Preparing for a baby (especially for the first time) is perhaps the most challenging thing you will do in your life. Babies have a way of moving the epicentre of your controlled life into what can only be described as a tornado that throws up any number of unexpected challenges along the way.
“What I love most about fatherhood is the opportunity to be a part of the development process of a new life.” - Seal
Sure there are a 1000 books and no dearth of unsolicited advice from all the neighbourhood aunties, grandma's and even social media, but knowing what advice to keep and what is unnecessary can be a difficult task.
We've decided to pay tribute to first-time dads everywhere this month and simplify this list to the essentials. Here are the things you need to know, contingencies you need to create and research you should do to make the transition to parenthood as smooth and hassle-free as possible.
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Prepare for birth
Preparation includes making up checklists for everything from hospital bags and what exactly is going to happen during the birthing process and after. Attend check-ups with mom and make sure she has her own set of vaccinations up-to-date. Baby-proofing the house is fine but part of the preparations can also be a list of questions for your OBGYN on areas of doubt or confusion can help you be more relaxed, confident and supportive when the birth day arrives.
Learn to manage sleep
Perhaps the most significant change you will experience with a newborn is just how much you can do on only with a few hours of sleep. Do your best to rest and help your spouse rest whenever possible. Learn to accept that the way you sleep might need to change for a while and catch up whenever you can - even if it means taking turns. Learn what helps both you and baby sleep better - yes that might include being strict with yourself on screen time, staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet.
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Practise holding, diapering, swaddling & burping a baby
Old school wisdom tells you to leave this to the ladies of the house. However, if you're an involved dad, then you're probably looking forward to experiencing many of these things yourself too. What do you need? Simple hygiene skills, some practice with other babies or even a doll and doing a little research on tips, tricks and hacks for any number of daily baby duties and even emergencies. In fact, you can even take a first-aid course that’s specific to toddlers.
Pay attention to your relationship - it's essential!
While the excitement around having a baby and becoming a parent is incredible, it also sometimes makes you feel invisible. While you can't control other people saying "Hi, how's the baby?" before asking about you, you can remind yourself that both dads and moms need love and care too, especially around this time. Take turns at having a girl' s/guy's night out, plan a date with your spouse or even draw up a list of potential friends and family who can babysit for a couple of hours.
Keep the lines of communication with your partner and family open, and even if you have to go back to work or travel - stay as connected as possible. Before the baby is born, talk about and perhaps keep notes where you stand on things like division of labour at home, where the baby will sleep, diaper systems, breastfeeding and how to tackle unwanted advice from the most well-meaning friends and family. Most importantly - make room for both your styles of parenting.
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Prepare for the future
10 little fingers and 10 little toes - responsible parenting means giving your baby the best fighting chance at a healthy life. Talk to a pediatrician, and get a head start on what the recommended vaccinations are for your baby and how they can help. More babies being vaccinated means fewer babies who will fall prey to vaccine-preventable, life-threatening illnesses like Whooping Cough, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Hepatitis B, Polio, Pneumococcal, Measles, Mumps and Rubella to name a few.
Being a dad is an ongoing labour of love. Making sure you move along that learning curve as quickly as possible is your best shot at making sure you get all the applause for being the best dad ever. Many of the things outlined are broad topics that you can explore in as much detail as you like. Your attitude will determine how much fun you have with bringing up a new baby. Remember, you are now "daddy" for life and you will work it out together!