Dad’s Guide to Baby’s First Year For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Being a great dad during your baby’s first year (and beyond) takes patience and perseverance, but it’s a heap of fun and one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. Your child will love every minute you spend with her, whether you’re changing her diapers when she’s a baby, playing rough and tumble as a toddler, or teaching her how to ride a bike. Your time is by far the most valuable gift you can give your child.
Tips for Dad: Changing a Diaper Step by Step
One of the main things you will be doing in your baby’s first year is changing diapers. Changing a baby’s diaper requires attention to details and to baby. The two most important rules for safe and stress-free diaper changing are
- Never, ever leave a baby unattended on a high surface like a changing table or bed.
- Have everything on hand before you start, so you don’t have to break the first rule by searching for something halfway through.
Now, gather everything you’ll need:
- A clean diaper
- Something to clean baby’s bottom with — a baby wipe, or moist cotton wool or soft flannel
- Diaper cream
- Something to change baby on, such as a changing mat, an old towel, or an old-fashioned cloth diaper that protects the surface under your baby from mess
- Something to put the dirty diaper in, such as a trash can or plastic bag
To change your baby’s diaper:
- Put the old towel or changing mat on the surface where you’re changing your baby. Put the clean diaper next to the changing mat.
- Lay your baby on the changing mat.
- Open the diaper’s tabs, Velcro, snaps, or safety pins and take off the dirty diaper by gently lifting your baby’s ankles with one hand and pulling the diaper away from under your baby’s bottom with the other hand.
Dispose of the diaper in the trash can, plastic bag, or diaper pail for washing later. (Put only cloth diapers in the diaper pail!) If you can’t dispose of the diaper, make sure it’s out of baby’s reach. If you’re near a toilet and you’re dealing with relatively solid stool, you can shake it into the toilet.
- Use a wipe or moist cotton wool or flannel to wash your baby’s bottom and around his genitals. Dry him off.
If your baby is a girl, wipe from front to back to avoid any germs from her bottom getting into her urinary tract and causing an infection.
- If your baby’s bottom or genital area appears red or irritated, put some diaper cream on the irritated skin.
- Lift your baby’s ankles with one hand and use the other to put the clean diaper under his bottom.
On a disposable diaper, the side with the tabs goes at the back.
- Your baby should be lying on the clean diaper, so it’s just a case of doing up the diaper’s tabs, Velcro, snaps, or safety pins.
If your baby is a boy, tuck his penis down so when he pees, it goes into the diaper, not out the front.
- Put your baby somewhere safe, such as on the floor or in his bouncy chair.
- If you haven’t already, put the dirty diaper in the trash or diaper pail for washing.
- Wash your hands thoroughly, ideally with an antibacterial soap.
Voilà — a clean, happy baby!
Dad’s First Year: Soothing a Crying Baby
Babies cry for lots of different reasons and respond differently to soothing techniques, such as the following. Find out what works for your wee one:
- Feed your baby; he may just be hungry.
- Burp him; he may have air trapped in his tummy.
- Change his diaper; he may be uncomfortable.
- Check to see whether he’s too hot or too cold by putting your hand on the back of his neck. It should feel comfortable (not sweaty or cold).
- Rock him gently or cuddle him.
- Take him for a walk in a stroller, backpack, or sling.
- Try to settle him in bed if he seems tired.
- Sing a lullaby or play some soothing music.
- Give your baby a warm bath or take a bath with him.
Settling a baby who’s upset is hard work and can be tough emotionally for you. If your baby’s crying is overwhelming you, and you’re getting wound up or angry, put your baby in a safe place, such as on her play mat or in her crib, and take a breather. Take a few minutes to calm down, and then go back to your baby.
If you’re alone and need to talk to someone about your baby’s crying, call your healthcare provider.
Activities for Dads to Share with Baby
As well as having fun with baby, you’ll be developing his abilities and muscles when you try the following activities. Both you and baby can benefit!
- Lay him on his tummy. Also known as “tummy time,” a few minutes a couple of times a day on his tummy helps strengthen your baby’s back and neck muscles. On the floor you can do some visual activities such as blowing bubbles or slowly moving a ball in front of his eyes. Place some objects such as toys just out of reach. He’ll try reaching them as he develops his physical skills.
- Blow bubbles. Watching bubbles helps your little one’s eyesight and gets him looking up during tummy time, strengthening his neck muscles.
- Move him around. Movement is good for getting those synapses or brain connections firing and linking with other parts of the brain. Try some gentle rocking, or have him lie on your lap facing you as you move your legs up and down. Or you can have baby on your shins while you lie on the floor. Hold his hands and lift your legs. He’ll love it.
- Read to him. You can’t start the book habit too early. Picture books with clear, contrasting colors are a big hit.
- Talk to him — a lot. He can’t understand your words, but he’s listening, learning, and picking up language faster than he ever will again. You don’t have to discuss Shakespeare or politics; just talk about what you’re doing or seeing.
Tips for Dad: Activities to Enjoy with Your Toddler
Activities that stimulate and develop your toddler’s senses, imagination, coordination, and other skills can be great fun — for dads and your child. Try the following:
- Camp in your living room. Set up a tent in your living room and fill it with pillows, toys, and sleeping bags. Snuggle up, watch some fun movies, and eat some snack food. If you don’t have a tent, organize a large cardboard box (supermarkets, retail stores, or furniture shops may be able to provide you with one) and make a little house out of it.
- Make a roll-around bottle together. Cut two big plastic drink bottles in half and use the top end of both of them. Put some interesting shapes inside and thread a shoelace through the bottle tops on either end. Seal the middle with tape. Knot the shoelaces together to make a line that your toddler can drag around.
- Create an obstacle course. Make tunnels by placing a blanket over the tops of two chairs with their backs facing each other. Add other elements with low tables to crawl under, stairs to climb, and boxes to climb over.
- Play chase. Toddlers love being chased, peeking through curtains, and a bit of rough and tumble when they’re caught.
- Make lunch. Toddlers love to help and seem especially drawn to helping out in the kitchen. Get your toddler his own stool or box to stand on so he can reach the countertop and help with simple tasks, such as peeling boiled eggs. He can move on to using a knife (with your supervision, of course) to cut up firm fruit and vegetables like cucumbers and zucchini.