Is a push gift necessary? How should the baby be held? How is it possible to decipher the baby's cries to determine if he's hungry or tired? So many questions and not enough answers, especially from the media around us. Even well-meaning family members and friends don’t always have the best advice when news of a pregnancy makes its rounds. Then quick as lightning, the baby is already ready to come and first-time dads find themselves thrown into fatherhood when they weren’t quite ready yet.
Technically, they would have had nine months to prepare and gather their thoughts. But there is something to be said about the experience of pregnancy not quite being the same for a man as it is for the woman carrying the child. It’s common knowledge that whereas a woman feels an instant bond as a result of having all that time to feel the baby, dads just don’t quite connect the same way just yet. Most don’t even connect until well after six months following the baby’s birth!
It’s totally normal but there are certainly quite a few things that Dad-to-be’s need to make sure to know about by the time the baby makes his or her arrival into the world.
21 Forget What You Think You Know
While a silent birth like the one in A Quiet Place is theoretically possible and there have been some women throughout history who have claimed to have had one, the reality is starkly different for 99.99% of women who go into labor.
Nevertheless, Hollywood is still no point of reference whatsoever for what labor and delivery is actually going to be like. In the media, giving birth is portrayed as very fast, fast fast.
One moment, there's water gushing everywhere and the next, the woman is already 10cm dilated and ready to push.
But as Babycenter points out, the true signs of labor aren't always all that obvious. Timing contractions is one of the best ways of knowing: "If she's having regular painful contractions lasting 30 seconds or more, she's probably in early labor."
Even once you finally arrive at the hospital, the whole process can still take a long while!
20 Expect The Unexpected
Trying to predict the way labor and delivery is going to go is the same as trying to predict the winning numbers of the next lottery draw. While it's certainly possible to have it go exactly as planned, the likelihood it won't is just way too high.
As a result, dad-to-be's need to be prepared for the plan not exactly going as... planned. In fact, it may go in the complete opposite direction, leaving the laboring women in quite a surprised state afterwards.
But as she's drafting her plan, the best course of action isn't to remind her that her wishes may not get fulfilled. Instead, just focus on being prepared for the moment labor happens and makes a complete 180 from the plan.
19 Never Delay Anything Anymore
Speaking of the best course of action, there's another major thing all dads need to know by the time the baby comes: from now on, there can't be any delaying!
If she asks you to set up the nursery this weekend. Guess when you're doing it?
If she asks you to re-arrange everything in the nursery a week later. Guess what you're going to be doing?
Especially if she's in full nesting mode, the best thing is to just to comply. Even better, instead of doing it this weekend, get started on the task right away. That will really score brownie points with the missus!
But the fact of the matter is that this logic applies to everything from here on out. Even once the baby is born and isn't quite a baby anymore at four years old, delaying has no place in fatherhood.
18 Keep Mum
First of all, no, the pain men experience when they receive a foot to the you-know-where region is nothing compared to labor and the actual act of giving birth. Let’s not forget that what a man might experience is momentary, whereas a woman can be in labor for days. That’s feeling pain pretty much non-stop and don’t even get me started on Pitocin.
With that being said, there’s a good chance that she might reconsider on whatever plan she had made before. Maybe she had vowed to go all-natural, only to scream for the epidural an hour later. In labor, anything goes and she’s the one who decides. Under no circumstance should you ask, “Are you sure, honey? Maybe you should hold out longer…”
Unless she specifically told you to keep convincing her otherwise but the point is that as soon as labor starts, you need to morph into being a Yes Man… pretty much forever.
17 Get Ready To Jump Right In
So she has labored on and finally got the baby out. No matter how the baby made it out, whether “naturally” ,if you want to call it that, or through a C-section, it happens that Mom isn’t able to do skin-to-skin immediately after the birth. Skin-to-skin is when the baby is placed on the parent’s bare chest. So don’t be surprised if you’re asked to discard your shirt and step in!
In fact, even if Mom is the first to do the skin-to-skin, Dad should still do it anyways soon after the birth. As BellyBelly.com.au explains, “Dr. Nils Bergman recently presented research that shows just 30 minutes of skin to skin with dad actually rewires dad’s brain.”
16 Mind Your Back
Two babies later, there’s one major takeaway that my hubby likes to remind any other Dad-to-be he encounters:
“With my first baby, I realized at one point that my back was really starting to hurt from the way I was holding her. Then it dawned on me that I was really arching my back because I was worried about hurting her on accident. But the baby isn’t made of glass. You don’t need to hold them so gently. Nothing is going to happen and they’re way more resilient than we think.”
So straighten those backs, gentlemen, and don’t forget to support the baby’s head!
15 The First One Is Different
Given that Mom would have just gone through the huge ordeal of giving birth, the first diaper change really does need to rest on the Dad. However, dads need to keep in mind that the very first diaper change is going to be unlike subsequent ones.
“Baby's first BM is viscous and sticky” explains Parents.com.
On the bright side, it’s also odorless as there is nothing yet to actually make stinky. Do be prepared to use many wipes, however, as it can be difficult to get off... not that I would actually know but my hubby could tell you all about it!
14 You Are Not The Replacement Parent
Fathers need to be just as involved as Mom. Don’t think that just because you changed the first diaper and you were there for the birth, that you’re then going to get all your ZZZs once you're home.
The Bump sums this one up the best saying, "You’re a full, equal partner in turning a small, fragile [ball] of fluid and bones into a loving, decent, healthy citizen of the Universe. Never let the fact that other people aren't sure what to do with a man between conception and Little League fool you into thinking that you're anything less than critical to every step of the process. Be informed, [...] involved and as in love as you're capable of letting yourself be."
13 Get Ready For The First Shift
Not only are you not a replacement parent but you should really prepare yourself to jump right into taking care of the newborn.
Don’t ask if you should take the first shift or if you should change the diaper, just get up and do it.
Remember what we said about delaying?
If Mom is breastfeeding, then there is room to potentially catch up on a few ZZZs but you might want to get that diaper changed and then bring the baby to Mom regardless. Eventually, it would also be a good idea to encourage her to pump to allow you to a few feedings while she rests up.
12 A 1 in 7 Rate
As much as having a baby is supposed to be a happy and joyous experience, sometimes, women end up feeling just a little too sad afterwards. It’s totally normal and as the PostpartumDepression.org points out, “Approximately 70 to 80 percent of women will experience, at a minimum, the ‘baby blues’” and “One recent study found that 1 in 7 women may experience PPD in the year after giving birth.”
It happens and it’s OK but it’s important to learn to recognize the signs and potentially encourage her to consult a doctor.
Although less talked about, PPD can also affect men. In fact, “a report in the Journal of the [AMA] found that 10 percent of men worldwide showed signs of depression from the first trimester of their wife's pregnancy through six months after the child was born,” according to Parents.com!
11 Feeling Nothing? Don’t Feel Bad
Full disclosure, my hubby didn’t feel a bond to our first baby at least until six months later. Yes, he did everything from the diaper changes all the way to waking up at night. He held her as she napped and he played PlayStation, he rocked her when she was inconsolable, he went to all the doctor’s appointments… but it wasn’t until the first moment she truly laughed that he felt a bond.
As Jerrold Shapiro, professor of counseling psychology at Santa Clara University told ABC News that, “for the first period of life, and perhaps longer, basically the father is an outsider. The primary bond is between the mother and the infant; the father is there to protect that bond."
Sometimes, it can take even longer than six months and the important thing is to just keep going. There's nothing to feel guilty about and the special connection will eventually come.
10 Deciphering The Different Cries
If there’s anything you should take away from this guide is this point. When you’re a first-time parent with no prior baby experience, then you are literally thrown off the deep end once the baby actually comes. The first day is usually the most blissful but after the second and the third, that’s when everything gets real.
When babies cry, it can be really hard to know what they need in the beginning. But as Priscilla Dunstan explained to Oprah, if you hear your baby making the following sounds, then this is what they want:
- ‘NEH’: I’m hungry;
- ‘EH’: Burp me;
- ‘OWH’: I’m sleepy;
- ‘HEH’: I’m uncomfortable;
- ‘EAIR’: I have lower gas.
And trust me, these 100% WORK!
9 Times Have Changed
It’s hard not to listen to our parents’, in-law’s, friends… or anyone else’s advice but there’s one piece of advice that you should definitely not give into. Although our parents may have done it with us, the cry it out method is no longer acceptable whatsoever. It’s especially detrimental to newborns!
As Psychology Today explains, “Self-regulation is undermined. The baby is absolutely dependent on caregivers for learning how to self-regulate. Responsive care---meeting the baby's needs before he gets distressed---tunes the body and brain up for calmness. When a baby gets scared and a parent holds and comforts him, the baby builds expectations for soothing, which get integrated into the ability to self-comfort. Babies don't self-comfort in isolation. If they are left to cry alone, they learn to shut down in face of extensive distress--stop growing, stop feeling, stop trusting.”
In other words, never try to tell the sleep-deprived mom, “Honey, maybe my mom is right and we should give it a try…”
8 Babies Leap A Lot, So Get The App
Up there with learning to differentiate the different baby cries, it’s also highly important for dads to know about The Wonder Weeks. As nutty as it might sound, it is actually possible to predict when the baby might get a little fussier. Their own site summarizes this concept the best,
“All babies go through the same changes in the mental development at the same time. This is called a mental leap. With each leap, your baby is given the possibility to learn new things.”
All you need to get the app, input the original due date and from there, you will get a really good idea of how long to expect baby to wake up every hour during the night and when you might get a little more sleep. It costs a few dollars but it's 100% worth it.
7 ‘Maybe We Could Just Try Formula’… NO!
The choice to breastfeed should lie largely within the mom. Not every woman chooses to nurse from the starts and although many experience no difficulties at all getting into the swing of things, many more face challenges from the start.
No matter the scenario though, Dads need to remember that it’s not up to him to decide whether she should breastfeed or not. With that in mind, he shouldn’t ever chime in with, “Maybe we should try formula,” as Mom cries her eyes out because she’s so tired and breastfeeding is hard.
In most cases, formula is not the solution as supplementing actually makes it harder for Mom to increase her milk supply. At the end of the day, the decision or not to breastfeed really needs to rest on Mom (potentially in conjunction with the pediatrician’s expert advice.)
In many cases, Dads should also be vigilant for a tongue tie. If Mom is experiencing difficulties, look up what a tongue tie looks like and see if your baby has one.
6 ‘I’ll Be Right Back, Honey’
After a woman goes through the ordeal of giving birth (no matter the method), she’s going to need to rest up. That’s understandably difficult to do while taking care of a newborn but it’s also not the time for her to go on any grocery trips or anywhere else.
If on day 2, she realizes that you could, in fact, really use that bassinet that you decided to save money on because you figured the baby would sleep in the crib, then Dad, get ready to make a run to the store.
If an hour later she proclaims she wants to switch to formula, guess what you’ll be doing, no questions asked?
5 Pro Tip If You Have A Boy
Having a baby boy is… special. Just like baby girls, they’re oh-so-cute but with the main difference being the diaper changes. Aside from the decision whether to snip or not (which dads should already be aware of), it’s important to know how to change a baby boy’s diaper the right way!
And rather than learning the hard way by getting splashed in the face, it’s way better to learn from the mistakes of others.
Author and mom Pam McMurtry told Parents.com, "Baby boys turn into [...] fountains when cold air hits their little tummies, so learn to create a shield with the front of the diaper (the tape is on the back half)."
4 Pro Tip If You Have A Girl
If you think changing a baby girl’s diaper is any easier than changing a boy’s… well, you’re right, it is. At the same time, there are a couple of things to keep in mind too.
Pam McMurtry also goes on to tell Parents.com, "Little girls need to be wiped from front to back, so as not to get any [#2 where it shouldn't go]. Don't let a baby stay too long in a wet or [otherwise] diaper, they'll get a rash and be harder to potty train later on."
But even with wiping front to back, you’ll find that #2 will still find its way where it has no business being. As awkward as it may be, it’s still important to wipe it all off!
3 Must-Know Onesie Tip
Many new parents (and sometimes even veteran ones!) go months before learning about this next tip but not you, Super Dad!
No matter how carefully you put the diaper on, there will still come a time –okay, more times than you can count—that baby will have quite the outburst, which will leak all the way onto the baby’s pants, onesie, bedsheets, car seat… you name it, it’ll get on it.
But how do you effectively remove the baby’s onesie through the head without getting them really icky in the process? Simple! Since there are folds at the top of the onesie, where the shoulders, you simply roll those down and remove the onesie. Mind-blown? Yep!
2 A Push Gift Is Worth Considering
While you may not even have heard of a push gift, it’s time to step up. The baby born is the biggest present ever but as Ask Men explains the best, “When a woman gives birth, delivering the baby isn’t the only challenge she needs to overcome — the nine months of pregnancy leading up to the big day are marked with lifestyle compromises, hormonal swings, physical pain and inconveniences, and a whole lot of planning. For men, being involved primarily means supporting her, but let’s face it, you’ll never have to face the same kind of ordeal. When it’s all said and done, she certainly deserves a token of gratitude.”
Here’s the thing though: it doesn’t have to be anything expensive. Jewelry is very common (there are lots of really great sentimental pieces on Etsy for a reasonable price) but you could just as easily take lots of pictures and later create a photo book too.
1 She Might Still Look Pregnant
A sensitive topic for sure but going back to the very first point, real life simply isn’t like it’s portrayed in the movies. After nine months of growing a baby, women don’t just up and lose their belly out of nowhere the moment the baby is born. All that skin did stretch and the everything gained wasn't just from the baby!
But under no circumstance can you, as the dad, say anything about it. In fact, repeat after me, the magical sentence to keep saying over and over again (though in different words so she doesn’t get too suspicious):
“Honey you look absolutely beautiful, even more than before. I love you so much.”