Lessons learned after 30 days of being a first-time dad

Proof of ownership right there

Well, I think the most important thing that happened during these first 30 days is that we survived 🙂 Like, I’m not even joking.

It wasn’t easy, though. If you dig deep into Reddit or if you talk to parents who are willing to share their real feelings, most of them will tell you that they tried to block out that period. And for a good reason – it’s REALLY FUCKING EXHAUSTING.

Let’s dig into the lessons that I’ve learned during this time.

My wife’s a fucking hero

Honestly, this is the biggest realization that I’ve had. This woman, blessed be her name, is a fucking hero!

I’m a semi-narcissist and I do like bragging about myself being uber-cool dad and what not, but hell, I had two (or three?) meltdowns. Literally. Like, I can’t fucking take this any more.

I mean, picture this – you are sleep deprived, you have full-time work to do, you can’t really remember when was the last time you exercised/ate/shat and you are just fucking exhausted. And the night-time comes and the little one is SCREAMING on top of his lungs. Like, SCREAMING to the point where I’m seriously scared that neighbors might call the police thinking that we are neglecting our kid.

Thing is – there seems to be this stupid thing called “witching hour” (which I’ll write more about down below) and this thing seems to peek in between 4th and 6th week. And it’s called witching hour for a reason, because, no matter what you do – rock, jump, sing, feed, massage, play every possible youtube sound that worked in the past – they will keep screaming.

They are not hungry, they are not dirty and they are not hot or cold. They are just irritable in these specific times and there simply is NO WAY to stop them from screaming.

And this is where I lost it, like – HOW THE HELL IS IT POSSIBLE I CAN’T DO ANYTHING TO CONSOLE YOU, YOU LITTLE THING? Because, you know, I’m a guy and we guys are all about FIXING things. And I can’t fix this and I think I’m an awful dad, and it tears my heart apart!

This is where this sleep-deprived hero comes in, who has has the sanity and energy to console this little fragile thing. And I admire it! She’s a hero!

Newborns are a 24/7 circus

Funny thing I realized is that there’s simply NOTHING even remotely similar to the feeling and all the emotions experienced every time you look at your newborn. Really.

Like, no matter what is happening, how pissed, frustrated or depressed you are, every single time you look at them – there’s something new going on. They are CONSTANTLY doing something and it’s incredibly satisfying just being able to observe it.

You know all those “crazy” people who stand over babies, watching them sleep? Yeah! It’s the nature and evolution at it’s finest! There’s an incredible cocktail of emotions being produced just by looking at these little creatures, even if they are asleep.

Well, unless they are screaming. That’s when you go into “ok what do we do now to fix this?” and that’s the draining part. But it gets compensated 🙂

Switch to polyphasic sleep schedule NOW

Or at least aim at it!

Polyphasic sleeping refers to sleeping in multiple batches over 24 hours. As in – instead of one long 8 hour stretch, you go for two or more 4 hour stretches.

This can be summed up as – sleep whenever your baby does, but it’s generally tough to do that during the day.

What I do and what I generally suggest is – go to bed the moment you put them down for the “night” (usually happens between 7 and 10PM, depending on fusiness). Then you’ll have up to 3 hours of interrupted sleep before they wake up for the next feed.

Now why this is so cool is that once they wake up, you can do A LOT of stuff. Assuming they are being breast-fed, that’s like 40 mins of quiet time right there, even if it’s 2 AM in the morning! I usually use this time to either learn or write something. Reading seems not to work.

If you think this is insane, you might be surprised to learn that during Victorian era, people practiced biphasic sleep. As in – they’d sleep for 4 hours, then wake up in the middle of the night, go out, socialize, drink and what not, and then come back home for another 4 hour stretch. So generally – it is really not unheard of and it can work!

Which brings me to another topic.

It’s insane how functional you can be with 3 hours of sleep

I’d always complain whenever I’d sleep for less than 8 hours (which was – always).

Frankly, these days, having an uninterrupted 3 hours of sleep means that I’m in the LET’S ROCK & ROLL BABY mode. 4.5hrs and I’m FULLY RECOVERED!

Lesson learned being – it’s amazing how much you can do, without being aware of it 🙂

The Witching Hour

You have to be aware of it. Here’s a quote that I’ve found online: “The witching hour is a time when an otherwise content baby is extremely fussy. It typically occurs daily between 5:00 pm and 11:00 pm. It can last a few minutes to a couple of hours. For most babies, the witching hour starts to occur around 2-3 weeks and peaks at 6 weeks.”.

Reason why you need to know about that is because this is the ONLY explanation to inconsolable screaming. You can’t fix it and likely you can’t do anything about it. All you can do is trust the others who are saying that “this too shall pass”.

And yep, arm yourself with patience!

Electric breast-pump is a game changer

No idea why we waited for so long, but at one point I realized that our manual breast-pump is piece of crap. And if you have one – now’s the time to throw it away.

This triggered me to look online and realize that EVERYONE suggests getting an electric breast-pump. And this is one of those cases where the more expensive the better it is.

We went for the most expensive one I could find (around 150 EUR) and, honestly, this was a literal game changer.

My long-term plan is that my wife can skip one nightly breast-feed and sleep for more than couple of hours and that I could feed our little one with the milk we extracted via pump.

If you don’t have it – now’s the time to get it!

There’s a thing called fourth-trimester

I mentioned this on my social media, but this is also something very well worth mentioning. A fourth trimester.

The theory is that babies are supposed to be in the womb for ~ 12 months. However, due to size of their head, they have to come out three months earlier, so they need another three months to fully develop themselves.

To put things into perspective – imagine how you’d feel if you were supposed to have a three-week vacation and somebody cut you a week short or so? You’d be pretty pissed and fussy, right? Well, seems to be the same with babies – you cut them three months short and they are EXTREMELY UNHAPPY about it!

Why it’s important to know it? Because first three months are said to be the hardest – they have no clue about what’s happening, you can’t sleep train them and overall they can have really fussy moments for no reason.

On the other hand, people say that swaddling them is a miracle. Because, if you swaddle them (i.e. you make a baby buritto), they feel as if they are in the womb and, allegedly, they are a bit happier.

I say allegedly because our little one definitely doesn’t like swaddling so we have to resort to other things 😀

You can never have enough wet-wipes

Yep. Take this one with you! You will NEVER have enough wet wipes! Never ever ever!

My advice? Buy EXTRA LARGE packs! And if you are down to two packs? Buy ANOTHER package.

You can thank me later!

Jumping, bouncing, swinging, … try anything to calm them down

You know how everyone will tell you to make sure to avoid getting your baby used to being held? Well, what you need to do is to tell them to fuck off.

From my own research, when it comes to newborns, it’s ABSOLUTELY OK to carry your newborn whenever they cry. They WON’T get used to it in this period and they have to feel safe!

I found JUMPING seems to help my kiddo, but some people seem to have found luck with yoga ball. As in – you sit on a yoga ball and keep jumping on it.

Aside from that, you can always try sounds of a running faucet, fan, white noise, “sound of womb” (yeah there’s such thing on YouTube), … or just the ol’ good “tunak tunak tunak tun”:

And there’s a metal version as well (thanks Buki Zvani Pera!):

There’s a 10-hour video of “shhhh” sound on YouTube

Yes, there actually IS a video of a female voice making “shhhhhhhh” sound; so that you don’t have to. And it goes like that for TEN HOURS.

Honestly? It’s creepy as fuck, especially if you hear it out of nowhere (sorry babe! 😂) but it helps once you get tired of shhhh-ing yourself.

Newborn’s sleep cycle is between 20-50 minutes

This is also worth noting. Grown-up humans have a ~90 mins sleep cycle (i.e. it’s best if you sleep – 1.5, 3, 4.5, 6, 7.5, etc. hours). I won’t go into too many details but if you wake up in the MIDDLE of your sleep cycle, you are likely to be EXTREMELY FUSSY (as anyone sleeping for 2, 5, etc. hours will confirm).

Well, with newborns this is completely different – their sleep cycle is anywhere between 20 – 50 mins, which further means they are likely to wake up every 20ish mins. Good thing is that most of the time they go back to sleep immediately (along with the ‘pig snorting cocaine’ sound along the way) but occasionally they might go into full blown screaming. This is “normal”, because they did their sleep cycle.

This is also relevant for sleep training, but I won’t be writing about that until we start doing it first (around 6 months of age).

I developed huge respect for my parents

I’d usually brush of the info that “I cried day and night”, but these days, I’ve developed TREMENDOUS amount of respect for my parents.

They claim I’ve been crying whole day every day and I can actually see how fucked up that could be.

So yeah, I guess one artifact of having a kid is realizing what your parents had to do for you! And I can’t wait for this small dicky to say something along the lines of “you never do anything for me”. Hell, I’m preparing a heavy artillery here, ha ha ha!

Putting them to sleep becomes more and more cute!

I’ve been putting my son to sleep, day and night, since the day one. And let me tell you – this thing just keeps getting better (and heavier, but that’s a different story)!

I think it’s literally that every single day, he looks at me with more and more warmth in his eyes and this sensation of bonding just keeps increasing.

Downside is that ONE LOUD SCREAM is still his primary way of communicating that he wants to be rocked some more, but hell, that’s freakin’ cute as hell.

Farts become way funnier!

I mean, I’m biased. I’m a guy who laughs to his own farts, so your mileage might vary here.

But frankly speaking, I crack up every time this little ball of shit releases a fart. Because every single time it’s followed by a “oooh, look, he’s looking at you trying to tell you that he loves you” or some shit along those lines and then, 10 seconds later, pffffffrrrrrrrrrrrt. Followed by couple of shorter pfrrrts.

I mean I’m laughing just by writing this, but it’s a fact haha.

Lastly, right time for Wine is NOW

You know those funny pics of dads and moms carrying baby in one hand and bottle of wine in another?

Yep! There’s a reason for that!

Wine is the savior, as long as you keep it under control of course.

So if you are thinking whether it’s the right time to have some wine now – yes, it is! Do it!

Useful resources

  • I keep mentioning Reddit and posts of people who have gone through Newborn phases. Well, here is one, another and yet another post. Or just google for “newborn survival phase reddit”. This is not to DISCOURAGE you but to PREPARE you for what’s coming so that you can understand once all the emotions splash you all over the face.
  • I mentioned Victorian era and polyphasic sleeping. You can google it of course, but here’s one article that talks about it.
  • Here’s one article on Witching Hour and here’s a Reddit thread about it.
  • Here’s a Reddit thread about Fourth Trimester. There’s also a book with the same name but I haven’t read it (yet).
  • Lastly, if you haven’t checked it, I wrote two articles on first seven days and first fourteen days with a newborn. They also contain some resources you might find handy.

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