Dad's Guide to Baby's First Year For Dummies
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Bonding and forming an attachment to his caregivers allows your child to feel secure so he can focus on growth and development to become independent and self-confident in the world at large. He’s half your DNA, so shouldn’t bonding happen by default? Yes and no. Bonding is a process that needs to be worked at, but it’s not hard, and because you’re the adult, you’ll have to lead the way at the beginning.

Be 100 percent committed

Make a point of totally committing yourself mentally to looking after your little one, not just on a day-to-day basis, but for life. Becoming a father is like getting married — you’re in this thing for better or worse, in sickness and in health. But there’s one big difference — if things don’t work out, there’s no divorce. Your child will be your child forever. And because this is your child’s one shot at life, give your little one the best shot you can.

Be at the birth

The first time you lay eyes on your long-awaited baby is indescribable. Some fathers say the world changed in an instant, and the instinct to protect their vulnerable new child was overwhelming. Others say it took them a few weeks to truly feel special about their child. Either way, seeing your baby for the first time is a once-in-a-lifetime event that’s not to be missed. It’s an exclusive gig that’s happening for three people, and you’ve got a backstage pass, so use it!

If you’re at the birth, you not only get to see the amazing process of birth itself, but you also get to take part! You get to hold your baby, you get to mop up your partner’s blood (just kidding), and you can cut the umbilical cord.

And while mom is getting a bit of a rest and some attention from the medical staff, you’ll have a chance to check out your precious new little parcel in detail. Don’t forget to take lots of photos!

Get up close and personal

Newborn babies have spent their entire lives inside a person, so it makes sense that your little one will still want to be close to the people who love him — that’s first and foremost, you and your partner. And what better way to be close than skin-to-skin?

Your newborn will love snuggling into your chest, be it thick with hair or not, so whip off that shirt and cuddle. Kangaroo care, as skin-to-skin contact is sometimes known, is a technique used in the care of premature babies to facilitate better breastfeeding, temperature control, bonding, and attachment. But your baby doesn’t have to be premature to benefit. He’ll learn your smell and your sound, and love listening to the gentle thud of your heartbeat putting him to sleep.

Another way to get some close contact with your baby is to take a bath or shower with him. Wait until the belly button is fully healed. You may feel a bit clumsy with a wobbly, tiny baby, but after a few attempts you’ll feel more confident. Let your baby rest on your chest in the tub. Have mom nearby to hand you the baby when you’re settled in the bath, and give her a call to take the baby out when you’re finished. Be careful that the water isn’t too hot, or the room too chilly, as your baby doesn’t have good control over his temperature yet.

Ready, set … read!

Reading to your baby from day one not only encourages closeness, but it also gives her a chance to see colors and shapes and listen to your voice. Your little tyke can’t tell whether you’re speaking Spanish or Swahili, but she adores the sound of your voice, your smell, and being close to you. As your baby grows up and becomes more aware of her surroundings, she’ll learn that books are just a normal, everyday part of life that have always been there.

Being read to also helps with language development, which starts happening on day one. Before she can speak, she’ll be learning through you about the colors, shapes, animals, and emotions that she sees on the pages in front of her.

Engage in tummy time

Tummy time is an important technique in kick-starting your child’s development. Simply lay your baby on his tummy and encourage him to lift his head. This is important because it gets him to use his neck and upper body muscles, and encourages him to look ahead and focus on objects. As he gets older, tummy time helps him develop cross-line movement, which is the action a baby does when he crawls.

Start with just a few minutes a day and build up from there. Most newborns aren’t that fond of tummy time. Tummy time is hard work for them, so expect a bit of resistance at first. But keep at it because tummy time helps your baby develop on many levels.

Be hands-on — literally

Baby massage is a technique that every dad should have in his repertoire. Baby massage is easy to learn, and both you and your newborn will love it. Start by bathing your baby; then dry her on her change table or a similar flat surface. Make sure the room you’re in is warm, just like when you go for a massage. Get some natural oil, like calendula, or a commercial product made especially for babies and start massaging. Use gentle strokes up and down your baby’s limbs, and gently roll her over to rub her back. Use your thumbs to gently knead her legs and feet.

If you want to get more technical about baby massage, a variety of instructional videos and booklets are available.

Be the Paparazzi

The first year is populated by so many firsts that your head will spin: first smile, first bath, first outing, first swimming lesson, first bump or bruise, and (possibly) first steps. So take lots of photos in lots of different settings. Before too long, you’ll be looking at the photos and getting all nostalgic.

Put the photos on your phone, on your work computer, on your desk, and in your wallet. Immerse yourself in the world of your little one. If you work outside the home, photos can be a great way to remember during the day that you’re a dad now, and it means you’ll look forward to going home to check on your little one. If you’re a stay-at-home dad, taking photos can help you remember the good days when you’re having some bad ones and will help keep mom in the loop about what you’ve been up to with your baby during the day.

Get creative

Remember that beloved toy truck your granddad carved for you, the one that’s gathering dust in your spare room? Or the quilt that an aunt made for you when you were a baby? Things that are handmade by people who love you not only show you how much they care for you, but they can also become precious heirlooms passed down from generation to generation.

Make a future heirloom now by making a mobile, some wooden toys, or decorations like murals for your baby’s room. You’ll get untold pleasure from seeing your child use and enjoy whatever you make or fall in love with a painting you’ve made for her.

Take a walk

You never would have seen a man pushing a stroller 30 years ago, but now pushing the stroller — or running with the jogger — is totally the “in” thing. And who doesn’t want to show off their stroller with all the adjustable this, that, and the other things strollers come with these days? As you take junior for a stroll, you can check out what models other dads have.

In the early weeks, have your child facing toward you, so that she can make out your familiar face and feel comforted by your presence. The more your newborn sees you, the more she’ll realize that you’re her dad.

Get your hands dirty

Yep. You’re gonna have to change some diapers. Most dads don’t exactly relish the idea of dealing with urine and poop several times a day. Neither do moms. Changing diapers is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

But there are also fringe benefits to being a diaper changer. The distance between you and your little tyke when you change a diaper is just perfect for singing and talking together. Many a new dad has seen his baby’s first smile while changing a diaper.

It’s the day-to-day care of your baby that tells him you care and can look after him when he needs it. That builds trust, a connection and an attachment your child needs to grow up feeling loved and secure.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Sharon Perkins, RN, has been a registered nurse, mostly in maternal-child health, for 30 years, a mother to five children for much longer, and a grandmother of three for the 14 best years of her life.

Stefan Korn is a father and New Zealand-based Internet entrepreneur.

Scott Lancaster looked after his daughter full-time for the first two years of her life and experienced being a stay-at-home dad (SAHD).

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