Whether you are about to begin your career as a stay-at-home dad, you have the baby for a weekend, or just have baby duty for the next couple of hours, here are 5 basic things to remember.
Maintain a routine
This is a topic of much debate. Some sources have argued the importance of keeping your baby on a strict schedule, while others claim schedules limit parents in meeting a baby’s ever changing demands. I am not trying to settle the score, but as a short-term game plan for dads who normally don’t watch the baby full time, I believe maintaining a schedule will make life easier. If you fear schedules for the previous reason mentioned, rest assured that babies are resilient and that as long as they are loved they can survive a few days with dad.
One of the biggest benefits a schedule offers is always having an idea of what the baby may need. This is great when you haven’t been around the baby long enough to learn their cues.
Baby is crying? No problem, check the clock. When did they last eat or sleep? If the baby is on a schedule, time frames become important in deciding what is the matter. If they aren’t due to eat or go down for a nap maybe they have a dirty diaper or are just restless or uncomfortable.
This is an even more obvious step if you already keep your baby on a routine. Babies on a schedule tend to manage the time on their own, you just have to be the hands and the feet, they can be the brains. Just follow the routine. Sure there may be a few bumps along the way, but for the most part you will have an idea of what your baby needs when they start to cry.
Learn your baby’s cues
I considered myself pretty involved with my son while I worked full time. I knew how to make him laugh and had my own method to help him fall asleep or calm him when he was upset, however, I wasn’t very good at reading his cues. For all I knew, he was just upset. I couldn’t tell you if we was hungry, sleepy or wanted a diaper change just by listening to him cry or watching his expressions. Learning your baby’s cues takes time and a deliberate effort. It means being with your baby during all phases of the day. Do their eyes turn red when they are tired? Does he cry with his eyes open rather than closed when he’s hungry? This might not be possible for you during the work week. It may mean having to give up a few weekends and having the baby all by yourself. That might sound horrible on the front end, but it sure will pay off when you are able to defuse an infantile meltdown before it happens. If you don’t have any available time to learn your baby’s cue firsthand then here two other things to consider.
1. Find some more free time.
2. Enlist your wife’s help or whoever is watching your baby. Perhaps they can video your baby’s cues so you can watch and learn. Have multiple videos showing a hungry cry, sleepy eyes, bad gas face, or whoever is videoing your child thinks will help.
Know what to expect
If you are not normally the one watching your baby throughout the day you may have a few surprises ahead of you. Your baby may not be used to having you around and taking care of their needs. Chances are you aren’t use to them either. Expect it to take a few days to get comfortable with one another. Your baby may not be as patient with you as with their mother. Mom’s tend to take less time to settle them or understand what they want, expect your baby to take some time to get comfortable with you.
Crying is OK
Is crying fun to listen to? Nope. Can it be stressful? Yup. Does it mean that your baby’s death is imminent? Nope.
They may think that they are about to die, but as an adult you should know better (but it is fine, if you have to remind yourself). If you have exhausted all of your options and your baby is still crying, remember that is fine to lay them in their crib and take a breather, Sometimes walking away for a few minutes can help you reset. You need these breaks to de-stress and think straight. I have found that most of the times I walked away, I was better able to help my son out when he continued his meltdown.
You got this
Alright guys, you have handled challenges and adversity before, taking care of your baby is no different. Don’t be afraid of the little guy, show him who’s his daddy and dominate that nursery. Make your wife proud when she comes home to find you both alive and well. Good luck and God bless.