Step 7 – Man about the house


A man needs to be doing something. Babies, however, don’t really do very much for at least the first 6 weeks. When they do… guess what?… they want to do it with Mum!

So what’s a Dad to do?

The first few weeks of life is when milk matters most and all little sprog wants to do is suck and sleep, leaving Dad feeling as obsolete as his nipples. However, if you’re able to spend time at home in the weeks after the birth, then there are lots of little jobs you can do to feel useful again.

Cooking

Some women have a strong nesting instinct when approaching the end of their pregnancy and so your freezer may be bulging with pre-cooked meals. If not, strap on that daft apron with the muscles and get your hands (and the stove) dirty making dinner. Like many modern folk, you may be unaware of where your food comes from. You may have wondered how your food gets on that ceramic disc. Wonder no more! It is the product of an ancient art form known simply as… ‘cooking’. Now, don’t worry if this is your first foray into the kitchen. Your partner will be so relieved about not having to lift a finger that she’ll inhale what ever ill-formed slop you’ve scraped onto her plate.

Changing Nappies

This can summed up as: Mum deals with the input, Dad looks after the output. You may think you don’t take shit from anyone, but you won’t mind your own kid’s poo. After all, it’s a part of a part of you. Well, not anymore. Still…later on it’s fun to guess what the solid bits are.

Getting up in the night

My wife and I operated a shuttle system when our first child woke in the night. I would spring from the sheets, fresh as a daisy, and bring the crying child to his mother with a doting smile. Then I would wake up, drag myself over to the cot, grumbling and bruising my shins on numerous obstacles, and carry the police-siren back to our bed with gritted teeth. Once the hand-over was complete, I would keel over and snore while my wife fed, wrapped and patiently put him back to sleep. This seemed to work well.

Bathtime

Aside from obvious personal hygiene benefits, this is an enjoyable activity for Dads. Most kids love floating in warm water and they’ll instantly quieten down and gaze up at you with their cross-eyed stare. Meanwhile, you are free to rattle off your warbling shower-renditions of Tom Jones in an environment where no-one can judge you.

Obeying all commands given by your partner

Business as usual.

Apart from these odd jobs, an easy way for Dad to bond is by making eye contact and holding it until baby looks away. You may know this as ‘staring out’…

…but it actually makes the little one feel secure and loved.

NOTE: This does not work with dogs, so no loving gazes in the direction of the neighbour’s mastiff.

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Step 6 – The Crying Game


Take a look at this little fella on the right here. What do you make of him? Is he hungry, a little bit lonely, absolutely knackered, or is he just a whingeing little b*****d?

It may surprise you to learn that the answer is…all of the above!

Babies cry for a variety of reasons: hunger, tummy pain, lack of cuddles, tiredness, birth trauma, or even for no discernible reason. For the new parent, however, it’s difficult to concentrate on finding an underlying cause when getting the hairdryer treatment from your little bundle of joy.

Fortunately, there are a host of experts (parents with one more kid than you) willing to pass on their knowledge for the price of a paperback doorstop. What novice parent at their wit’s end wouldn’t want to learn the ‘365 Ways To Stop Your Baby Crying’?! Ok, so the individual tips might appear more effective if there weren’t so many of them…

There are plenty of other books on taming babies to choose from though, if you’re contemplating earplugs. It seems as though there’s one written every minute. However, most authors only write about their own experiences with their own kids. Limited scope you may think. Not that this stops the writers of these tomes doling out general advice like sweeties. Frustratingly, however, these words of wisdom are commonly offset by a thinly disguised disclaimer that is the mantra of many a baby guru – “Every baby is different.”

So what are your options?

Two of the most influential names in the crying game are Dr. Benjamin Spock and Dr. Truby King, both sadly sleeping the big sleep.

Dr. King had a dream. His dream was that little children, black or white, would grow up to be strong characters – eating sleeping and pooing regularly. Leaving babies to cry themselves out via ‘controlled crying’ would achieve this. King published ‘Feeding and Care of Baby’ in 1913, advocating that mothers should avoid picking babies up or hugging them as this may teach them to cry and turn them into softies. This approach became surprisingly influential.

Dr. Spock arrived after Truby King. Initially considered a bit too left-field, he had tone to down his technique a bit for the newborns.

Oh…BENJAMIN Spock? Right! …Well, this Spock relied less on nerve pinches and more on understanding a baby’s needs. A far cry from Dr.King, he encouraged mothers to be affectionate and treat babies as human beings. Commonsense stuff. In fact, Dr. Spock’s message to mums was “You know more than you think you do”. Despite this, he published a volume titled ‘Baby and Child Care’ in 1946. Just in case…

That was a brief peek at two competing philosophies. On a more personal note now, I have something to share from my own experience with my two children. Let me introduce you to a couple of good friends who’ve helped me to conquer the crying… Koala and Tiger! Do bear in mind though…every baby is different!