I have a two-month old son. Having a baby, you’ve probably heard, instigates dramatic changes in lifestyle. There’s lots of books and blogs that give advice to new parents, not to mention anyone who has a child, or will have a child, or wants a child, or doesn’t want a child is always more than happy to give parenting advice if you ask. Or if you don’t.
Well, since no one asked, here are 5 pieces of advice for dads of breastfed newborns (I assume much of this holds up for bottles, but as ours is breastfed, I make no guarantees) that I feel comfortable providing, now that I’ve been a dad for two whole months.
5. Since you can’t breastfeed, set your partner up when she does. Those first weeks, neither of you has any idea how much breastfeeding is going to be happening. It’s exhausting to watch, and we males can only imagine how exhausting it is to feed, over and over and over. So, dads, change out the burp-cloth, grab a bottle of water and a granola bar and talk. Every time. At least until baby gets into routine. Then you’ll be able to anticipate. If you can’t feed your baby in these early months, feed the mama.
4. If someone needs confronting, be confrontational. Be it grandparents or friends or the lady at Target, boundaries need setting, for the new baby and the new mama and the new papa. If someone fails to keep those boundaries, take the opportunity to be protective, and make sure those boundaries are kept. I always hated confrontation. Now, it’s my duty and I wear it with pride (and kindness).
3. Send mama out of the house, alone, whenever you can. I used to love getting drinks. Now, I love it when mama can. As the dad you’ll likely be out of the house for all kinds of reasons–grocery shopping, picking up the thing you forgot when grocery shopping, work, running back to the store after work for the thing you did not know you needed but now need immediately. The point is, you’ll get time on your own. For the mama that’s not always the case. Those first weeks mama will rarely if ever get out (see 5), and even in the first months, it takes serious planning. Make sure you get her time on her own. Everything’s better when this happens, including the odds that you’ll get back out for those drinks one day.
2. Run the household. Even if you have always failed, you now have to remember what day is trash day, and what day is recycling. If the dishwasher’s clean you have to unload the dishwasher. And put the laundry into the dryer. And clean the litter-box. Sometimes this’ll get done without you, and those times will be wonderful surprises. But still, it’s your party now. You have to remember, no matter how much you hate sweeping or emptying the diaper genie or rinsing out shit-covered cloth diapers. It doesn’t matter if you are too tired because…
1. Never complain to the mama that you’re tired. If your partner is breastfeeding then she’s more tired than you are. No matter what. Regardless of how little sleep I get or how frustrated I am from work or even if I stay up all night watching Buffy, I am always at best, the second most tired person in the house.
In fact, just don’t complain. Find sleep where you can.
That’s it. Follow these 5 pieces of advice and you’ll find slightly less choppy sailing on the seas of new parent-hood.