All posts for the month May, 2014

There is a very good chance that people will want to visit when they hear the news of Baby’s arrival.  Your reaction to that will vary, based on your personality, the difficulty of the labor and birth, and whether Baby decided that you should miss out on sleep for the birth.  Some people want all the visitors they can cram into the room, some want no visitors at all for a while, and most are somewhere in-between.

Now, families and friendships are incredibly varied, so specific advice about what to do or say is probably useless here.  You’re smart enough to apply some general guidelines to your situation.

The first, and most important guideline, is not to sacrifice rest or happiness of (in order of importance) the new mother, the new baby, or yourself to accommodate visitors.  Visitors are great, but a woman who has given birth needs rest to recover, new babies need lots of rest, and you could probably use a little rest yourself.  There will be plenty of time to see people after everyone has recovered more.  It’s okay to say something like “Mother and Baby are doing fine, and getting rest that they both need.  We’d love to see you.  How about giving us a call after we’re discharged, and we’ll figure out a good time for a visit.  The plan is for us to be discharged Tuesday.”

While you’re in the hospital, the nursing staff may be helpful in managing visitors.  Then again, they may not.  Check with your hospital or birth center in advance to be sure.  If they are willing to help, just ask when needed.  If there is someone you don’t want to see, or if you want to keep a visit short, ask your nurse to help–they have plenty of practice shooing people out without any hurt feelings.  And even if there are hurt feelings, they’ll be directed at the nurse, not at you.

Now, if the nursing staff isn’t willing to help (some hospitals don’t allow them to), responsibility for being the “bouncer” is all yours.  Good luck!  Be polite but firm if you have to turn someone away or kick them out.  Maybe something along the lines of “she [or Baby] needs rest.  Thanks so much for coming to visit.  I’m sure we’ll see you again soon.”  Make sure–just as you did during labor–that you’re paying attention to the now-a-mother so you can help her out.  She shouldn’t have to whisper to you that she’s tired or tired of some visitors–you should know just from watching.

As a side note, it may be a good idea to funnel calls through your phone.  That helps you manage visitors, and it also helps protect the new mother from feeling obligated to get up from her nap to answer the phone.

Having people that love you/her/Baby come to visit and share your excitement is part of the fun of being a new parent, so enjoy your visitors!

“I don’t know.”

“They both look good.”

“Whatever you think.”

There are guys that articulate strong opinions about interior design.  Then there are most guys.  Include me with “most guys”.  It’s hard for me to visualize the color from a little paint chip covering a room, with a shelf installed right there, and those curtains…or maybe these, which do you think?  My answer usually starts with “um”, and gets less confident from there.

When it comes to planning the nursery, though, force yourself to have some opinions.  Getting involved in planning (and then, obviously, with implementing those plans) gives you a chance to have input, shows you’re engaged in the process of preparing for a new baby, and helps build your baby-related confidence.

You might wonder why having input is a good thing.  “Seriously, I don’t care, and I’m not good at this anyway, and I’m sure she’ll do better than I will, and…”  That’s fine.  Do you care about cost?  About organization?  About quality?  Find something you care about, and use that to start having some input.  (I enjoy actually painting rooms, but not all the work of emptying, prepping, and cleaning up–so overall I’m not a fan of having to paint.  So I came out strongly in favor of painting the nursery a nice gender-neutral green.)

Helping to plan also shows that you’re engaged in the process of preparing for the new baby.  Baby is coming, and will spend a lot of his/her first few months in the nursery.  Your wife (or girlfriend, or whatever the appropriate term is…) will be glad to see evidence that you’re not checked out on getting ready for baby’s arrival.  This will be helpful now (she won’t get grouchy with you for being checked out), during the birth (she’ll have seen you’re involved and be ready to trust you), and after the birth (again, she’ll trust your involvement and be more open to your input).

For you, there is also the benefit of building your confidence about things baby-related.  If you make a suggestion, implement it, and it works out, you’ll know it (that color looks great, good job!).  Even if your suggestion isn’t implemented, or it doesn’t work out (awww, that shelf isn’t quite big enough to display Baby’s full collection of Star Wars action figures), you’ll still have practiced making baby-related decisions, and discovered that you can recover from mistakes (usually–if you’ve made decorating-related mistakes that you can’t recover from, please explain in the comments!).So help plan the nursery.  She’ll probably do most of the planning, so help her out by offering your opinion when asked–even if you don’t have one!  And, more seriously, you might notice something she hasn’t thought of.  (“I know it’s cuter this way, but the dresser drawers won’t open all the way unless the glider is blocking the closet.  Let’s try putting the dresser over there.”)  If it helps, don’t think of it as a nursery.  Think of it as a maximally-efficient baby-care workflow environment.  Maybe that will help!

This one is for the moms and moms-to-be out there.  For this post, just to make the writing easier and clearer, I’ll assume that “he” (the non-mother) is Baby’s father.  You can customize this for your own situation.

Last week’s post urged him to become a competent caregiver.

Today, I want to make sure that you’re willing to let him.

“Of course I’m willing to let him!  Are you crazy?  Why would I not want him to be competent at taking care of Baby?”

I’m glad to hear it.  Let’s dive in.

Many new mothers are protective of their new babies.  That’s good.  There are a lot of dangerous things in the world, and babies are, well, a bit helpless.  If things aren’t ideal for Baby, Mom is going to fix it, no matter what it takes.

Almost all the time, this is a good thing.

Once in a long while, though, it’s not.  Especially when it comes to someone else taking care of Baby.  Sometimes, dads do things differently than moms.  Sometimes those differences are mistakes (for example, abruptly opening a baby boy’s diaper all the way), and sometimes they aren’t.  Sometimes they’re dangerous (for example, leaving Baby unattended on the changing table), and sometimes they aren’t.

Now, if you see Dad doing something dangerous, it’s okay to make sure Baby is safe, then talk about safety.  By all means.

If you see Dad making a non-dangerous mistake, he might appreciate you suggesting why it’s a mistake (“did you know the sudden cold air can make Baby pee?”).  Keep in mind that experiencing the consequences of a mistake is a much faster way to learn than being told.

If you see Dad doing something that’s just different, let it go.  Yes, Baby looks goofy with that green shirt and those different-shade-of-green pants.  Yes, those are from entirely different outfits.  Yes, I know.  And yes, you can tell anyone who asks that Dad dressed Baby today.

Different ways of doing things that don’t matter–and except for safety and health, most of it doesn’t matter–is okay.  If you want him to become a competent caregiver, especially if he’s a baby rookie, give him the chance to make some mistakes and learn.  It’s okay to offer advice and suggestions, but don’t scold or mother him.

Laugh at the outfits he picks out, shake your head at his strange ways of doing things, respect his growing competence, and enjoy having someone that you can trust with Baby.

Fortunately, neither pregnancy nor birthing lasts forever.  Eventually, Baby makes his/her appearance.  Of course, Baby arrives with some new needs:  food, warmth, diaper changes, baths, love, and help getting to sleep.  And guess what?  It’s not just Mom that can help with those things.

If you were an awesome birth partner, helping take care of Baby will seem like a natural next step.  If you’re like most guys, you will have less baby-care experience than Baby’s Mom does.  That’s okay.  Most of Baby’s needs are simple right now, and you’ll figure a lot out as you go.

Maybe you’ve never changed a diaper.  If you’re smart enough to figure out that the two smaller holes are for legs, you can change a diaper.  Get used to doing diaper changes.  Once the meconium stage is past, diaper changes are not as bad as TV and movies would have you think.

If Baby is going to be breastfeeding, you may feel like you’re off the hook as far as feeding goes.  It’s true that you won’t do most of the work.  But you can still help.  When Baby cries for food, check for a diaper issue (and change the diaper if that’s the problem), and snuggle Baby.  If Baby keeps crying (baby-speak for “I’m still hungry!”), carry him/her over to Mom.  Once Baby is done feeding, you can help with burping.  Toss a burp cloth over your shoulder, and pat those air bubbles out.  And if Baby is going to be bottle-fed, figure out right away how to get a bottle ready.

Finally, get good at doing Baby’s bath.  Become the bath-giver.  They’ll probably show you how to do Baby’s bath at the hospital.  They may even have you help.  Bathtime is a great time to bond with Baby, and a great time to let Baby’s Mom rest for a couple of minutes.  (Pro-Dad-Tip:  If you’re doing bathtime in a little baby tub in the kitchen, make sure the ceiling fan is turned off to avoid cooling Baby off too much.  Oops.  Actually, after just a couple of kitchen baths, I’ve preferred putting the baby tub in the big-people bathtub.)

That might sound like a lot of work, especially if you don’t have much experience caring for a baby.  Like any skill, you’ll get better the more you practice.  As you get better, it won’t seem like as much work.  If you don’t have much experience, see if your hospital or birth center offers a “Baby Basics” or “Baby Skills” class.  They’ll show you all the basic skills you need, and let you practice a bit on baby dolls.  (For extra practice and insight, a “Boot Camp for New Dads” or similar class is a great idea.)

Why put yourself through all this extra work?

Simple:  it’s good for her, it’s good for Baby, and that makes it good for you.

You’ve probably seen TV shows or movies where fathers are depicted as entirely incompetent at childcare.  On some level, you may be expecting to get by without becoming a competent caregiver.  There are a lot of reasons to become a competent caregiver, but here are a few:

  • Being a competent caregiver gives both emotional and physical support to the mother.
  • Being a competent caregiver helps the mother get some rest, and a rested mother is a happy mother.
  • Being a competent caregiver will increase the mother’s respect for you.
  • Plus, having a competent and involved father figure is good for Baby .
  • Bonus:  realizing your own competence increases your confidence and helps you feel better about yourself.

It’s more work to be a competent caregiver.  It’s worth it.  Do it.