You’ve picked up everything on the new baby checklist, baby-proofed the house and assembled the cot and changing table like a pro. Lesser men would have crumbled at the poorly drawn illustrations and broken English in the assembly instructions, but not you. Unfortunately, babies aren’t delivered with instructions. And paradoxically, the more baby books and parenting blogs you read, the less prepared you feel. So here are 5 tips to help you survive the first weeks as a new dad.
1. Learn on the job
Try not to stress too much. You’re more capable than you realise. Most of what you need to know, you’ll learn on the job. Throw yourself into the challenge and take any opportunity for one-on-one time, whether it’s dressing, bathing, or changing nappies. Not only is this the best way to build your confidence, but those are the moments you’ll cherish in years to come. You’ll make mistakes, of course, but just like anything in life, the best way to learn is to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty (and believe me, your hands will get dirty).
2. Skin-to-skin contact is important for a new dad too
Early skin-to-skin contact is known to hold a range of benefits for mothers and babies, like reducing crying, encouraging growth and development, and helping with breastfeeding1,2. But recent evidence shows it’s just as important for dads. Not only does it strengthen the parent-child bond1, it also significantly reduces psychological stress3. So skin-to-skin contact could reduce crying in babies and parents alike.
A great way to reinforce this bond is by giving your baby the occasional massage. Pick a quiet time during the day, find a comfortable surface, make sure the room is warm and grab a suitable cream or lotion. QV Baby Moisturising Cream is a great choice because it’s free from fragrance, colours, and other common irritants. It also provides 24-hour moisturisation, so as well as getting some important one-on-one time, you’re helping to protect your baby’s skin against dryness.
3. Keep a journal
These days, snapping a quick photo or video is so easy that it’s tempting to believe we’ll be able to look back at the photos and remember everything. But a photo captures a moment, not a memory. By taking some time to evaluate your thoughts, emotions and behaviours you’ll end up with a more complete picture of a special day or event. Did your baby just do something incredible that blew your mind (like when my daughter took her first steps while playing the kazoo)? Are you berating yourself for snapping at your partner over who should have been on nappy duty last night? Write it down. It doesn’t have to be pages of flowing prose, just a short paragraph or two.
Chronicling this important time of your life isn’t just about preserving memories, though. Having a new baby can be a stressful time, but research shows that writing about stressful events helps improve psychological well-being. It also frees up cognitive resources, so you’ll be able to cope more effectively with the next stressful situation that comes along4.
4. Befriend your pharmacist
I can’t tell you the number of times I had to rush to the pharmacy to pick up some emergency nappies, or baby formula, or some other necessity in the first few months after becoming a new dad. Don’t forget that pharmacists have a wealth of information, and they’re used to dealing with frantic dads looking for that one thing that their partner sent them out for but they’ve forgotten the name of.
5. Embrace the chaos
This is some advice given to me by my university professor: “Whenever the baby is sleeping, your partner should be sleeping, too.” That means it’s your job to make sure she’s not worrying about things like preparing meals, doing dishes or tidying up. She just made a person, for crying out loud. The least you can do is take on a few more household jobs. This might mean that the dishes and laundry pile up a little. Maybe the floors don’t get vacuumed this week. But as long as your baby and partner have everything they need, let the little things go and just embrace this chaotic, challenging, confusing, exhausting and incredible time as a new dad.