Calendar says it. It’s been a week. I still can’t believe it, but yep, calendar claims so. It’s been 7 days since my newborn son and wife were released from the hospital.
I’m sure some would expect that I’d describe these seven days as complete and utter horror. No sleep. No time. No food. Dirty underwear and stained shirts. Black bags under the eyes. The “new dad starter pack”.
I’m sorry to disappoint you but these seven days flew over and it feels like it’s been years with my baby.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying it’s been all flowers and rainbows. Not at all. I’ve slept for maybe 10-15 hours in total, did what I think is probably like 175 diaper changes, been peed, spit and (almost) pooped on, had my son pee all over his face in two seconds that I turned over to take something (life advice: NEVER turn your back to your son’s naked dicky; especially so if he’s on the nursing table), … but in summary – it’s been an awesome experience actually.
As someone somewhere said, it’s insane how good you can get at stuff you do 50 times per day. Hell, I went from never-saw-a-dirty-diaper in my life to Master of Diaper Change within like 5 days. Right now I believe i could change the diaper, put baby lotion and prepare feeding-formula all the while humming soothing song and converting current temperature from celsius to fahrenheit so that I can convince my lovely wife that she can google the evidence that baby is NOT COLD. And I’m EXTREMELY proud of this.
Now, I ain’t no here to talk about how good you can become at stuff if you do them a lot. No. What I want to talk about is some lessons that I’ve learned within 7 days of being a first-time at full-time parenting 🙂
So, let’s jump start in the lessons-learned, in no particular order.
Prepare yourself upfront
I think I actually went all the way to being overprepared. Like, for months on end, I was browsing Reddit and experiences with newborn’s sleep, things to know as a new dad, etc.
This is a two-edged sword honestly, as I actually got shit-scared that my sleeping and livin-la-vida-loca days are over forever. Which could be true, but you get rewarded differently.
My advice, if you are about to be a new dad, is to definitely prepare yourself. Read and learn as much as possible. Good thing about this is that once your newborn comes home and once you are left all alone with your partner, at least you can be confident enough that you have an idea WHAT to do. And this actually saved us as I wasn’t really anxious WHAT to do. I just knew I read absolutely EVERYTHING possible and that I’m kind of prepared for whatever there is to come 🙂
You can find all the resources I’ve read and learned from at the end of this article.
Seeing your newborn for the first time is an inexplicable sensation
I was lucky to be allowed to see my son the day he was born. And I was pretty sure that I will start crying once I see him. But this just shows how unaware I was.
Seeing him strolled into the room was … overwhelming. Feelings of joy, fear, excitement, adrenalin, … You name it and it’s there. And they are SO FUCKING SMALL! Like, two times smaller than I thought! They are likely way smaller than your forearm is!
Now, unless you’ve experienced this, it’s simply impossible to put into words. But I highly recommend trying it as it’s incredibly rewarding!
I was lucky enough that my employer gives 10 paid days off (hint: it’s everything but “time off”) to new fathers. If you have the opportunity – take it! If not – take the vacation. Because, to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t trade these past 7 days for anything in the world! I’ve spent every waking moment with my son and I just can’t get enough of him!
First night is rough
We were “lucky” in that the nurse was coming the day AFTER, which means that from the moment he got home, we were on our own for the next 24h. And I won’t lie, it was rough.
What helped tremendously was what I wrote above – I was preparing upfront. Or at least I thought I was, but regardless, it saved us from panicking once we had him pee all over three layers of clothes that we put him in; three times during that night!
Funny enough, we even managed to catch quite a good sleep, as little one woke up to be fed, nursed, shushed a bit and … well, he was off for another 3 hour stretch.
No sleep is actually not that bad
For clarity, this is something I was extremely afraid of. I’m generally a bad sleeper and it took me tons of time to introduce an actual sleeping schedule so that I could get 6-7 hours of sleep per night.
With a newborn coming, I read absolutely ALL horror stories on Reddit (there’s a whole sub dedicated to SLEEPING!) and was kind of expecting the worst. Like, you know, bye bye sleep! I even made pictures of my “last good sleep”.
Now, I’m absolutely aware we just got “lucky” (temporarily, at least), but our little one was 100% not up for fuss of any kind. He came like a serious, no bullshit guy. If he’s hungry, he’s gonna scream. If he shat his pants, he’ll contemplate for a bit, observing how we mortals act and if he realizes we’re dumb enough to react, he’ll scream again. But that’s it. Otherwise he sleeps and cuddles.
There’s still the no-sleep part as newborns have to be fed every 3 hours. And this is a tricky, but manageable one. I used to HATE waking up in the middle of the night and I was really scared of this. Well, turns out that I forgot about the adrenaline and power of the newborn’s “smile” 🙂 Combo of these two makes you incredibly alert, no matter how drowsy you are.
For me, it takes like 5 seconds to go from “what the hell is happening and where the hell am i” to the full-time dad preparing formula and new diaper to put on this squishy mass after we’re done breast and bottle-feeding.
I guess my point here is — don’t worry about it. There seems to be a HUGE difference between waking up at night to take a leak, and waking up to feed and nurse your newborn, who will reward you with a smile; or a fart. But both are adorable 🙂
Do the diaper change ASAP!
I actually insisted to do the VERY FIRST diaper change, as I had some assumption that it will help bonding with my son AND will offload some weight off my partner who went through a c-section couple days before.
To tell you the truth, even though I messed up badly and we ended up with a baby completely soaked in pee, I do actually think it helped both bonding and offloading that weight so that mommy can get some much-needed rest.
And yeah, keep in mind – newborns shit A LOT! And when I say a lot, I mean – A LOT! And it’s funny as hell haha.
Offload everything that you can from your partner
Giving birth is incredibly exhausting process and what your partner definitely needs is to feel SAFE, so that she can get some rest.
Be mindful though that, if they can breastfeed (many women can’t and that’s completely normal!), that should, ideally, be the maximum that they are doing, especially in the beginning. Well, they should do cuddles as well.
As for you, you have to be a REAL partner, which means taking over the care of dishes, formula-feeds (great way to bond with your kid btw!), laundry, lunch, diaper-changes, … Obviously, the more you take off the shoulders off your partner the faster they will recover and join you in splitting the duties, leaving way more time for cuddles.
My general mantra here is that – your wife’s sleep is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than yours is. And no matter how much you object it – it’s a fact! They had it billion times harder than we likely ever will and they deserve the rest. And trust me, it takes a LONG time to die from sleep deprivation, so, take my word for it – you will be fine.
You will be peed, shit and spit on
And that’s honestly amazing 🙂 The sooner you get yourself ready for it, the better it is.
From my research, there generally does not seem to be a way to avoid this, unless the only time you spend with your kid is for cuddling. But my very unprofessional opinion is that this sucks and that you would be missing A LOT.
So, embrace it like a hero, laugh it off and wait until they are 18 to make fun of them!
Newborns have the umbilical cord and it’s as gross as it gets
Bad news is – I had no idea about this up until couple days before they came home, and hell, once I realized how gross this is, I thought I’ll never be able to look at it. If you’ve never seen it – just google umbilical cord in newborns. Good news is – you get used to it. It’s how your little one got all it’s nutrients 🙂
Thing is, it takes around 7 – 15 days for the umbilical cord to fall off your baby’s tummy and in that time you will have to keep this sucker DRY! And yeah, if you’re dealing with penis, you have to take EXTREME care that the umbilical cord does not get peed on!
What I didn’t know is that newborns don’t feel it so you can pretty much put your hand over it and wash your little one and he won’t care. It’s a dead skin for them. It’s just gross but not painful.
And yeah, don’t be afraid if it doesn’t fall off soon. They simply need to dry out and sometimes it takes a bit longer, especially during warmer months.
Always burp them after feeding
Newborns have extremely small tummies and their digestive tract isn’t even developed at all. Which also happens to be a reason why they almost always shit (and spit) immediately after being fed 🙂
Having them burp after feeding releases some pressure from their stomach and they seem to feel way better after it. So, whenever you feed them, give them a bit of time to calm down (and, possibly, shit themselves), then place them over your shoulder and gently pet them. There’s a TON of youtube videos on various techniques on how to burp your baby. There are also TONS of videos HOW IT SOUNDS when they burp (hint: it’s the same as with us; you will hear it haha).
One note is to always put some cloth over your shoulder as they are likely to spit a bit while being burped. Cloth will simply help you from having to change 10 shirts per day 🙂
Newborns get exhausted from eating
I had no idea but eating is actually the hardest activity for them (aside from trying to shit). And they can get all sweaty and red from it.
So if you are bottle-feeding, don’t force it all over them but, instead, give them some and when you see they start breathing heavily, give them a short break. Burp them as well if needed. But be patient! They are super small and it takes tremendous amount of energy to suck on the nipple and/or bottle 🙂
Newborns SHIT A LOT!
I mentioned it couple of times but it really deserves it’s on section. I actually had no freaking idea how much they shit, but holy crap, do they shit!
What’s more, they seem to love feeling clean which stimulates them to redo the shitting process just after you are done changing that messy diaper.
But hey, find some fun in it. And make sure to note down the number of times you wiped their dirty ass and attack it with them once they turn 18 😀
Newborn’s farting and sneezing is hilarious
I laughed myself so hard couple of times that I almost dropped my newborn son.
It’s just that deadly straight look that they have, waiting for the perfect moment to release the daemon from their stomach. And it’s so damn funny that I’m laughing just by writing this haha.
Your wife will ALWAYS overdress them; and there’s no help for it
This is frankly the only thing I was completely unprepared for.
The more I talk to other parents the more I realize there’s a pattern here. Mommy will ALWAYS, by definition, overdress the newborn. No clue why, but they just will. So I guess you just have to get used to it.
If you’re curious what science says – their hands and feet are NOT a good measure of how warm or cold they are. The best way to check if your newborn is cold (or hot) is to touch their tummy. This seems to be a good and relevant spot.
Oh, yeah, and a rule of thumb is – MAXIMUM of one more layer than you are having is more then enough! And yeah, they won’t need the cap during summer months but it’s definitely cute 🙂
Urine is sterile and it’s fine if it gets all over your newborns face
Don’t ask me HOW or WHY I learned this, but I just had to 🙂
If the urine gets over your baby’s body / head / hair, just clean or wash them. It won’t do any damage to them as urine is completely sterile.
And yeah, one advice: NEVER turn back to your son’s uncovered penis 🙂 You are welcome!
Steam helps with congested nose
Our little one had a stuffy nose couple of days in and after a bit of googling I learned a rather simple lesson – steam baths are AWESOME!
It’s easy as hell – go to bathroom, close the door, turn the faucet to warmest possible and wait for 5mins.
General advice seems to be that you should stay in that steamy bathroom for 10-15 minutes with your little one. Bonus points go to the fact that the steam seems to knock them off, so you get a clean nose and completely comatose child that you can nurse to bed.
Always have the control of the situation
If needed, fake it until you make it. But ALWAYS, and when I say always I mean – ALWAYS have the situation under control.
Whatever it is that happens, and trust me, during the first days EVERYTHING is new and unpredictable, whatever it is – you’ve got it. Inhale exhale. Inhale exhale. Asses the situation (hint: crying newborn should NOT be part of assesment; they just cry a lot). Observe what is happening, describe it to Google and GOOGLE it! Chances are that there were BILLION people asking the same question before you did!
For most of the time, unless there is blood, serious swelling or foul smell – your baby is likely safe and won’t die. Easier said then done, I know, but try to remember it!
You can and will learn anything; just give it time and practice
Suffice to say – I never dealt with ANYTHING baby related. Except for occasionally playing with them.
But trust me – doing anything for 50 times per day makes WONDERS. Five days in and I went from not knowing how to change a diaper all the way to Diaper Changing Pro 🙂
You can and WILL learn everything needed. Not because you have to be patient, but because newborn won’t give you alternative for it! But the reward is AMAZING.
Here are some of the resources that I’ve used to get myself prepared for being a first-time-father. Do note that some of these are Subreddit’s, which means that I simply subscribed myself to them and read pretty much extensively everything that was there.
- Advice from a new dad to those who will be new — one of the most exhaustive posts I’ve ever found. Absolutely GO AND READ it. Absolutely!
- Dads of reddit, what is your advice for new dads? — another great post with AMAZING number of comments and suggestions. Highly recommended!
- /r/daddit — a subreddit dedicated to new dads.
- /r/BabyBumps — a subreddit for those who are about to become new parents
- /r/sleeptrain — if you haven’t heard of it, there’s this whole concept of “sleep training” which boils down to training your kiddo to sleep. And yeah, as crazy as it sounds, babies need to be trained how to fall asleep. The only thing is that you should start practicing this once they are at least 4 months of age.
- Precious Little Sleep by Alexis Dubief — book that I’m currently reading, written by a mom whose kid was crying day and night, for months on end.
- How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber — another highly recommended book. I haven’t started reading yet as it seems to be aimed at older children.