Lessons learned after 14 days of being a first-time dad

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Last week I published “Lessons learned after 7 days of being a first-time dad”, where I outlined how the first 7 days went through. Compared to week #2, that was a breeze.

For us, week #2 was when his stomach cramps started kicking in and let me tell you – this is absolutely awful. It’s awful because you watch your kiddo screaming in pain, squeezing and stretching his whole body and you can’t do anything about it! Or at least we couldn’t, because his umbilical cord hasn’t fallen off yet, so all we could do was put our hand over his stomach and work on calming him down. It sucks! Big time!

On the positive side, what’s really amazing was that this was a time when you can see him start reacting to you. His eyesight becomes better (newborns are almost blind when born), he seems to be getting better control over his limbs and occasionally when you say “smile” he might even give you a “there! there it is! you happy now, mortal?!” kind of smile, which is ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE! Sadly, he’s still not reacting to tickling 😀

There are some new lessons that we were forced to learn, and this is what I will be writing about. But if I were to pick ONE most important thing, it would be – start doing shifts with your partner! Week #2 is when sleep deprivation starts taking toll on you and, if your partner is breast-feeding, there’s a high chance they are not sleeping at all!

Introduce shifts ASAP!

Newborns wake up to eat every 2-3 hours. Sometimes even less (it’s a concept called cluster-feeding which I learned about this week). And this becomes really exhausting.

One advice that I’ve picked up from Reddit is to introduce shifts with your partner. This means that for half of the night – your partner takes care of feeding, diaper change, shushing and nursing, and for the other half – you do it.

And let me tell you – this works WONDERS, because, if you split your time properly, you could get 3-4 hours of uninterrupted sleep, which is golden!

The way my wife and I do it is – I take the first half of the night – until 2 – 3 AM, which means that I take care of everything – diaper change, shushing to sleep, another diaper change since he usually shat himself again during the nursing phase, while my wife does breast-feeds because, well, I can’t offload that one. But with this approach she could get some minor, but much-needed sleep.

After 3AM, or, after I get him to sleep in the middle of the night again, I go to another room, put earplugs in and I get at least 3 hours of solid sleep. And I can’t stress enough how refreshing this can be!

Forget about concepts of day & night

Following up on what I wrote above, I honestly think it’s the best to simple forget about day & night at this stage. If possible, and if your partner can take over – go sleep whenever!

Day and night really make no much difference, especially since newborns don’t really have circadian rhythm developed. So, instead of suffering and thinking about “ok, now’s the night and we go to sleep”, just go with the flow and sleep whenever. You can thank me later for it!

Your house will be a mess; and that’s OK!

I’ve tried keeping things clean and tidy but then realized I’m spending enormous amounts of energy on cleaning, whereas I could be spending that on preserving the energy.

Quick investigation around the internet and I figured out that most people simply suggest to accept that your house will be a mess. For a while. And that’s fine. Just learn to live it it, and it will pass.

Of course, if you have external support (e.g. grandparents) willing to jump in – amazing! But if not, just forget it. Keep the dishes clean as much as possible, but the rest – to hell with it.

Watch your back!

No, seriously, you really need to take care of your back!

For context, I used to have serious lower-back pain couple of years before and at that time, I started aggressively exercising my core (i.e. lots of ab and lower back workouts). Coupled with a lot of deadlifting, my back got back in excellent shape!

Well, newborns do seem to introduce major changes and you will be bending A LOT. Diaper changes, nursing, picking stuff up, picking newborns up, … Lo and behold, week and a half in and my back started reminding me how painful it can be! And trust me – it can be PAINFUL!

I researched this a bit and what I found out was that this is EXTREMELY COMMON! Lots of parents and especially people who used to be in way greater shape than I am, struggle with this. Problem is that you usually have to stop exercising once your newborn is home and couple weeks in with no training and some crazy bends and your back ends being messed up.

So, my advice – PROTECT YOUR BACK! Watch how you bend! Watch how you lift! If you never learned to lift stuff, search for “proper deadlift form” on youtube! Do NOT arch your back and DO NOT pick up anything while arched! I mean it!

Practice your patience

It sounds obvious, I know, but as the sleep deprivation creeps in and as the time flies by, you generally start losing your temper. Coincidentally, mommy has it way worse so you don’t really need a degree in psychology to understand what this leads to.

My advice – suck it up. Swallow it. Understand that it sucks and the first months are usually referred to as HORROR and SURVIVAL.

Learn about 5 S’s

I have to admit upfront, but we haven’t been using ALL of the S’s (i.e. swaddles), but the technique generally makes sense.

Five S’s is about five steps towards trying to calm your baby down. I don’t really know the origin, but people keep referring to some youtube video(s).

So, behold the five S’s:

  1. Swaddle — swaddling is the process of literally making a burrito out of your baby 🙂 Pretty much taking a blanket and wrapping them into it. The idea seems to be that this recreates the conditions from the womb, where your baby was pretty much wrapped-up and cozy. Allegedly, this tends to calm babies down, but our little one seems to be more of a free spirit so any attempt to swaddle him results in utter and complete hysteria.

    Bonus points for swaddle-loving babies – there seems to be a whole art on all the ways to swaddle them. Go to youtube and search for “swaddling babies”. You’ll get tons of content aimed for photographers and how to swaddle them for photographies.
  2. Side or Stomach — there seems to be a consensus (which hasn’t reached Serbia yet), that sleeping on the back is THE SAFEST option for newborns. However, if your little one is upset – turning them to the side or to their tummy seems to be a way to go.

    For us, tummy is no go as his umbilical cord hasn’t fallen off yet, but if you are dealing with a daemon-possessed baby – give it a shot!
  3. Shush — I guess not much more explanation needed? Shushing seems to be natural to us and this is one of the main techniques most of us use anyway when trying to calm babies down. And there seems to be some theory behind it which claims that, while in stomach, newborns constantly hear mommy’s blood flowing and this, allegedly, produces this “shhhhhh” noise. Hence, allegedly, this seems to be one reason why they like it.
  4. Swing — same as above. Swinging your baby is one of the common techniques for calming them down. Reasoning seems to be that, while in stomach, they get swung a lot, hence this tends to calm them down.
  5. Suck — you guessed it. Pacifier is, as well known, a usual and good way to calm baby down (except if he’s screaming out from his lungs).

On top of that, I’d like to add two more techniques that I’ve simply incorporated along the way, which are:

  1. Change of scenery — take them to another room. Raise them higher. Take them to a bathroom. But just make sure to change the scenery as this seems to reset them and they forget that why they were screaming in the first place. This seems to work around 60% of time (so far).
  2. Blow their ass — with a hair dryer. I just tried it out today, for no reason, but I just realized it can’t hurt to clean him up and then use hair-dryer pointed towards their ass (obviously make sure to set it to “cold” or “lightly warm”). Again, for reasons unbeknown to me, pointing a hair-dryer towards his butt and balls seems to have confused him AND calmed him down lol.

At the end of the day, I guess it all boils down to EXPERIMENTING and accepting that things are super-volatile!

Learn about Colic and PURPLE

We’ve had days where our little one went from sleeping fine all the way to screaming what seemed like 24/7, with five minute breaks for a nap.

There are two things that I’ve learned about and which I’d encourage you to look up on your own. One is called Colic and another one is acronym called PURPLE crying, which stands for Peak of crying, Unexpected, Resists soothing, Pain-like face, Long lasting and Evening.

Frankly, these two might be the same thing as well, but I’ve learned about both and they seem to exactly describe what has been happening as of recent.

My understanding is that, if baby’s eating and pooping properly, and has no high temperature, there’s no much to worry about (except for lack of sleep). This seems to be a “normal” development phase in some infants and, stress aside, isn’t much harmful. The best advice that I’ve gotten around was “just know it will pass”.

Force mommy to have some time-off

Yes, I do mean FORCE. Because they will have natural rejection to an idea of “separating” from their babies because, you know, they might cry themselves to death even though daddy is around …

The truth is – they need time off. And you have to force them to take it.

I’m generally trying to push my wife to go for a daily walk, while I stay at home with little one. It does not always work, especially if little one starts screaming just about the time she’s hitting the door, but hey, … try to be consistent. She will appreciate it!

Don’t get used to anything

This is a pure wisdom said by my best man. “Whatever you do, DO NOT get used to anything”. Be it their nap times, number of times they eat or shit, or simply being calm or agitated, never ever ever assume it will last! Because it won’t 🙂

Infants develop at sonic speeds and their whole body changes from day to day so why would you expect that anything would be true for longer then a week or two?

Our little one was just eating and sleeping all the time in the first week, which, now that I think of it, was his way of letting us get prepared and used to his reign. Week #2 seems to be all about crying, crying, crying and …. shitting, as usual 😀

There’s a thing called “cluster-feeding”

Under the umbrella of “don’t get used to anything”, I’d like to mention cluster-feeds, which is a concept that I’ve learned about the other day.

Namely, our little one was always being breast-fed and then would take almost a full portion of formula. Day after day, like a clockwork.

However, out of nowhere, he STOPPED wanting formula but instead would be asking for boob every hour (or two)! And we got concerned because we assumed that something is wrong. However, turns out that these cluster feeds do tend to occur in the first weeks and they are completely harmless.

As long as they’re gaining weight (more on it below), seem healthy and shit nicely – it’s fine. Except that it’s annoying, but oh well – it will pass, as everything!

You can measure your baby’s weight rather easy

You don’t need to buy fancy baby-scales to see if your baby is gaining weight.

Go to the scales, measure yourself and write it down. Then take your baby, stand on scales, note down new weight – and compare 🙂 The difference is your baby’s weight, really.

It’s not 100% precise but it’s useful for getting the overall idea whether your little one is gaining weight or not.

Take them out!

I know there are differing opinions out there and frankly – I couldn’t give less fucks! I did my research and figured that if they look good – they are good to go outside.

And honestly? This was one of the most exciting moments for me (after seeing him for the first time). Showing my baby the “outside”, even though he slept through it, was a defining moment! Proud fucking dad right here, thank you very much!!

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun!

I think by week two you actually get used to them and feel a bit more free in playing with them. So tickle them, pat them, play with them … they are way more fun because they become a bit more responsive and you get a bit more relaxed 🙂

Useful resources

As usual, here are some resources that I’ve learned from and based my writings on:

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