You go to the hospital as a duo and come home a trio, what’s next? You could leave the baby in their crib until their 18, but that’s typically frowned upon.
It’s time for you to step up to the plate and be the dad you’ve always known you could be; that’s until it’s time to change a diaper at 3 am, or your baby wants to play “vomit on daddy’s new sweater.”
Every new dad has moments of fear and doubt in themselves and their abilities to raise a baby. No matter what anyone says, you can never truly prepare yourself for what’s to come. The main reason is that you never know what will happen.
When I had my first child, he cried and cried (and cried) all night every night, and it pushed us to the limit. The bottom line is, we didn’t expect that, but we survived, and it made us stronger.
If you recently found out you’re expecting a baby; first of all, congratulations. Second of all, there are a few mental preparations you’ll want to keep in mind.
Pee, Poop, and a Whole Lot More
The first time you change your baby’s diaper, you might experience something that most dads do. It’s called meconium, and it’s a unique stool that almost resembles tar or molasses. Understand that this is perfectly normal and expect it to happen within the first few hours of babies arrival into the world.
Beyond this, you’ll experience poops of all kinds of colors and shapes. There’s the good ole “up the back” poops as I’ve called them.
When your baby spends a lot of time on their back, and they have a loose stool (which they always do from formula or breastmilk) expect their poop to run up their entire back and soak everything in sight.
I suggest having a designated changing area or table in your home to keep everything contained in one area. If you have a boy, expect to become a diaper changing ninja unless you want to play squirt guns every day.
Crying is Normal (for your baby too)
All jokes aside, your baby will cry, and it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. They don’t have any communication skills, and crying is how they tell you they want something. Of course, some babies may test your patience, and that is also perfectly fine.
You have your own choices to make as to how you console your baby. Sometimes picking baby up and rocking them helps. Other times they would benefit from a light shushing sound.
The most important thing is that you never get upset with your baby for crying. We might think to ourselves “my gosh, why won’t he stop crying. I did everything, and he just won’t stop!”
In this scenario, it might be time to pass baby on to your partner. If you don’t have anyone around to help at that time, put your baby down in their crib, walk away for a minute, take a few shots, (I mean deep breaths) and go back.
Sleep is Critical
The best thing you can do for your baby is to establish a sleeping routine. When they make their appearance, they may not have a pattern, or it might be the opposite of what you want. You can change this around the third month and start working them into a pattern that coincides with your life.
Consider having a nightly ritual where you do the same thing at the same exact time every night. Babies and children love routines. Give baby a bath, follow it with some lotion, sing him a song, and play him the same lullaby every night. You want to try and put baby down while he or she is sleepy but still awake. This strategy will teach them to put themselves to bed.
There are few things cuter than a freshly bathed and perfectly swaddled baby. You’ll want to master this art because it provides your baby with a lot of comfort. The feeling of the tightness reminds them of the womb, which will come in handy when your baby gets fussy.
Many babies have a habit of scratching themselves when they sleep, and swaddling will also prevent that from happening.
Your Presence is Requested
The world we live in is so full of gender biases, and women are taught to take the primary role of caregiver in the household. Of course, if mom is breastfeeding, she will take the reigns, but you can still involve yourself as much as possible.
Many dads feel excluded or left out of the baby-raising process, but you don’t have to because you’re can get as involved as you want.
If possible, take time off work during the first few months, if you have paternity leave that’s even better. Make sure your baby knows during the critical first months of their life. Mom needs your help too.
You May Have to Cut Back
It might seem overwhelming when you have enough to do already, and now you’ve brought another life into the world that requires your constant attention. I want you to know that you can do it and it’s instinctual for you to do it. Even if you may feel at times that you’re not the best father or you are failing, you’re fine.
We have a lot more energy in our bodies than we think and when we need it most is when it comes to us. You might get tired, and you may even struggle to stay awake at your job or volunteer obligations, but you can manage all of these things.
If something becomes too overwhelming, try trimming back a little and doing less than you were before. Everyone will understand that you had a baby, and you need to take some time away. The most important thing is that you spend time with your family because they need you.
The bottom line is if you’re apart of a softball team, bowling league, fishing group, church volunteer, and juggling a full-time job with a newborn; you might have to pull out of some of those things to redirect your attention where it belongs.
Your Friends Will Wait
One of the most significant issues I see a lot of new dads have is they worry about their relationships with their friends. Dads always think that their friends will drop them if they can’t hang out as often or do some of the things they used to do.
You know what? Everything is temporary. When I had my first kid, I don’t think I saw my friends more than once a month for at least the first year, but it’s okay. They didn’t get mad at me; they didn’t feel neglected or forgotten; they understood. Your friends will understand too.
I know it’s cliche, but it’s the truth. If your friends can’t understand that you need to spend time with your family, they aren’t friends worth having. Some day they’ll be in the same situation as you.
Take Your Baby With You
I knew a guy that I used to work with who would never take his baby anywhere. If he had to take his wife to a doctor appointment, he would get a babysitter. When they went grocery shopping, he’d take the baby to a sitter.
It was insane.
Eventually, I finally asked him. “Dude, you know babies are mobile right?” They can go with you places. He was so afraid of taking the baby anywhere because he was afraid he would cry or fuss in public.
It’s okay during the first month or two to keep baby away from places like restaurants or parks, but after that, you can start taking them anywhere with you. I understand feeling nervous, especially if you have a fussy baby, but most of the time, people should be sympathetic, and you need to deploy a new mentally to the situation.
For example, I was always afraid of taking my son to church when he was a baby because I was worried he would cry. Every single time we took him, it was a problem. So eventually we stopped going because it was too stressful.
Instead, I should have simply understood the change in my life and stood in the back or stepped outside temporarily if I needed.
You don’t always need to stop doing things or going places when you have a baby; you need to change the way you go.
Don’t Sweat It
If you get one thing from this newborn survival guide for dads, it’s that you don’t have to worry so much. No one is perfect, and something you never want to do is compare yourself to others.
You might look on Facebook and see how your friends or family members look so put together with their newborn; meanwhile, you’re covered in vomit and mom is passed out on the couch with a bag of cheese doodles.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Your journey is your own so be proud of who you are. In the age of social media, it’s easy to think that no one else struggles and no one else has bad days.
Anyone who tells you that is lying.
We all have bad days, but in between those are many laughs, cuddles, coos, and milestones that make being a dad one of the greatest gifts in the world.