Congratulations on cloning yourself—but what now? Here’s a quick early fatherhood survival guide!
In this article:
- What’s in This Guide?
- Why Is It Important to Understand and Acknowledge the “Mother-Baby Dynamic?”
- How Do You Know What the Baby Wants?
- How Much Milk Should the Baby Drink in the First Few Weeks?
- How To Swaddle?
- How To Count Diapers?
- How To Warm Things Up?
- How To Pack a Diaper Bag?
- How To Get Some Sleep?
- How To Be Patient?
- Got Any Other Tips? (We Got You, Bro!)
The Rookie Dad’s Guide to Newborn Babies
What’s in This Guide?
Aside from answering some of the most frequently asked questions about this early stage of fatherhood, we’ll also look at a few interesting scientific facts and concepts to help you get a broader perspective on this new responsibility you are about to take on.
Why Is It Important to Understand and Acknowledge the “Mother-Baby Dynamic?”
Your partner will fall in love with your kid. It’s not going to be the same as falling for a lover, but the level of emotional intensity and obsession will be similar. Recognizing this intense relationship between your partner and baby is one of the very first lessons you need to learn as a new dad. This should help you understand your new role—you’re no longer your partner’s first priority, and you should stop being all butthurt about it.
The Role of Gender Roles
Babies, as per our gender roles, are supposed to be in the mother’s turf. And although our time has bid adieu to this rigid definition, with more and more dads wanting to be involved, this role is deeply embedded in every mother and mother-to-be’s identity. This is because of the female biology.
Did you know that when a lactating mom hears her baby cry it triggers hormone release that makes her breast leak with milk? This physiological reaction, plus the strong emotional connection, makes moms respond faster than dads when a baby is in distress. Or in some cases when the baby is in distress, they are, too.
A Balancing Act
When you try to help with the baby at this stage, chances are, your wife will want to rescue you when things get tough. Don’t get her wrong, it’s not that she does not trust you. Gender roles, biology, and intense emotional connection lead to a very strong urge to mother. It is important to note that developing a father-infant connection should be inside the context of this mother-baby relationship.
While this might not be true for all families, this is something every first-time father should know and acknowledge. This will allow you to create the perfect workaround for the situation—being patient and persistent in developing a connection with your kid while respecting and supporting your wife’s relationship with your little guy or gal. This is not the time to exert your textbook knowledge or override your partner’s instincts.
How Do You Know What the Baby Wants?
Learning The Baby’s Cues
He or she will tell you in a way that is more than just words, gestures, or exchanges of looks between the two of you. As you two spend time together, you’ll get the hang of reading your baby’s cues: the body language, the definitions of different cries and coos. At first thought this sounds more like a mom-baby thing, but this is an acquired skill that can be developed through time and ample amount of togetherness.
The Benefit of “Just Hanging Out”
If you want to fully detect and understand your baby’s cues, both of you has to be physically comfortable with each other. Changing, bathing, dressing, and other daily caregiving responsibilities that require you to touch your baby help with this. But there are far more special moments. These are when you two just hang out, bodies in contact. This relaxed time together will allow you to figure out the best way your kid wants you to hold him. Yes, falling asleep with your kid in your arms is a legit way of bonding. Now to the more practical questions!
How Much Milk Should the Baby Drink in the First Few Weeks?
The baby has a very small stomach so the feeding volume required is really small, and varies as the days pass.
- 1st Day – the baby’s stomach is about the size of a shooter marble and can hold about 5 ml. of milk (about a teaspoon)
- 3rd Day – now ping-pong ball sized, the baby’s stomach can hold about 25 ml. of milk (approx. a tablespoon and 2 teaspoons)
- 10th Day – the baby’s stomach is now about the size of a huge egg and can hold about 60 ml. of milk (approx. 4 tablespoons)
After feeding, the baby should look content, but if he or she becomes fussy, you can try burping and feeding again.
How To Swaddle?
You can always ask a nurse about this. In essence, though, you are making a baby burrito with a blanket. This mimics the womb’s coziness, to ease the baby’s adjustment to the crazy outside world.
How To Count Diapers?
On the first day, the baby should have at least one dirty diaper and this will increase to 5-6/day by the end of the first week. The amount babies poop is heavily dependent on what kind of milk they are fed. After the first week or so, a breastfed baby may have around 12 small stools per day. Note that the color will change from dark green to tan to mustard yellow as mom’s milk changes from colostrum to mature breast milk. If the baby is fed with formula, he/she may have larger batches, more formed, and the color will be tannish. Either way, it’s gross, but you’ll deal.
Read our detailed guide on this here.
How Many Car Seats To Buy?
Ideally, you’ll need two.
- The Infant Seat – this one snaps into the base for you to transport the baby in and out of the car without disturbing the baby’s sleep. You need this properly installed before coming home from the hospital.
- The Convertible Seat – this one’s going to be needed in the coming years. You can hold off and research more on good brands in the coming months.
How To Warm Things Up?
Before the baby checks out of the hospital, learn how to do the feeding process. You’ll need a bottle-warming gizmo or you can heat it up by using other methods (except for microwaving). The general rule for this is don’t get the milk too hot—around 98.5 °F is about right. You can use a food thermometer or temp monitor to be sure.
How To Pack a Diaper Bag?
Remember the essentials: diapers, wipes, at least one set of clothing, and a burp rag. If you are using cloth diapers, throw in a wet bag for toting used pieces back home. If the baby is formula-fed, you have to pack a few bottles, clean water, and the pre-measured formula. Adding the baby’s pacifier may also be handy. Finally, other useful items you can include are hand sanitizer, a changing pad, and baby books or toys. Now you know why dads in the park are carrying what look like camping backpacks.
How To Get Some Sleep?
I’ll break the news to you—sleep will be scarce after the baby. As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is ideal to have your newborn baby sleep in your room, either in a crib or bassinet, to help with the frequent night feeding. Don’t forget to get some rest for yourself too everytime the baby dozes off. Yes, that’s probably your only window for sleep now. Don’t waste it catching up on your Netflix queue.
How To Be Patient?
You’ll realize sooner or later that babies aren’t the best communicators. There’s only so much you can get from smiling, crying, cooing, and screaming, but as mentioned earlier, you’ll learn to understand your baby’s cues over time. Just be calm. You’re the grown-up (the dad!) in the first place, right?
Got Any Other Tips? (We Got You, Bro!)
- Wearing your baby in slings and front packs fosters closeness without sacrificing total mobility. This is a good method for bonding. No, you don’t look silly. You get to securely hold your kid while keeping your hands free. What’s so silly about that?
- Singing the baby songs is one of the best ways to get your kid responding and paying close attention to you. You don’t need to have a good voice and they won’t mind whatever song you sing, really.
- You need to learn how to be patient with your wife too. She will probably correct you at times. Or there will be moments when she’ll want everything done her way. This is normal as mothers are still adjusting to this major life change, and are just figuring stuff out on little sleep and rest—just like you are. Besides, she might actually be right, you know!
Check out this cool video from Technical Nik:
The fatherhood conundrum: it’s not rocket science but it isn’t quite that simple, either. But you’ll get the hang of it. We know you will. As most badass dads do.
Do you have any fatherhood tricks on your sleeve? Share it with us in the comments section below!