Three and a half bits of advice

Three and a half bits of advice

If you’re about to become a dad for the first time you’re sure to get bombarded with advice. Some of it will be helpful. Some will be harmful. But whatever it is, you can guarantee it will be plentiful.

So bearing that in mind, here’s some more to add to the pile: My top three and a half tips for new dads.

Routine

When baby arrives, get a routine and stick with it. Do not wing it. Do not think you can carry on just living your old life, making the newborn adopt your lifestyle. You will regret it sooner and later. Kids love routines and if you get one that works you will get some semblance of your old life back faster because your kid will sleep more and you’ll all be happier.

Gina Ford has a good routine and we followed it with both our kids. Both of our kids slept through from seven weeks or so. Luck? Maybe, but as the old golf saying goes, “The harder you work, the luckier you get’. Every parent we know who had good sleepers followed a routine.

If you read a lot of mum-blogs, Gina cops a lot of crap from people who rather nastily point out that she doesn’t have kids herself. Hank Haney never played on the PGA Tour, that didn’t stop Tiger Woods turning to him for advice.

Find a routine and give it an honest go. If it doesn’t work, try something else but chaos and kids will never work.

Negotiate

Before the baby arrives you have to negotiate with one another to ensure you maintain some of your own identity.

Whether you like it or not, life changes dramatically when you have a baby. Most of the time it’s a good thing, change keeps you on your toes and stops you becoming a boring old so-and-so. You won’t be able to do all the things you used to do, you probably won’t want to anyway, but there will be things you should keep doing to stay sane and you’ll have to negotiate to keep them.

For me, that was golf. I love golf, but it’s seriously time-consuming. In order to keep playing my wife and I negotiated a deal before our first arrived.

We decided that she would have Saturdays as her sleep-in day and I would have Sundays. If I chose to get up at the crack of dawn and play golf then that was my choice. After taking a few months off straight after the birth of both our kids I’ve been happily kicking the dew off the course every Sunday since.

If you don’t want a fight every time you want to do something that helps make you you, you have to negotiate up front.

Before the baby arrives you have to negotiate with one another to ensure you maintain some of your own identity.

Swaddle

Having a newborn is one massive never-ending learning curve and that includes learning how to swaddle your kid effectively and safely. (‘Swaddle’ is basically an odd word for wrapping your kid in a cloth or blanket for when they’re sleeping).

When our kids were babies we found that the only times they were waking early from their sleep was when they’d managed to get their hands free and had whacked themselves in the face. If you can keep their arms in the wrap this doesn’t become a problem.

Now, bearing in mind that I’m not a midwife and have no authority in this area, I’m going to briefly explain the way I was taught by someone who was both. Please check with your own nursing help to make sure what you’re doing is safe.

Basically you begin with a muslin wrap. Lay it down square and then fold the top down about the length of a baby’s arm (Insert your own Billy Birmingham / 12th Man joke here). Then put your baby slightly off centre with their head sticking above the top of the wrap. Tuck their right arm under the folded-over-bit and wrap that side over and then under the baby. Tuck the left arm under the folded-over-bit and then fold that side over and under the baby. Finish by folding the leftover bottom bit under as well. Babies seem to like having their hands near their face and this keeps their hands in that position while also stopping them from whacking themselves awake.

As I said, ask for advice and check that the way you’re doing it is safe.

Adapt and discuss

The key with kids is to continually adapt. Take some advice and then adapt it to meet your needs. See what works. See what doesn’t. Most importantly don’t feel like you need to beat a dead horse.

If it’s causing more pain and frustration, don’t keep doing it. This goes for things like breastfeeding. If it’s not happening you can’t force it. The stress will destroy all of you and any good that may have come from it will be completely overwhelmed by the hate and misery.

The key to adapting isn’t about giving up, it’s about tweaking and adjusting until you find a balance that suits the whole family.

But what ever you do you must talk about things with your partner. Don’t go in like a freaking know-it-all, but don’t be a passenger. Have opinions but know when to shut the hell up.

Good luck. Have fun. Enjoy it.

Fergus Donaldson is a dad of two and co-founder of The Dad Website.




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