Caring for Your Baby

“Some of my fondest memories in the first few months were
being able to hold my little one as she fell asleep to a bottle.” - New Dad

Caring for Your Baby

“Some of my fondest memories in the first few months were being able to hold my little one as she fell asleep to a bottle.” - New Dad

Despite worries you may have, learning to care for your baby will come quickly, especially if you dive in at the hospital. With babies, you learn by doing, and once you start, your instincts will kick in. 

You'll find a parade of challenges with each new issue, like crying, sleeping, and baby acne, and the sheer workload will be shocking. Babies are made cute and cuddly to steal your heart; you will give your baby every opportunity to do so by just caring for them.

It Doesn't Seem Like It, But Babies Grow Fast

You care for them one day at a time and each day can seem like an eternity. Then you compare a picture of your 3-month-old with one from when they first came home, and its “Wow!” 

IMAGE: They grow fast; The difference 12 weeks makes.

This dad took pictures of his baby for the first 365 days and compiled it in a 1-minute video: How a newborn baby changes over one year.

How a Newborn Baby Changes in a Year -
One Year in One Minute (1:06)


Changing Diapers

Changing diapers used to be optional for fathers. Those who opted out paid a big price, missing out on a lot of great bonding time. You can change all that by asking the nurse to walk you through changing your baby’s 1st diaper, and then showing Mom how it is done.

“I changed your first diaper and thousands more, and you will be home by 10 o’clock!” is a great way to end an argument with a 16-year-old.

How to Change a Diaper (1:45)

Problems handling the sight and smell of poop?

Many guys are not bothered at all by the site and smell of their own young one's poop. It's all part of being a dad.

It is hilarious to watch guys who gag at the sight of baby poop. Unfortunately, it's a common reaction and not funny at all when it happens to you.  Be Prepared: keep a small bottle of Vick’s Vapor Rub in the diaper bag and put a little dab on both sides of your nose, and use disposable gloves if it helps. If you have a problem, don’t let anyone video you unless you want to become internet famous.

reddit: A dad-to-be asks about diaper gag reflex and gets answers.

gift for dad - treasure chest

Dads Adventure Cigar Box Treasure Chest


For all your treasures! Solid wood box with dove-tail joints, perfect for all your/his most prized keepsakes. Makes a great Dadchelor Party/Man Shower gift!

Proceeds go toward funding for Boot Camp for New Dads

Umbilical Cord Care

Umbilical cords are cut at birth, leaving a 1-inch stump connected to the baby's belly button. The umbilical stump is clamped and will dry out, turn brown and fall off in about 2 weeks. You'll need to keep the stump and surrounding skin clean and dry to prevent infection. 

Unfortunately, drying umbilical cord stumps can stink...

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Give your baby sponge baths and generally avoid getting the cord stump wet until it falls off. Use a cotton swab with warm water and mild soap to clean the stump once a day during a diaper change. Don’t cover the area with a diaper that will rub against the stump and irritate it. Fold the diaper below the umbilical cord stump, or cut out an area of the diaper to keep the stump exposed to air. Consult with your doctor if the skin around the cord becomes red or swollen.

Grossed Out New Dads Provide Their Perspective

“The poop is not the problem, it’s that damn umbilical cord stump slowly rotting and it just refuses to fall away!”

“That thing freaked me out. Gross scabby booger looking thing. All hard and brittle and it would snag on clothes. Ugh.”

”That thing stunk so bad!”

Newborn umbilical cord stump falling off cycle

From Visually.



For the first few weeks, give your baby a sponge bath. Here's how:

  1. Put warm water in a bowl, have some mild soap handy, undress him, and place him safely on a towel. 
  2. Wet a soft cloth, add a little soap and wipe him down gently, starting from his head to his toes. Be thorough on his bottom and any skin creases.
  3. Rinse him using another cloth with clean water, then dry him off and dress him in a clean outfit. 

After the umbilical cord falls off, here is how you should go about Bathing Your Baby.

READ: Expanded Information on Bathing Your Baby.

Your baby may not like the bath at first, and if you find a squirming, wet, slippery infant a little unnerving, put socks on your hands. After getting used to it, most babies find their bath soothing, and for many dads, it becomes the highlight of their day. When your baby discovers the joy of splashing and kicking like a frog (both are apparently instinctual), you may want to get in and join him (you can). 

bottle feeding

Feeding With A Bottle

Introducing the bottle is like Dad graduating from Parental Probation and Mom being released from house arrest. You can take your baby to a car show, leave her with a sitter, take a shift at night with just your baby and you, and cut Mom loose so she can sleep or get out alone. Of course, this means Mom must use the milking machine, aka the breast pump. 

When Do You Start?

Some breastfeeding advocates recommend waiting four months before a bottle is introduced, because if Mom gets a break from personally breastfeeding her baby, she may like it and be tempted to stop sooner. They also want to maximize mother-baby bonding occurring from breastfeeding, and consider Dad’s need to bond a secondary concern.

The standard advice is to wait 4-6 weeks to make sure breastfeeding is “well established” so your baby doesn’t develop a preference for the faster flowing, easier to suck on bottle nipple and stop breastfeeding. This is called “nipple confusion.”

One expert had a different take: “You need to wait until breastfeeding is easy for both Mom and her baby," says Alan Greene, M.D., a pediatrician at Stanford University. "By two to three weeks, neither will want to give up nursing; and it's before the big crying period, usually at four to six weeks, when introducing a bottle might be harder."

Minimize Risk of Nipple Confusion

Amid sleep and breastfeeding challenges, Mom may choose to pump and have Dad use the bottle at an even earlier time. Many parents who try the bottle find they can manage any problems with nipple confusion. They minimize its risk by limiting bottles to one a day, have Dad do the bottle feeding so the baby doesn’t associate it with Mom, use a bottle that minimizes nipple confusion, and back off on the bottle if any issues arise.

Introducing the Bottle 

The flip side of nipple confusion is that your baby favors the breast so much she rejects the bottle, which requires a baby to learn new mouth and tongue actions. It may take a while, so be patient. 

1. The test run: offer your baby a bottle in the evening after she is breastfed so she doesn’t get upset due to hunger if it does not go well at first.

2. Put just 1 ounce of breastmilk in a bottle, and put it in a bottle warmer or pot of warm water. Test it for warmth by putting a drop on your wrist. Put a drop of milk on the nipple. 

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3. Since she will prefer the breast and can detect Mom’s scent, it’s best for Mom to be out of the room. One dad put on his wife's bathrobe and another used a printout of Mom’s face as a mask.

4. To start feeding, rub the bottle nipple on the baby's lips, and when she opens her mouth, touch the nipple to the roof of her mouth to trigger her sucking instinct.

5. If she starts sucking on the top of the nipple, pull it back out and let her suck it in again. Repeat until she sucks the whole nipple in. 

6. If your baby starts crying and turns away from the bottle, back off, comfort her, and then try again. Once you've tried several times, stop and try later.

7. Move her into a different position on your lap, and slowly bring the bottle to her lips.

8. The typical meal takes 10-15 minutes, so find a comfortable place to sit and relax.

Storing and Warming Breastmilk and Formula

Bottle feeding requires stocking and storing breast milk or formula, and heating and cleaning bottles, so set up a system.

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Expressed breast milk and formula need to be warmed to body temperature. There are products for this purpose, or you can set the bottle in a pan of hot water. The microwave is not recommended since the milk does not heat evenly, potentially scalding your baby’s mouth, and higher temperatures degrade the quality of the milk. Check the milk’s temperature by shaking the bottle and squirting a few drops on the inside of your wrist, which is sensitive to temperature.

For formula, store unopened containers at room temperature and use by the expiration date. Prepared formula can be refrigerated and used within 24 hours once heated for use. Any extra formula unused within one hour should be discarded. Once you open a can of powdered formula, put the cover back on and use within 30 days; do not refrigerate because it may cause clumping. For concentrate or ready to feed formula, cover the opened carton, refrigerate and use within 48 hours. Always read the directions.

For breastmilk, these are useful guidelines:
CDC recommendations for handling breastmilk.

What Dads Say About Bottles

The bottle has turned out to be popular with the guys:

“I didn’t know I could bottle feed the baby while my wife was breastfeeding and relieve her in the middle of the night. This will give me time to bond with the baby and score brownie points.” 

“I am three weeks in. Nobody tells you how amazingly shitty it feels that, as the father of a breastfeeding baby that cannot yet use a bottle, you cannot get him to stop crying. Hold, swaddle, change, skin-to-skin, warm him up, cooling down, sing, rock, nothing…. He just wants a boob and I can’t do it.”

CUBS Game - Dad Catches Foul Ball While Bottle-Feeding his Infant Son (0:54)

“I frickin love it - it makes me feel much more relevant. It means my wife can go out and leave me in charge without any worry, and it gives me a chance to be an equal parent.”

“We started out with my wife pumping, so I bottle-fed from the beginning. I felt so connected to him doing it. Well, except maybe for a few times at 4AM, while he was screaming at me between pulls on the bottle.”

“Night is magical. Until you’ve sat up with your baby at night while they feed and come in and out of sleep, you’re missing something. Not to mention your wife could use the help. You’ve got the rest of your life to sleep.”

“I will say some of my fondest memories in the first few months were being able to hold my little one as she fell asleep to a bottle.”



Babies swallow air when feeding, which causes discomfort that can keep them awake at night. You and your baby will work together to get burping down, and you may try different approaches. If Mom is breastfeeding, burping gets you in the game and provides you a little bonding blast. 

Over the Shoulder

With one hand on the baby's bottom, rest her on your chest and her head on your shoulder. Her tummy should be in solid contact with your chest because the pressure will help get the air out.  Pat her back; they tend to like it firm.

Sitting Up On a Lap

Sit your baby on one of your legs, facing the other, and place your hand high on her chest where you can put your thumb and finger around her neck to support her head. Lean her forward and pat her back. You can also try rubbing her back.

Sometimes just holding her up facing you with your hands around her upper chest will do the trick. If your baby doesn’t burp, don’t worry. She may not need to.

Top Off the Tank

You can burp your baby in the middle of a feeding to make room for more milk. When you burp her after Mom nurses her before bedtime, suggest that Mom “top off her tank” so they can both sleep longer. A very tired Mom will think you are a genius.


Be Prepared for Spitting Up

Assume your baby will spit up when he burps and put a burp cloth over your shoulder. If he does spit up, use the cloth to wipe his mouth.

Newborn Burping Techniques (4:11)

How to Burp a Baby - The Easiest, Fastest, Most Effective Method (1:18)

Bicycle Baby's Legs For Gas

This is really a form of massage, can help a constipated or gassy baby get it all out, and is a great way to play with your baby. Babies with gas will often kick their legs in pain, and by bicycling his legs, you will do it for him, only more effectively. Put him face up on your lap, grab both legs, and then gently move them like he is riding a bike.

Dad Skills: Josh and Dan teach us about baby gas (2:22)

Bicycle Legs (age: 1 month) (0:53)


During the last months of pregnancy, babies are stuffed tight, secure and warm in Mom’s womb. Swaddling a baby replicates that secure feeling and helps keep them calm. Babies are swaddled soon after birth in the hospital, and the nurse will be happy to give you a lesson. Do it a few times and you'll get good at it. If your baby has Houdini escape skills and breaks free, try this. 

Swaddling Your Baby (3:13)


Your hands-on time with your baby is the key to bonding, and you cannot get more hands-on than with massage. It relaxes and helps put babies to sleep too, but is way underused by dads. Most babies like massage, some don’t, and the only way to find out is to try. You can massage his head with your fingertips; keep it gentle and more than a tickle to start, and then move to his face, shoulders, arms, and hands, and back, legs and feet.

Watch how he responds; if your baby relaxes, he likes it, and if he arches his back or starts moving, he doesn’t. If so, you can dial it back to five seconds, very gentle rubs to get him used to it. Massage doesn’t take long, relaxes you too, and if you do it regularly, it becomes a thing just you and your baby share. You can do it over their clothes, but on their soft skin feels better. You don’t need lotion or oil but can try it out to see what works best. Wait for an hour after a feeding to massage their belly.

WebMD: How to massage your infant (1:52)

Fun Baby Massage (2:17)

Dressing Your Baby

To assert yourself as a dad, regardless of the pile of clothes that were gifted to your cause, man up and go to a baby store and buy her an outfit you choose. Seeing her in a new dress and headband will score big points with Mom – regardless of your fashion sense - but matching Chicago Bears team shirts will “promote your bonding”, the go-to excuse for anything you want to do with your baby. The baby grunge look - diaper and dirty t-shirt – won’t cut it.

Putting Her Socks On

Hands down the trickiest task of caring for a baby. When you put a sock on, you point your toe. When you put a sock on a baby, she curls her toes. Stick both thumbs deep into the sock so you can snug it up against her toes and then pull it the rest of the way up.

Putting On a Shirt

Most babies hate having clothing pulled down over their heads, and will let you know it, so be quick but gentle. Stretch the collar before putting it on. Once it’s down over his head, then put his arms into the armholes.  

Getting the Snaps Aligned

Baby sleepers and jumpsuits often have snaps, and lots of them, and they often end up one snap off as you finish closing them. The trick is to start at the very bottom; get the first one aligned properly and the last one will line up too. 

Dressing Your Baby for Bed

Keeping your baby from being too hot or too cold at night can be a challenge. Newborns have little ability to regulate their own temperature and can chill easily. You may be tempted to bundle up your baby at bedtime, but overheating can be a serious problem. To keep her comfortable:

  • Keep the room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees.
  • Dress her in a diaper, an undershirt, and a one-piece sleeper.
  • Only use a thin knit blanket to cover her, and tuck it in under her.

If Your Baby is Too Hot

A baby who is too hot will feel sweaty or clammy and may develop a heat rash, especially around the neck. He might look red in the face and may cry. Removing a layer of clothing (or a blanket) will help cool him down.

If Your Baby is Too Cold

A baby who’s too cold may shiver and cry. Her hands, nose, and feet will feel cold. If your baby is too cold, hold her next to your body to warm her up and then add a layer of clothing or a blanket. 

Adventure T-shirt & Onesie Set

T-shirt and Onesie Combo Set – “Adventure”


“On an Adventure” / “I AM the Adventure” T-shirt and Onesie combo. For all your Daddy/Baby adventures!

Proceeds go toward funding Boot Camp for New Dads


Baby Care Resources

Thirty-five years ago, for most new parents, there was only one parenting book (Baby and Child Care (1946) by Dr. Spock) that emphasized parents should trust their own instincts. Now there is a massive collection of books, websites, organizations, and media that, among many things, imply the last thing you should do is trust yourself. 

So where do you find a good resource for helping you care for your baby (aside, of course, from this site)? We asked new parents, and came up with:


You will want to talk about circumcision before your baby’s birth, as circumcisions are typically done before you leave the hospital. There are few benefits or risks either way, and it's your choice to make. 

Circumcision has the highest number of responses of any issue on Daddit, yet we rarely hear it come up in our Boot Camps. Passionate anti-circumcision voices dominate the discussion, quoting information from organizations opposing it as a human rights issue (a baby cannot consent to a circumcision), and comparing it to removing a young woman's clitoris. Advocatitus results in the claim that circumcised men don’t enjoy sex as much; the science (see Wikipedia) concludes they do. 

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Circumcision is relatively rare in Europe, Latin America, parts of Southern Africa, and most of Asia.  In the past, circumcision was used as a religious rite of passage for teenage boys and was promoted to reduce masturbation - done without an anesthetic to reinforce the lesson. The World Health Organization promotes circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa where they have found it reduces female-to-male HIV transmission by 50-60%. Proponent groups include religions, and the CDC, which in 2014 concluded that it helps men avoid STDs.

To assist in making your choice, we selected the following:


To quiet your screaming baby, pop in a pacifier and all you'll hear is a vigorous sucking noise. That babies are built to suck will quickly become apparent, although not all babies will accept a pacifier. 

The first time your baby cries and nothing you do consoles her, the pacifier can become an issue. If Mom is also upset over breastfeeding problems with a hungry baby, it can become an acute need. Some hospitals restrict their use (see below), but not to worry. Wash your hands well and you will have ten pacifiers available (your fingers).

Some babies transition from using a pacifier to sucking their thumb, but many don't. Oftentimes the biggest drawback to using a pacifier is the difficulty of breaking the habit and possible dental damage from long-term use.

Using Your Finger As A Pacifier

You can use your pinkie as a pacifier. Trim your nail if needed. Pick your baby up, sit down and hold him face up in one arm on your lap. Brush his lips with your finger so he opens his mouth, and then stick it in with the soft side up. You will feel instinct at work; they suck hard and you get an idea of what it is like for mom when the baby latches on to her breast.

The Issue And The Evidence

Pacifier use is mostly an issue in breastfeeding because of "advocatitus."  The evidence against their use has been superseded with newer evidence indicating that pacifier use may actually benefit breastfeeding. There are issues to consider, however.

A worldwide campaign to promote breastfeeding defines ten steps all hospitals should take. One step is to discourage and restrict the use of pacifiers based upon observations in the 1970-80’s that mothers who used them were less likely to continue breastfeeding. The studies cited by the campaign showed a relationship between shorter breastfeeding span and pacifier use and became the basis for opposing pacifiers. 

More recently, randomized studies designed to determine the cause of the shorter breastfeeding durations found “no evidence that pacifier use is harmful to breastfeeding.” They also found evidence indicating pacifiers may be helpful to breastfeeding; mothers experiencing problems resorted to pacifiers, which quieted their babies and helped them breastfeed longer. 

In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics modified their support of the Baby Friendly Hospital rule of no pacifiers because of evidence that pacifiers help prevent SIDS, and actually recommend the use of pacifiers for a year starting at one-month-old. 

Here is the evidence from two doctors with no ax to grind: 

A newborn hospitalist MD sorts out the confusion over nipple confusion.

A pediatrician clears up nipple confusion. 

The First Month When Breastfeeding

While the evidence of actual problems is sketchy at best, it's good to understand the concerns. While nipple confusion should not be an issue because no milk comes from a pacifier, ask Mom if she notices any changes in your baby’s breastfeeding. The other issue is some believe prolonged sucking on a pacifier will diminish a baby’s desire to suck on Mom's breast, so you might not use it as a soothing tool for a few weeks until breastfeeding is well established. Pros & Cons: Should You give your baby a pacifier. Practical Pacifier Principles from the AAP.

reddit: Dads: Gave my boy a pacifier, is it the end of the world?


Screen Time for Babies

The average child spends lots of time in front of a TV, tablet or mobile device, and screen use in homes continues to rise dramatically. Research indicates this is not good, primarily due to their lost opportunity to do other physical or learning activities. So how do you deal with screen time with your baby?

In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a zero tolerance rule for any screen time until a baby turns two years old. It was driven by the popularity of Baby Einstein videos in the 90’s, and research finding they were actually detrimental to a baby’s learning. The research was later debunked.

Read More

About 90% of new parents, including those who were pediatricians, ignored the policy, found screen time distracted and calmed a fussy baby, and many got on the path to too much screen time. A 2011 study found that 47% of babies under 2 years watch up to two hours of TV daily, and 30% had a TV in their room. Some parents followed the rules, which meant no TV on in the house, and perhaps Dad watching the game at the local bar. 

One former member of the AAP Committee on screen time wrote in a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association that “We can no longer afford to guide children’s media use based on our values and opinions. Evidence-based decision-making… must be brought to bear. In our zeal to advocate for children, we have largely ignored the positive effects of using media, mismanaged the public discourse, and lost the ear of many whom we serve.” The AAP recently loosened their rules, but they still do not reflect reality.

TIME Magazine: Parents, Calm Dow About Infant Screen Time.

Babies love watching sports on TV (1:01)

Strategies For Limiting Screen Time For The First Year

So where does this leave you? What happens when you discover your crying baby quickly becomes mesmerized by a video on your phone? Or your friend tells you about the iPad program his little one loves? Or how putting your baby in front of the TV buys you 30 minutes of quiet freedom? It's a slippery slope.

READ: Common Sense Media's guidelines for screen time for babies and toddlers.

BTW, your baby will be fascinated with your cell phone. There is even an app that turns your phone into a rattle. But, be careful: babies also love to stick things in their mouths...

Trimming Your Baby’s Nails

A baby’s fingernails are very sharp and can scratch their face. They grow rapidly and need to be trimmed 1-2 times a week. An awake, moving baby makes it difficult to avoid cutting the tips of her tiny, delicate fingers, so trim the nails when your baby is asleep. Most babies sleep hard enough that lightly trimming won't wake them up.

Another strategy is to trim the nails while your baby eats. One parent can distract the baby with food or a bottle, while the other has free reign over the nails. To see how other parents handle the situation, check out these videos, below.

Trimming Baby's Nails

New parents trimming their 11-day old baby's nails (2:27).

Baby will occasionally have plans of their own...(1:05)

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