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Advice for new dads: A six-week survival guide

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Parenting

Advice for new dads: A six-week survival guide

Congratulations! There’s a new member of the family at home, and as a new dad, you couldn’t be more excited, delighted, and, let’s be honest: more than a little nervous.

After all, as wonderful as it is to have your newborn in your life, as a first-time parent, it seems like there’s so much to consider that you could easily stay up all night worrying about it.

When baby’s already causing sleepless nights, losing any amount of sleep you can get is the last thing you need.

That’s why we put together this ultimate six-week survival guide with advice for new dads, including everything you need to know to properly take care of mum, baby, and, of course, yourself.

Week 1: Be Ready to Adapt Your Routine

You may be the parents, but there’s no denying that the baby is in charge when it comes to setting your routine.

In the first few weeks especially, their eating and sleeping habits may be all over the place, but it’s important to pay attention to patterns in their behaviour and learn their preferred nap times so that you can work around them. Not that there isn’t anything you can do to help encourage sleep.

Studies on infant sleep show that the way we interact with our little ones and the kind of bedtime routines we instill can help improve the way they sleep.

Rather than being overly involved, adopt a nightly sleep ritual for all of you that gets baby ready for a good night’s rest. Turn out the lights and switch off any screens as this assists in better quality sleep, and helps the baby drift off with a little love and affection, a soothing song, or a story.

When they’re sleepy but not yet fully asleep, that’s the perfect time to put them down for the night as it’s a great way for them to learn to self-soothe.

Week 1: Establish lots of skin-on-skin contact

Evidence shows us that skin-on-skin contact (SSC) has a positive impact on a baby’s growth, development, and relationship with you.

Satisfying their emotional needs with love, hugs, and body contact can help babies feel calm and relaxed. It can even help to improve their stress resiliency, boosting their physical and mental well-being both now and as they get older.

Week 2: Schedule some self-care for both of you

The first week of your newborn’s life has been more than a little crazy, hasn’t it?

Though you’ve both been swept up in the joy and excitement of having your baby home with you, you’ve also been run ragged taking care of it, probably while fueled by much less sleep than you’re used to.

Sure, there’s still a long way to go and a lot of work to do, but if you keep going at this rate, you and mum are both going to burn out hard and fast, and when you’re burned out, you’re not in the best position to care for baby in the way they deserve.

So, as you approach week two, take some time to schedule a little self-care for the both of you. If there’s a relative or friend you can trust to take care of your young one, get them over so that you can both do something together.

That could be an activity like booking a well-earned massage or sauna day, heading out for dinner and a movie, or enjoying a day out. Alternatively, if you’re completely spent, it could even be that baby spends time with their grandparents while mum and dad enjoy a quality nap or a little Netflix binge on the sofa.

If there’s nobody available to tag in for you, you and your partner could also take turns to give one another a little break.

Week 2: Learn the art of nappy changing

If you’ve got this far and haven’t yet learned how to change a nappy, it’s time you got to it.

First things first, ensure you’ve got everything you need. Gather a clean nappy (you may want to grab two just in case), baby wipes, baby cream, and anything else they need.

Secondly, lay them down and be sure to comfort them with a little song or a cute toy to help reduce any nappy-time tantrums.

As you remove the dirty nappy, you can use the front part of it to wipe away any excess mess from their bum before using baby wipes or a damp cloth to wipe them clean. When you do this, always make sure you wipe front to back.

Now comes the tricky part:

Take the new nappy (we’re assuming you’re using disposable ones here) and place it underneath their bottom, then fold the front flap upwards towards their belly, tuck it around the waist and use the tabs to secure the whole thing in place.

Congratulations, you’ve just changed your first nappy!

Week 3: Learn how to calm your crying baby

So far, you’ve been doing great, but your newborn continues to cry so much and so loudly that you’re convinced they’ve got a personal vendetta to drive you out of your mind.

If this is where you’re at right now, the best advice we can give you is this:

DON’T PANIC.

Infants don’t have any other way to communicate other than bawling their eyes out, so all that crying is their way of letting you know that they need something.

Besides, it’s known that newborns respond to stressed-out parents by crying even more, so stay calm, relax, and try the following.

1. Check their nappy

A dirty or soggy nappy is one of the main reasons babies will, well, cry like a baby. So before you do anything else, check that they’re clean and dry. If they’re not, it’s time for a change.

2. See if it’s feeding time

All that wailing may simply be your little one’s way of telling you they’re hungry, so try them with a bottle or pass them over to mum if she’s breastfeeding.

3. Help them relieve gastric distress

If a baby’s upset during or not long after feeding, it may be that they’ve got some trapped wind. Try lying them across your lap and rubbing their lower back gently to help them burp, or lay your child on their front and massage their tummy to help any gas come out the other end.

4. Take care of them physically…

Your little one could be too hot or too cold. They could be wearing clothing that’s too tight or otherwise feels uncomfortable on their skin, or it could be that they’re dirty in some way. The best approach in this scenario is to give them a warm, gentle bath to ensure they’re all clean and change them into something more comfortable.

5. …And psychologically

Baby could be lonely, scared, or even overstimulated if there’s a lot going on, so take them somewhere quiet and calming and spend some quality one-on-one time.

6. Lull Them to Sleep

Let’s be honest: who among us doesn’t get a little cranky when we’re tired? If you’ve tried everything else, try the suggestions we made above for helping to soothe baby to sleep.

7. Check for a fever

Though we hope it never comes to this, persistent crying may be a sign of a fever. Get hold of a good quality baby thermometer and check their temperature. If it’s higher than normal, follow your medical professional’s advice on how to treat it.

Week 4: Limit or Schedule Visitors for a While

You’re right in the thick of things now, but you and mum may still be tired and there’s no telling when you’ll finally be able to get baby down for some quality sleep.

When you do, the last thing you need is the doorbell ringing and visitors waking any of you up.

Though you’ll obviously want as much adult interaction as you can when it’s just the three of you, and though friends and relatives will no doubt be eager to visit your new bundle of joy, limit such visits to avoid any disruptions.

If people do want to visit, perhaps explain that they’ll have to text you first and make sure that they’re not going to interrupt what precious sleep you, mum, and baby can manage to get.

Week 5: Don’t overspend

By the fifth week of your newborn’s life, you’ll have started to learn what they like, what they don’t like, and what challenges you face in keeping baby safe, happy and healthy.

If you’re anything like a lot of parents, there’s a good chance you’ve been Googling for advice and come across all kinds of wonderful gizmos and gadgets to help you overcome those challenges.

Honestly, you don’t need them.

Despite all the advances in modern technology, raising an infant today isn’t much different than it was back in our parents’ day. Children still need to eat, rest, stay clean, and have their emotional needs met.

You can do all that without buying a fancy gadget for hundreds of pounds that could be better spent on other things.

Likewise, resist the urge to pick up every toy and cute outfit you come across while out and about.

Trust us, newborns don’t care how many toys they have, and although they still need more changes of clothes than you and I do on an average day, you’ll likely find that there are loads of outfits they simply never get to wear.

Remember, raising a kid is expensive. You’re financially responsible for this human being for at least the better part of two decades, so stay thrifty and make smart financial decisions that will help you and your family live comfortably for years to come.

Week 6: Check in on mum (and yourself)

The last six weeks have been a whirlwind for both of you, but let’s not forget that it was mum who was carrying your son or daughter in the womb for nine months. It’s also mum who’s breastfeeding if that’s the route you’ve gone down.

As much as you may be tired yourself, mum maybe even more so. She may even be one of the 17.22% of the world’s women who suffer from postpartum depression.

So, be sure to check in with her. Ask her how she’s doing and if there’s anything you can help with. Whatever you can do now to be the most supportive partner you can be is only going to lead a happier, more harmonious household.

That’s not to say you should neglect your own needs.

As we said earlier, there’s only so much you can do before you burn out, but if you can up your game for a little while now, it’s going to be better for your whole family.

A final word on surviving the first six weeks as a new dad

We could give you all the advice in the world about surviving the first six weeks of your child’s life and so could many others, but the sad truth is there’s no one single, definitive way to take care of your family in the early days.

Every newborn is different. Every mother is different, and so is every situation, so what works for the new parents across the road may not work for you.

Yet while the exact steps you take may be different, there are a few things you can do that are universally beneficial no matter the situation.

Namely, the big one is to stay calm and relaxed. Though they may be new to the world, babies can pick up on their parents’ stress and anxiety and that can affect everything from how much they sleep to whether they eat.

Beyond that, we can’t stress enough how important it is to take care of your and your partner’s needs too.

Yes, baby’s needs come first, but if you and mum are overworked, overtired, and stressed to the nines, you’re simply not going to be in the kind of physical and mental state to be the best parents you can be.

Although taking time out for self-care may seem impossible at first, getting even an hour to decompress and relax will make a big difference to the whole family.

Written by Parent Cloud Team