Settling in With Your Baby

“One thing I’ve learned about having a kid is,
if you like having things scheduled, don’t have one.” — Veteran Dad

Settling in With Your Baby

“One thing I’ve learned about having a kid is,
if you like having things scheduled, don’t have one.” — Veteran Dad

Taking Your Family Home

You gather your stuff, help Mom into the wheelchair, put your baby into her arms, and push them out of the hospital. The car seat is good to go and you have plenty of gas. As you drive home, you will naturally be extra cautious. Mom will sit in the back so she can comfort the baby if needed (BTW, driving around with the baby is a traditional cure for crying).

Anybody who’s had a baby has experienced a mixture of amazement at what you’ve made, and shock that they’re letting you keep it. This moment seems surreal for most parents, with feelings of pride, excitement and nervousness. Don’t be surprised if the feeling is a little overwhelming. 

It’s only natural to be anxious, but keep in mind Benjamin Spock’s (your parents probably relied on his book) timeless advice: “You know more than you think you do”. 

TAKE TIME ALONE

You and your mate are going through dramatic changes, rapidly evolving into Dad and Mom, and you have a new baby to get to know, too. Spending time together alone is the ultimate family time. Some couples take a few days before friends or relatives come to visit, and some just get a few hours every now and then. Make sure your family gets time alone together, and make it count by being together with no disruptions.

“My husband and I decided that during the weekend, we would each get a day. Today he got to sleep in, I took the baby, I wake up with him, feed him, and my husband gets to do whatever he wants. Tomorrow is my day, I get to sleep in, go work out and do whatever I want. It kind of makes us feel normal. It's been a good thing for us."

- New Mom

Shaytards: "Bringing the Baby Home!" (10:20)

Take Great Care of Mom- This is When It Really Counts

In the first weeks after the birth, new moms often find themselves on an emotional roller coaster, with feelings ranging from deep happiness to inadequacy and frustration. As time wears on, new moms wear down, and start asking “Will it ever end?”  Here are suggestions for you: 

  • Tell her what a great mother she is. Reassure her about any concerns she has. Tell her you love her.
  • Protect her from intrusive visitors, help her maximize sleep, and make sure she eats well. 
  • Understand her “ownership” issues regarding the baby. Be patient.
  • Help her get a daily bath or shower, encourage her to get out of her robe and take a walk for some exercise.
  • Get her time on her own to read or listen to music.
  • Give her more time out of the house so she can visit a friend, go to an exercise class, or just breathe.
  • Make sure she gets appropriate health care and help her with any “baby blues” or depression issues. 
  • Encourage her to join a local mothers group so she doesn't feel isolated.

Caesarean Births 

Caesarean births make it easier for dads to figure out how to help. They end up needing to do everything, and it pays off in terms of your confidence as a dad, and Mom’s confidence in you.

reddit: Caring for a mom with a C-section.

Guidelines & Tips

A collection of guidelines and tips from those who've been there:

  • Minimize outside work responsibilities.
  • Focus on the basics:
    • Feeding, changing and caring for your newborn.
    • Eating, sleeping and showering yourselves.
    • Getting to know your baby.
  • Be patient. Learning what works takes time; the first 2-3 weeks or so are for trial and error.
  • Make a list of (only) the things that need to be done, and how often, for two months. 
  • Make a list of your favorite take-out restaurants.
  • Stock up on quick and easy meals.
  • Use paper plates and plastic utensils for a while for easy cleanup. 
  • Get the dishes washed and the trash taken out (by visitors) so clutter does not add to the stress. 
  • Cut back on cooking, laundry, shopping, and vacuuming during the first weeks. You can catch up later. 
  • Set aside everything else, like thank you notes. 
  • Develop a smooth tag-team approach to caring for your baby to make the best use of your time. 
  • If Mom insists on doing it all, suggest she back off for her own good. 
  • Share a calendar with her for family appointments.
  • Reactivate your sense of humor by watching a funny movie. 
  • Keep a print-out on the fridge of important phone numbers 
  • Stock a diaper bag to make it easy to go somewhere.
  • If you can afford it, hire a house cleaner, get a babysitter, etc.

"The Brain"

“We had a notebook we called 'The Brain' because, in the first couple of months, you have no brain. We put everything in there: when she ate, when we changed the baby, when she slept, questions for the doctor, all the doctor and emergency contact information, everything. It was a lifesaver.”     — New Mom

This is a great idea: a baby management book. It’s a cool thing for moms and dads to do together, too. If you both learn things and talk about them, it builds teamwork. It builds a knowledge bank about the baby.

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classic-cars-mom-mobile

Get Out Of The House

In the first few months, feeling closed in and housebound with an infant is the norm. The antidote to this is to simply get out of the house.  The following solutions, milestones really, will have a direct correlation to the stress in your new family. You’ll be surprised at the reset these provide:

  • You and Mom take your baby out.
  • Mom leaves you home alone with your baby.
  • You and Mom leave the baby at home (with someone, obviously).
  • You take your baby out on your own.

Matt: What's in your diaper bag? (3:02)

Mom May Need Encouragement 

A new mom may not even get out of her bathrobe for weeks, you may both be up against sheer exhaustion, and she will likely be so highly focused on the baby’s needs, she feels she can't leave. So you'll need to encourage her, and maybe make arrangements with her friend to come and get her. If she calls every ten minutes to make sure her baby is still alive, assure her he is – be patient; it is just her Cave Mom showing up. 

When she gets out and detached from the baby, refrain from calling her if you run into a problem at home. Call your mother, her mother, a sister,  or neighbor; they will all know what to do, and they should be sworn to secrecy.

Challenges Getting Out Alone with Your Baby

There is no one to encourage you, and your initial challenge will likely be fear. The thought of taking your infant out on your own can be unsettling – until you do it once. Mom may not quite trust you at first, but after a few trips when you bring your baby home safe and sound (no need to report minor problems), there's little she will appreciate more than her time alone, knowing her baby has a great dad. 

Don’t wait six weeks for his immune system to charge up; just don’t go where he will be in contact with other people. 

“Sometime in that first month, take the baby out of the house for a couple of hours. Even just an hour. And don’t let Mom come with you. It does a couple of things: it gets you stock with Mom because you’re bringing the baby home alive, so it reassures Mom you can take care of the baby. But also, it gets Mom a little bit of time off, too. Because if you’re in the house and say 'go get some rest,' she’s still worried if the baby’s in the other room."  

- Veteran Dad

Guidelines For Outings With Dad

  • Pack the baby in the stroller and take a walk around the block. This works well with crying babies, as nobody is bothered and the rumbling ride of the stroller is soothing to her. You may add a side-to-side rocking motion to enhance the effect, or cover the stroller opening with a blanket to turn out the lights (or keep the sun off her face). 
  • Place her in the soft front carrier facing you and go for a walk or even a short hike. The warmth of your body and walking motion will calm her and lull her to sleep; you get some exercise and relaxation as well. Since she is so close, you can talk or sing to her softly.
  • You've already put her in the car, strapped in according to specs, for the ride home, so the next step is to develop a proficient routine because you'll be doing this a lot. Pack the diaper bag, the stroller, and front carrier (or later a backpack carrier) so you're fully prepared for the adventures ahead. 
  • Make it a habit. Take her with you regularly, and figure out how to keep to her sleep schedule while out and about. She'll remind you of her feeding schedule; just bring the milk, bottle and a portable bottle warmer.

Take Your Baby Out to Eat

Restaurants and fussy babies don’t mix, but you can eat out in peace:

  • Work around her fussy times; try breakfast when she's rested.
  • When waiting for dinner (to prevent fussiness) walk her around and show her pictures in the hall, etc.
  • If she gets fussy, wrap her in a blanket and take a walk outside to calm her, or park her next to you in her stroller and rock it side-to-side.
  • If it's just not working, ask to have your food to-go and try again another day.

Put Your Baby to Sleep Anywhere

You will find that establishing routines with your baby makes your life easier. As you get into the rhythm of sleep, play and eating times, your baby learns the routine and relies on it. However, maintaining your baby’s sleep routine does not mean it must occur in her crib. The schedule is the key, and the stroller, front carrier, and car seat all will work. 

If eating out during her normal nap time, place her in her carrier under the table and rock it with your foot. If you go to a park, a small portable bed can work; try replicating her normal sleeping environment, wrap her up in a familiar blanket and hold her so she gets warm and falls asleep, or walk her in a stroller. Be creative and don’t get stuck at home.

grandparent-visitors
visitors-mobile

Visitors & Help

You have probably heard of problems with visitors, but most come with the best of intentions – they want to see the baby, help you celebrate, and are inclined to help. Sometimes they get intrusive, but the guidelines in the attached notice should preclude any issues.

How to handle visitors at the front door
Daddit: How did you deal with the no visitor rule?
What Dads Say about visitors, family and help (below)

See Rules to Visit My Baby and modify it to fit your needs.

Arrange Your Support System

Mom and you will have talked about this before. She will take the lead with the baby, so making sure it works out is up to you. Consider the family and friends who want to come to visit the baby your potential helper crew, and invite them to join. See the email/text from a Dad below, designed to get them organized in a manner they cannot refuse.

Communications

Let potential visitors know how you want to handle the first days and weeks before they start showing up, with an email or text. Consider turning the telephone ringer off and ask callers to leave a message, and understand it may be a while before you get back to them.

Family 

Family is where most problems lie, along with the most potential help. Mothers-in-law are notoriously stereotyped, but most are great, and even the over-exuberant ones can contribute a lot. Conflicts do arise, and you are the designated defender of Mom,Baby and yourself. If needed, say what needs to be said. Don’t be shy about saying "No" to offers from those who will add rather than relieve stress. Out-of-town relatives do not need to stay with you. 

Your Help List

Use a dry-erase board or sheet of paper to list what needs to be done and post it where visitors can see it (so no one has to ask). Include washing dishes, vacuuming, laundry, errands, and building a new room onto the house...

Stand Your Ground

This is no time to be shy in the defense of your new family. Gently enforce your rules, be sensitive to Mom’s feelings, and take care of business. Ultimately, your friends and relatives will appreciate you are just doing your best for your new family. Don't get carried away; being assertive will do, no need to be obnoxious. 

“I'm only 2 weeks into taking care of my new daughter and nothing could prepare me for the batshit insane schedule you're forced into. This little bugger sleeps when she wants, eats when she wants, and poops when she wants. You're completely beholden to that schedule. All you can do is strap in and try to survive each day.”

– New Dad

Get Organized

Use the weekly calendar below to schedule help, visitors, meals, essential household tasks, and doctor visits for at least the first two weeks. Print and post on your fridge.

Weekly Survival Chart

                 

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Morning

       
       
       

Afternoon

       
       
       

Night

       
       
       

Visitor Rules

Here's an example of the kinds of rules you can set, in the form of a sample email/text. Sure, this may be a bit over-the-top, but it'll give you some ideas too. Copy, paste, customize and send to friends and family so everyone's on the same page:

Thank You For Being Part Of Our Village!

As brand new parents with a beautiful new baby (surely the most amazing creation on the planet), we have a lot going on. As a brand new dad, I'm just getting my Cave Dad on and hopefully you can appreciate me considering you all potential predators. On the other hand, the right help makes a huge difference and we appreciate it, so here is my best attempt to be flexible! 

Re: visits with our brand new baby (whose immune system won’t kick in for six weeks):

  • Visiting times are [include dates] between [time] and [time].
  • No unannounced visits; please text or email first.
  • Plan to limit your visit to 30 minutes.
  • No children under 10. 
  • No sick visitors.
  • Visitors must wash hands upon entry.
  • No waking up the baby. Ever.
  • Holding baby:
    • Not more than 5 minutes
    • Not before X weeks
    • No children.
  • Mom (and Dad) can’t take care of guests.
  • No unsolicited opinions. 
  • Diaper donations (size X) are appreciated.
  • Meals (see list/schedule) are appreciated.
  • Help with housework (see list) is appreciated.
  • Enforcing the rules is Dad’s job; even if I seem to be enjoying it, I am just protecting my baby. 
  • No drama, criticisms, competition for the baby, etc.

Matt: Dealing with Visitors (1:23)

Edel & Ryan: Dealing with Visitors (2:02)

What Dads Say About Visitors, Help & Family

“Family can really invade after the birth, and you might need to protect your wife and child from the onslaught.”

“When you first get home, you’ve got to be in that protector role. You’re kind of like the gatekeeper of the house. Everyone’s going to want to come and visit and see the baby, and that’s all well and good, but you and your wife probably need to talk and establish what the guidelines are.” 

“We had my wife’s mother come the second week, which was really a blessing. My wife was really grateful that she came. Her mother was very careful not to step on our toes and it worked out to be very positive.”

“Without asking, my mother insisted she would stay with us for the first three weeks to take care of the baby. Instead of saying no, I asked my brother, who had a bigger house, to ask her to stay with him. Everything worked out great, and I did not have to hurt her feelings.”

“My father-in-law lives two doors down, which can be good and bad. We don’t have to go far to visit grandpa (good), and he sometimes tries to step in where he shouldn’t (bad).”

Read More

“Set boundaries, space it out. Immediate family right away but for short visits. Make sure anyone visiting is helping. Too many visitors, people hanging and fawning over baby too long... it's disruptive. You need time to bond with baby and baby needs time to adjust to the world and some sort of routine. If you want them there the day of birth, fine... but shouldn't they ask? And be okay if maybe it's the next day or something? We waited until the day after the baby was born to have the in-laws. My parents came a few days later. Siblings the first week as well. Extended family can wait a bit. On the other hand, I have friends who had family in the room during the birth. Whatever works for you, but it's up to you, not them.”

“What do you and your wife want? Truly supportive friends/family will want you to do what's best for you, your exhausted wife, and your tiny, vulnerable baby. Truly supportive people will not "insist" on anything. They will tell you their wishes, and you can accommodate them within the bounds of your wishes. Make a visiting schedule that works for you and your wife, and then invite them at the times laid out in your schedule. If they aren't able to make it, then maybe you can work something out later. Most people will be understanding.”

“As far as in-laws, you want them to relieve stress, not add to it. So you need to figure out - are they the type to help you take care of things around the house? That first month, it’s hard to keep the house up, so if they’re really helpful in the sense of doing housework, definitely have them. But, you still need to be on your guard to make sure your wife isn’t stressing out about having guests.”

"Set boundaries, space it out." 

- New Dad

Russell: Put Them to Work (1:13)

"We were a**holes about it. We didn't want anyone around. It was our time." 

- New Dad

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