Right after childbirth, mums form an almost instant connection to their little ones, because babies remember their mummies from their time in the womb and want to be close to them. Breastfeeding also gives mums a direct line to their mini-me.
This often leaves fathers struggling to their find their place in the picture. When they can’t, they end up feeling useless and disconnected with their newborn. Daddies, if you’re earnest about being hands-on with baby, the good news is that you have plenty of ways to divvy up childcare duties.
Don’t worry that you might not be qualified for these tasks ― no one is born knowing how to get a baby to sleep or prepare a bottle. Nor does your wife, even though she looks like she’s acing the job. We all learn on the job, one failed diaper change at a time.
By the way, everyone has a different way of completing a task, so don’t worry if your way isn’t the same as your wife’s. Be confident that you are doing a good job and be assured that your family will love you for trying.
Use these nine tips as a starting point and in no time, you will be surprised at how quickly you pick up this dad thing!
Duty #1 Changing diapers
Everyone has to start somewhere when it comes to babycare ― there’s no better place to begin your journey than to change diapers. We will be honest, it will take a few tries to perfect the art of getting the diaper on the right way –―yes, there is a wrong way! But practice makes perfect is the only way to master it is. The good news is that newborns poop a lot and you’ll surely get a lot of training. So, instead of hoping that someone else will take care of that weird smell coming from bubba’s bottom, roll up your sleeves (put on that gas mask if you have to) and get cracking, daddy!
The more opportunities mum gets to put her feet up, the sooner she will recover from her birth injuries and be able to fully dedicate herself to her newborn, and you, too.
Duty #2 Bringing baby to mummy for feedings
As helpful as your wife wants to be, the first few weeks should be all about her recovery. She’s just pushed a human being out of her body after all. So, let your better half rest up as you bring baby to her for feedings or cuddles. After mummy is done feeding, take over the burping portion. The more opportunities mum gets to put her feet up, the sooner she will recover from her birth injuries and be able to fully dedicate herself to her newborn, and you, too.
Duty #3 Getting baby to sleep
One of best things about infants ― besides that glorious newborn smell ― is that they fall asleep just about everywhere and anywhere. However, thanks to their ever-changing sleep cycles and brain development, there will be days (and nights) where bub will refuse to sleep for hours at end. Trying to get him to nod off is going to be a team effort, but it’s one where you can take the lead. Need some tips? Invest in a good baby wrap or carrier, place bub in it and take him for a long walk. This works like a charm always as the bouncy movements lull them right off into la la land.
Duty #4 Be a strong emotional support for your wife
Of all the duties you will be undertaking after baby arrives, this might be the most important one. Your wife is recovering from childbirth and her body is still going through post-partum changes. She is facing one challenge after the other with baby and trying to build confidence as a first-time mum. She needs all the support she can get, especially when she’s bombarded by conflicting advice from her own mother, friends and of course, the Internet. It’s very important for a new mum to take care of her physical and mental health, so if your wife is feeling frustrated with something or someone, take her side and let her know you support her ― no matter what. Most of the time, she doesn’t even need you to fix her problems, but just to lend an ear, offer a shoulder to cry on and give unlimited bear hugs.
Duty #5 Bathe baby
Bubba looks so fragile in the early days that you are afraid to give her a bath, but this is one babycare job that is perfect for dads planning to be more hands on. Face your fears, and maybe have your helper or a family member nearby, while you give your little bundle a bath. Ideally, you should do this every day, but if there are days when you’re too exhausted to go the extra mile (and there will be those days), you can top and tail baby. This means washing bub from head to toe with a warm, damp sponge or wads of moistened cotton wool.
Duty #6 Staying on top of all meals
Once baby gets here, your wife will have her hands full with round-the-clock feedings to worry about what she’s going to eat. However, it’s important that she gets has nourishing food to keep her energy levels up as she recuperates after birth and even more so if she’s breastfeeding. What she eats, or doesn’t eat can alter the quality and quantity of her breastmilk. So, make sure you stay on top of all of her meals. Buy some cookbooks and whip up her favourite dishes or get family, friends or your helper to cook nutritious nosh. And don’t forget to surprise her with her favourite snacks during the day ― she will love you even more for it!
Duty #7 Overseeing the housework
Keeping the house clean is a vital when you have a newborn around. Their immunity is low and they can fall ill very easily, especially around unsanitary conditions. So, take care of the cleaning duties, even if it means you have to outsource it to your full-time or part-time domestic helper. If you can’t afford one, don’t be shy to ask for help. Family and friends are always willing to make themselves useful during this time.
If your wife is feeling frustrated with something or someone, take her side and let her know you support her no matter what.
Duty #8 Making sure all baby-related equipment is ready
It’s amazing how much of stuff a tiny baby needs, but every little thing serves a purpose. Everything also needs a bit of handiwork to function, so make sure you have a reliable drill on hand. Start by assembling the car seat, so you can bring bub home safely. Next, tackle the crib, so she has a place to rest comfortably. After bubba arrives, you can also make sure the breast pump parts and bottles are washed and sterilised after every use. Oh, and be prepared to nip out now and then to pick up baby gear whenever your wife realises she needs something.
Duty #9 Start routines
Routines give everyone’s day a bit of structure. This is especially important after baby’s erratic sleeping and eating habits messes up your once well-organised lifestyle. It also gives you a sense of purpose when you’re home for days at end with nothing much else to do but to take care of your baby. Another plus: Knowing what’s coming up next also gives baby a sense of security and reassurance in an otherwise new environment. As they grow up, you can use this routine to keep your child in check as well. Start with simple ones such as scheduled naps, bedtime and bath time. During baby’s awake hours during the day, a simple “Eat, Play, Nap” routine works. On weekends, plan outings and activities that require everyone to leave the house for some fresh air and a change of scenery. This can range from a day at the beach to a quick trip to the grandparent’s house.
By the way, leave some wiggle room in your schedules, so that you can adjust to bub’s ever-changing needs. Because, as you would know by now, babies usually have a plan of their own!
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