You spent nine months preparing for your baby’s arrival, which is why holding him/her in your arms for the first time can seem like the end of a long journey. This is just the start of the lifelong adventure that is parenthood! As with most adventures, there will be plenty of ups and downs so you need to be prepared for what lies ahead.
It’s okay if you don’t instantly bond with your child
Movies will have you believe that you will feel an instant connection with your child. In reality, it’s normal to feel unattached for a few days, weeks or even months. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for the bond to form, just spend time with your child and it will happen when it happens.
Step up and help out with whatever is needed
Breastfeeding is the only baby-care activity that is limited to your wife, you can still help with changing dirty diapers, bathing your baby and rocking him to sleep. If you have older kids, you will need to take on your wife’s regular childcare responsibilities for the first few weeks. Whether you hate doing the dishes or folding the laundry, do whatever is needed to make this transition easy for your family.
Be the bouncer
Family and friends will be excited to meet your baby but your wife’s physical and mental health takes precedence over everything else. Politely but firmly tell everyone that you and mom are not yet up for company and that you will keep them posted. Taking on the role of the bouncer will mean that your wife doesn’t have to deal with relatives who are pushy but subtle in their approach.
Prepare for a LOT of crying
If you think that your baby will be the only one crying, think again! Sure, the baby will cry a lot but don’t be alarmed if even your tough-as-nails wife breaks down and cries. If you already have kids, they will probably cry just to get your attention. The stress of your new responsibilities and all the changes might even lead you to have a good cry in the shower! This is not an easy time for everyone and sometimes all you need to do is be a gentleman and offer a shoulder to cry on.
Don’t get tempted to buy unnecessary stuff
The last couple of years has seen a boom in expensive gear – everything from baby wipe warmers to smart diapers (that connect to an app to let you know when your baby’s diaper needs to be changed). You don’t need to spend huge amounts of money on these items – you can warm up a baby wipe just by holding it between your palms for a few seconds and you don’t need an app to tell you when to change a diaper, you can just feel (or smell) it to find out.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Don’t try to be ‘superdad’, even household heroes need help! If your parents, siblings or friends offer to help, you can let them choose from your pending chores. For instance, you can let them do the grocery shopping for you or let them help with your older kids’ homework while you take a quick nap.
Take care of yourself
You are an integral part of your family’s support system so don’t overwork to the point of exhaustion or you will become a burden. Eat sensibly, exercise daily and try to get enough sleep or at least enough for you to remain functional. Half-hour power naps are a great way to recharge your batteries so pencil them into your day planner.
A good babysitter is priceless
Although there is no fixed age to hire a babysitter, you can start when your baby is 6 to 9 months old. For the first couple of times, you can ask a sensible family member to supervise the sitter just to be sure that everything is on the up and up. It’s not easy to find a babysitter who is trustworthy, patient, caring and creative so if you find a good one, be appreciative and don’t take her for granted.
Alcohol is not a cure for stress
Whether you’re catching up with friends for a couple of beers or at home enjoying a game in your pjs – know your limits. Being a new dad is stressful and even overwhelming at times but alcohol will not help. Find healthy and effective ways to deal with stress such as a few minutes of meditation before going to bed or a quick run on your treadmill. You can also treat yourself to a deep tissue massage once a week to get rid of muscle knots, lower your stress levels and help you relax.
Don’t ignore your intuition
From the moment you announce you’re having a baby, it’s likely that you will receive an overload of parenting advice from friends and family. Listen to the advice and figure out what you can and can’t use in your life. Spending time with your baby will strengthen your bond and help you pick up on your baby’s cues so don’t underestimate your intuition and instincts.
According to the experts at What To Expect, the first year of parenthood has its challenges but it also has a lot of great moments – the first smile, the first crawl and the first steps. Focus on keeping your family healthy and happy and you will find that your job gets a whole lot easier.