New Dad Diaries – week 5 (Part 2)

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Chronicling life as a new father to his beautiful firstborn child – daughter Thea – Chris Kerr’s goal is to provide all men experiencing fatherhood for the first time with some invaluable tips and tricks as they are learned – the hard way. This week, Chris and Alicia take their baby home for the first time.

In Part 1 I gave you a few survival tips to get your wife (and you) through labour. In this edition, I want to help you through the moment that you take your new baby home. There are no nurses or doctors or nice ladies wheeling meals over to your bed now. It’s just you, your wife and your baby from now on. Here’s a few tips to help you through: 

1.  Enjoy it

Your objective for the first two weeks is simple: take care of mum and baby. Nothing else matters. Take paternity leave or annual leave to remove your work responsibility and go all in on this objective. You will enjoy it more, and you will relish the mission. It will also ensure you can get rest time in as well – you will need it. Nap when baby naps. Batch cook meals so you can eat well (don’t rely on takeaways). Deal with the house chores and unapologetically spend quality time with your wife and baby. This is very important for building a strong attachment to both. You will only get this time once, and trust me it will go faster than you can imagine. Take it all in and enjoy it. 

Home at last: Thea surveys her new surroundings.

2. Build a bond 

I was desperate to build a good two-way bond with Thea. At times I even worried whether she would feel that attachment, especially when I found out that breastfeeding released the oxytocin hormone, which ties a knot of love between mother and baby. There didn’t appear to be a shortcut like this for dads (try as you might, bottles don’t release the same chemical reactions). But I needn’t have worried, and neither should you. Here are a few ways you can start building that unbreakable daddy-daughter bond: 

· Look into your baby’s eyes and talk to them. You won’t get a response back but your baby will start to recognise your voice pretty quickly. We even noticed that Thea was trying to force words and sounds out of her mouth. 

· Do skin-to-skin cuddles. This is where your baby snuggles up against your bare chest. This is great for bonding and has numerous other health benefits. 

· Take the opportunity to feed her using the cup method (if breast feeding) or paced bottle feeding (also OK for breastfeeding babies). Cuddle the baby closely and talk to them whilst they feed.

· Sing to them, play with them and tend to their needs. If you really want to build a bond with your baby, spend as much time with them as possible.

Skin time: physical skin contact is beneficial for both of you.

3.  Nappy changing

If you are looking for a hack that will ensure you never have to change a nappy, you have come to the wrong place. Standing 10 metres back with a hosepipe for an express clean is not an option (in fact, even joking about it gets you a frown from the midwife). It gets worse. If you thought it would be easy because you managed to change a doll in antenatal class, you are in for a shock. The good news, however, is that you can master the skill with a few tips and tricks:

· Find a good location. If you are at home, aim for a flat surface. When the baby can move around, do it on the floor. If you are out, find a clean, flat surface. Stay clear of restaurant tables – apparently poo-filled nappies ruin the ‘eating experience’ of fellow curry diners.   

· Lay out the tools before you begin changing. That includes the changing mat, nappy, water or wipes, disposal bag and their cream. Here’s another tip – have a contingency nappy and spare set of clothes close to hand. Trust me, you will need them. 

· Clean the baby thoroughly. Use cooled down boiled water and cotton wool to minimise irritation (although Water Wipes are also ok). Add some barrier cream to help baby stay rash-free. 

· Disposal. Pop the nappy in a disposal bag or, if you are using a reusable nappy, in your steriliser. They also make for a nice souvenir for unsuspecting family members (if placed surreptitiously in their handbag). 

4.  Sleep like a baby 

Most dads spend the first night bolted up in bed listening to every sound baby makes, just in case that horrible, catastrophic, worst-case scenario you imagined comes true. It doesn’t. For example, despite an initial concern, no huge bird of prey flew through our window and snatched baby Thea. Relax, zone out and get some sleep. If the baby needs anything, they will cry to let you know. If you are of the worrying disposition, set an alarm or two for the night so you can wake up and do a spot check, but sleep in between. That being said, I do recommend that every dad (and mum) reads the Lullaby Trust’s sleeping safety advice to prevent tragic cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – aka cot death. The instances are rare, but it is best to be safe.

The first month was a whirlwind for me, as it will be for you. I hope these tips help you to enjoy it to the full. See you next week!

Tip of the week

You will get quite a few visits from your baby’s midwife this week. Be available for these appointments. Make a list of questions (even if they seem silly) and ask away

Chris Kerr

Chris is a husband to Alicia and father to Thea, who is the subject of his columns on Fatherhood for Sorted.  In his spare time he works for a national law firm in an executive capacity and provides crisis leadership consultancy support for non-profits across the UK.  He attends Urban Crofters Church in Cardiff.  A keen weekend adventurer, Chris is regularly spotted in the sea or on mountains.
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