Fathers can often feel at a loss when a new baby enters the house. Which is why former Newcastle journalist MARK WOODS has written a guide to fatherhood for the new dad
THE FIRST NASTY NAPPY CHANGE
Whoever does the PR for nappy changing needs a talking to, it’s not that bad.
Welcome to the three Ps – preparation prevents pootastrophy. A fully-stocked changing table is a beautiful thing because once you open the Pandora’s box of a full nappy, putting a lid back on it again while you try to find some baby wipes is not an easy thing to do. The fear of your little one getting their hands in their own doings as you do the clean-up lives with all of us at every nappy change. If it happens, you are in the lap of the gods, as what is essentially a dirty protest unfolds before your very eyes. Perhaps the best thing to do is just revel in your baby’s creativity as she cave paints all over your white wall or, especially if you have a boy, creates a charming water feature right there in your living room. You’re not truly a dad until you have a face full of something nasty.
THE FIRST SMILE
Your baby’s first proper social smile can occur as early as four weeks post-birth – and after the month or so you and your partner will likely have had, a little bit of a reward will be gratefully received. As ever the timings of this joyous happening can vary a lot so don’t worry that you have spawned a mini Morrissey if you don’t get belly laughs when you’re expecting them. If, though, you are lucky enough to see a smile even earlier than the four-week mark, don’t let any sour-faced fool dismiss it as wind – smile right back and let the love in.
THE FIRST BATH
Nervy one this and definitely a team sport – the four hands that you and your partner can muster hardly seem enough in the early days.
Getting the temperature right is crucial and not that easy first up. So petrified was I of putting our beautiful baby into scalding hot water that I had the tendency to put him in what was essentially an ice bath instead. Spending a few quid on a little plastic thermometer which tells you when it is spot on is a good move, if you don’t trust the age-old trick of testing the temperature with your elbow.
So with a hand to support the neck and head and the other one under the body, the trick is to slide the baby as gently as gently can be into the water feet first. Once in you become acutely aware that you are essentially holding a live salmon in your hands and that, coupled with the frighteningly painful position you have put your back into as you lean over the bath, makes you begin to wonder if you will ever move again. But fast forward a month or two and bath times will be a doddle, such a well-seasoned dunker will you have become.
THE FIRST COLD
Babies are full of snot. For what seems like months they snort and snuffle their way through the night and make you sit bolt upright time after time as they seemingly struggle to breathe.
Then they get a cold. What you thought was bad was, in fact, nasal normality and now they have the snuffles, plus an infection and it knocks them for six. You watch helplessly as their tiny nose streams and their little pigeon chest heaves. And what can you do to help? Not much unfortunately. When they get past three months you too will worship at the altar of infant painkillers which can bring down fever and make them generally feel less bad. Keeping them hydrated is important too so if they struggle to feed for the normal length of time because of breathing issues, offer it to them little and often if possible. Plug-in vapourisers, liquid capsules and chest rubs all come into play past three months but for newborns the biggest thing you’ve got to offer your little one as they struggle through is love and cuddles.
THE FIRST TRAVEL COT BATTLE
Just to get this straight, every time is like the first time you put a travel cot up. When it works well, life is good, when it goes off on one of its illogical and infuriating wanderings, the Marx Brothers couldn’t have choreographed a more farcical scene. This side stays up, that one doesn’t. That one stays up this one doesn’t. With baby’s bedtime fast approaching you are sweating and swearing in a way not befitting either a new father or a guest in someone else’s home.
Reinforcements are needed – don’t worry about who, anyone in the house will do – because the moment they approach, your travel cot enemy will sense that humiliation is almost complete and will become putty in their hands, gently complying to their every movement. Swines.
Babies and Toddlers for Men – from newborn to nursery by Mark Woods, published by White Ladder Press, is available now at £10.99. For more information, go to www.babiesandtoddlersformen.co.uk