A new entrant into your two-member family unit is a game changer in all respects. So far, you had to only consider your needs and preferences and those of your wife. The two of you could discuss these and arrive at a working formula. But from now, you will have to give priority to the well-being of a tiny human being who cannot voice his needs except by bawling, and who deserves to be the centre of your attention. You may be the primary breadwinner for your family. But that doesn’t mean that your role is limited to bringing home the pay packet. The choice of playing a pivotal role in the upbringing of a child is a choice fathers should make.
Carrying and delivering a baby takes a significant toll on the mother, not only physically but emotionally as well. Mandatory recovery periods often exist only on paper, and the need for constant feeds and diaper changes as well as other issues make sleep deprivation a real issue for mothers. But you, as a father, can help. You can take over many of the tasks involved in caring for a newborn. Agreed, you’re new to the ‘job,’ and you are nervous. But don’t worry; it’s not exactly rocket science.
Practical Paternity Pointers
The elevation to the status of ‘father’ is hugely demanding. It is also hugely rewarding, and can be a great journey if you ride it right. Here’s a checklist to keep in mind, it will steady you as you take up your new role as Daddy:
As a father, you can start bonding with your baby even before he enters the world. The expectant mother is likely to be experiencing stress and uncertainties greater than yours. You can help ensure a happy environment for her. This will do both her and your yet-to-be-born baby a lot of good.
Be a hands-on dad. Learn to hold the baby correctly. Remember that for the first couple of weeks at least, her neck won’t be too strong. So, support it at the back with your hand as you pick her up.
Your baby will learn to recognise you sooner than you think. It may take some time for his eyes to focus on your face, and identify you. But a newborn begins responding to sound almost from the start. So, coo to him, hum, and sing softly to him. He’ll know your voice, and be soothed by it.
Reading between the tears
However, soothing your voice may be, there will be times when your baby refuses to stop crying, for reasons she cannot express. That’s where the trial and error method comes in. Keep a list of possibilities in mind. Could it be hunger? Colic? A soiled diaper?
- Memorise her feeding schedule and gauge whether she’s upset because her tummy is empty. You can cross-check by putting the tip of your little finger to her lips. If she sucks it, she’s asking for a feed.
- After seeing that your baby is fed, you need to burp him. Hold him against your shoulder, with your hand supporting the back of his neck. Gently rub your other hand down his back, from top to bottom, Soon, he’ll let out a bubble of gas. Then lay him down on his bed.
- If your infant is prone to colic, lay her on her stomach. (Ensure that her nose isn’t pressed into the bedding.) The gentle pressure of her own body will most probably relieve the symptoms. Most babies will drop off to sleep once they’re fed and comfortable.
- Learn how to change his nappy. You have to use warm water to wipe him down, and then give him a dusting of powder before putting on a fresh diaper, to keep nappy rash down to the minimum. Don’t take too long about it though, as he may get irritated and start crying again. Practice brings speed.
- A baby could wake up crying simply because of a bad dream. (Yes, babies dream too!). Gently patting her and humming to her should help her settle down.
Once your baby is old enough to have top-up meals (usually around six months of age), learn how to mix the feed. Understand how much boiled water has to be added to the formula. And make sure the temperature is just the right warmth by putting a few drops on the back of your hand before giving it to him.
Bath time bonds
Bathing the baby is a joy. It’ll take you a while to acquire the knack, but you’ll get there. Hold the baby so that her neck is supported and use your other hand to pour water that is warm but not hot over her. Use baby-specific bath products. Dry her thoroughly and powder her before getting her into clean clothes.
A walk in the park
When your baby is old enough to be put in a pram or carried outside, do take him outdoors. Point out flowers, butterflies, cars, and all things beautiful as soon as he’s able to focus. You’ll both enjoy seeing the world through his eyes. And as a bonus, you may get to meet other parents and share parenting tips.
Changing course to be the world’s best dad
Becoming a parent for the first time is a very special feeling. But it will necessitate a change of gear in your life as a couple. Priorities will have to change, and also the approach to life. As a new father, you may have to take a bigger role in the day-to-day running of the house, and you’ll definitely have to support your wife in caring for the newborn.
Playing an active role
You can take charge of the baby in the evening and give the new mother a much-needed break. This will mean giving up the routine you had been following on coming home from work – may be stretching out on the sofa and enjoying your favourite TV serial, or grabbing an early dinner and hitting the sack. And, parties that leave you ‘high’ won’t be an option. But trust me, it’s all worth it.
Having a see-saw social life
In the initial months of parenthood, your social life will definitely take a hit. But as the baby grows, you need not cut yourself off entirely from your circle of friends and their activities. You can take turns with your wife to attend social or cultural events, with one partner staying back to mind the baby.
Being conscious of baby on board
You will find that things like going out for dinner or taking a day trip can no longer be spur-of-the-moment decisions with a new baby in the house. If you have a hired nanny or parents living with you, managing such events will become that much easier. And if an overnight trip with the baby is unavoidable, see if you can arrange to stay with family – it is easier than staying at a hotel.
Quick Tips for Lasting Bonds
- Make eye contact with your baby every time you talk to her.
- Have a fixed and dedicated father-baby time every day, when you sing or read to your infant, or simply make funny faces and coo and cuddle. Keep cellphones and the TV out. You’ll be amazed how much your little one picks up unawares.
- Be there for your baby at inoculation time and for doctors’ visits. Having you around for comfort will add new layers to your relationship.
With these tips, go ahead and enjoy bonding with your newborn.