How can dads really help when the newborn comes home? Here in Singapore, we’re lucky to have all the support in the world we could possibly want, if you want to hire a helper for your family. But no matter how much backup you’ve got, fathers often feel a little overwhelmed (especially if it’s their firstborn), and unsure of whether they’re a help or hinderance (here’s a tip, if you ever accidentally throw away any expressed breast milk, run). We asked new dad (and husband to a HoneyKids mum), Ben Cunnington, to share his pearls of manly wisdom for new fathers:
Words of advice from a fellow dad
The homecoming of our newborn son was a bit of a shock to the system. Tensions were high. I learnt many things the hard way but I survived to tell the tale, so here are my tips to other new fathers out there…
The diaper change
Diaper change is by far the best skill you can bring to the party in the first few weeks. Under pressure, a well-executed nappy change is like nailing the defining penalty kick at the World Cup Final.
Our son was delivered at Thompson Medical Centre (TMC) who offered a class on general newborn care including diaper change. It was really helpful. Ask your hospital if they offer a similar class, and do it! If not, there’s always YouTube – trust me, just learn to change a diaper. Babies leak like rusty old taps – from both ends. Taking out the trash and changing diapers are jobs for the lads.
Aside from those annoying Scandinavian can-do-no-wrong men, getting all the little details right is not one of our man-strengths. My motto in life is ‘She’ll be right’ (that’s Aussie for ‘It’ll work itself out’). With a newborn, that all changes. Every small detail makes a big difference. Sterilised bottles, well-swaddled baby (again, YouTube that because wrapping a burrito is not the same), milk, bath and air conditioning temperatures are all details that suddenly matter.
But it’s not just about the details; it’s also about giving your partner confidence that you have your act together so she can focus on the baby and not worry about cross-checking the things she trusts you to get right (bath and milk temperature are critical details as an FYI).
Ditch the spreadsheet
Babies are unique individuals that, from day one, have their own personalities. So even though you’ve researched the best baby products you need to buy (or don’t need to buy) and added it to your neat ol’ baby spreadsheet, your little bub may freakin’ hate the thing. Scrap the spreadsheet and get your dutiful butt off to the store to buy something they don’t hate. Your baby does not care for your meticulous baby-essentials spreadsheet.
Every minute counts
Spending an entire day with a child is exhausting (especially after a sleepless night). Sadly, most working dads are back in the office after a week or two – business as usual, meanwhile your wife’s world’s been turned upside down. So when you walk in the door at night, your job is to simply ask, “What can I do for you, honey?” Ask this BEFORE you go change out of your suit, before you check your emails, charge your phone or open the mail, before you go to the fridge or… anything! All that can wait.
Take the baby, hold him, sit with him, whatever, and ask your partner what she needs. She may be craving a five-minute sanity break, she may be hanging on by a thread, watching the clock and waiting for the only other person she trusts around the baby (you) to come home. So everything else can wait.
Everybody be cool
Despite all our male urges to problem-solve in the first few weeks, whether it’s baby crying, wife crying, panic, stress or tiredness, your job is really simple; keep your cool and in doing so, be a calming influence. End of story.
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