from losing your job when you take time off to care for your partner and newborn. FMLA does not mean that your company has to pay you for your time off, but rather you cannot lose your job for taking that time off. Many new dads use their Paid Time Off (PTO) vacation benefits for their paternal leave. Like many new dads, this is one of the first topics as a father-to-be that you may have begun to think about, and I would encourage you to take as much time as you can to be with your wife and newborn.
When my son arrived, I had just started a new job. I had previously been working as a consultant helping healthcare organizations with their Electronic Medical Records. I was living out of a suitcase traveling on Sundays to my client and returning home on Thursday evenings. Though I was paid handsomly for my work, I paid the price in not physically being home for my wife and daughter. When I decided to enter the consulting world, my daughter was 6 years old and I was leaving home for the majority of the week. I was chasing career and financial aspirations of becoming a free agent with my knowledge and skills. Leaving every Sunday evening was horrible. I hated how sad my daughter was and I felt incredibly guilty for leaving. Even though we face-timed every night, I noticed a little more sass and attitude. She had homework and piano that I tried to help out with over the phone, but it wasn't the same as physically being there. No longer was I there to tuck her in at night during the week or take her to school. As difficult as this was with my wife and daughter, it became even more magnified when we found out baby #2 was on the way. I knew that while we sacrificed family time for my road warrior consulting work, it would not be fair or workout with baby on the way, let alone when the baby arrived!
I was out of balance with work and home life as a Dad. Needless to say, while I enjoyed my work, I initially had a  difficult time letting go of my jet-setting lifestyle and compensation.
Once baby arrives, you will be continually trying to learn and adjust to your new routines of taking care of baby. One of the most common issues and problems new parents face is the lack of sleep. In the first weeks caring for your newborn, the best advice is to sleep and nap when baby naps! You will have to not only reframe your expectations of work-life balance, but also in the balance of your health and sleep routines!
Bond with your partner! This may seem like a no-brainer, however staying on the same page as your wife will become more and more challenging especially after baby arrives. Many couples opt to take a 'Baby-moon'... a last vacation with just the two of you before the baby arrives. I get it, with baby on the way, some of you are looking at the numbers and may be scared of the finances of raising a kid! If you have the means, I highly recommend doing this, even if it’s a stay-cation, couples massage or a nice date-night out.
    For those of you who already do have baby here, bonding with your spouse is even more important and challenging. While you may not be able to have a nanny who helps care for your kid so you and your spouse can get away for a weekend, let alone even for a day, you should be able to find someone you trust to take care of baby for a few hours so you and your partner can have some alone time together!
    Keeping the romance alive is possible and necessary when you have kids! You and your spouse need to connect and grow your love; something that is difficult when you have a screaming, crying baby vying for you or your wife’s attention. When I was away all day at work, I wanted to just crash on the couch when I got home. My wife on the other hand, was also yearning for me to get home... to take over baby care. Either way, getting time away for yourself can be difficult, let alone time with just you and your spouse! It takes work, but it can be done!
A few tips to keep the romance alive:
  • - Save and favorite online apps for ordering and delivering dinner so you and your wife don’t have to cook.
  • - Text her throughout the day to ask how she’s doing, better yet, give her a call! Open communication is important!
  • - Go old school and leave her a handwritten love note!
  • - Kiss her and tell her you love her... often!
  • - Feet &/or back rubs! She’ll be more open to romance when she’s relaxed!
  •     - A glass of wine might help in this regard, however your wife may forego that if she’s breastfeeding.
  • - Give her flowers
  • - Book an overnight ‘staycation’ at a local hotel or spa getaway for just the two of you without baby! Again, enlist the parents / in-laws / other family or friends to help watch the kiddo(s).

My wife certainly let me know that focusing her attention on me and my needs was near impossible when she as a new mom was purely focused on the needs of our first-born daughter. Addressing her concerns of a messy the house, feeding hungry tummys, dirty laundry and she was more-likely to be able to be open for romance. The gauntlet is laid out, and your challenge is to continue to communicate and work on romancing your love.

Bond with your baby!  While this is another one that seems to be a no-brainer, many new dads feel apprehensive on how to do this! In becoming a Dad, this is by far, one of the most gratifying and favorite things in the world & I could talk for hours here about this. First let me say that there are no rules to this! Sing. Talk. Cuddle. Make faces. One of the best ways to bond is skin to skin - let baby fall asleep on your bare chest! Babies are generally more receptive to higher pitched sounds, so go ahead and talk in a higher pitched falsetto voice. As you find your little one's few waking hours, Smile and mirror their facial expressions. Focus on creating a connection with your child. After a few weeks doing this with my son, I was rewarded with the most precious smiles and baby coos as he began to recognize my face and voice.
    As my son has continued to grow from being a newborn to an infant and now as a baby sitting up and starting to crawl, we continue to share this connection. One of my most favorite things to do with him is to change his diaper! LOL, and no, its not because I like cleaning up stinky poop...(which btw is way more gross now that he is starting to eat solids).. This is one of my favorite times because as he is becoming more mobile, it is a challenge to get him to stay still! You're probably thinking... How is this a bonding moment Steve? Well one of the ways we get ready to change his diaper, is that I start singing to him...
'It's tiiiiime toooo change your di-aahhh-puuuuurrrr... ohhh Yaaaaa...'
'It's tiiiiime toooo change your di-aahhh-puuuuurrrr... ohhh Yaaaaa...'
The words don't really matter here, and often change... so too does the melody of what I'm singing to him, however the point is that I'm singing to him and gathering his attention. As I'm singing to him, I'm literally putting my face within inches of his and taking his hand and placing it on my face. I love raising my eyebrows and seeing him smile. Recently as I continued to sing to him, he too has found his voice and began to talk and sing along... albeit more like yell along. I'm surprised that he has found the ability to call out and sing with different tones. The change in tonality in your own voice and in your face is what captures him so he doesn't start to move and crawl when you're trying to change that diaper!
When I'm not in a singing mood, I give him a toy or cover his face with his pants to play peek a boo. He loves it and it makes it so much easier and fun to change him since he stays put thinking its all fun and games.
Bottle or Breast feeding? You may have heard the saying that "Breast is Best" which is true with regards to inherited immunity from the mother to the baby through breast milk! While baby does get added protection in building up his or her immune system with help from mom through breast milk, don't let that stop you from jumping right in to feed baby! I encourage you to support your wife in pumping and storing that liquid gold! Breast milk can be stored in the freezer and then thawed once... no re-freezing and re-heating! You should feel empowered to bottle feed baby... especially in the middle of the night as you can expect baby's feeding cycle to be every 2-3 hours in the beginning.

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Let me know what you guys think! Is there another 'B' attribute for a new dad that you would like to add? Please leave a comment below!
Steve Justo, RN MSN