The First Few Days: A Survival Guide for New Dads

Whether you are a New Dad already, or an Expectant Dad, I would like to congratulate you and your partner on this momentous life-changing event.  I hope this New Dad’s Survival Guide is helpful to you.

So first off, Congratulations!

I’m no expert, but I have survived thus far in my path in Fatherhood (3 weeks), and I’m sure there will be one or two items that I discuss here that (I hope) will help at least one other new Dad out there.  Whether you are expecting, you have just welcomed you newest family member home, or they have been here for a couple weeks, I hope there is at least one aspect of what I have written below you find helpful.

I have structured my advice into different ‘Chapters’, within which I discuss a different topic specific to that area.

So, without further procrastination, let’s get going!

Prologue: Prepare Yourself for Defeat

New Dad Survival Guide (Know All The Things)
Inform yourself, but be ready to to learn when your child has something to teach you.

First things first, and that is simple that you can’t know everything.  You can read all the books & articles you want, and speak with friends and family members, but at the end of the day you can only prepare so much.  There will come a point at which, you are as ready as you can be.  My advice is to learn as much as you can to the point that you feel somewhat prepared, and then let nature take it’s course.  You can’t know everything, and you won’t.  If you think you do, allow me to tell you right now, you are going to be in for a big surprise, as your child is going to teach you things you never thought possible.

The reason I started with talking about defeat, is the simple fact that you and your partner are going to fail during this entire process, and you know what?  That is normal, and it is OK.  You are going to put the diaper on ‘wrong’ or not tight enough, and they are going to explode poop out the side or top, and you know what?  Once the mess is cleaned up, you will laugh, and your baby won’t know the difference.  And it is that failure that will help you learn how to do things better!

Just this past weekend, my wife and I experienced our first projectile poop scenario while changing our daughter, and we learned from it.  While I was quickly trying to block the barrage of artillery that our daughter was unleashing, my wife almost fell over laughing.

Tip # 1

Don’t store your entire supply of fresh diapers in one area that is within weapons range, and a direct line of fire of your baby.  It is but a matter of time until they teach you this lesson, and it will be at that point in time that one / both of you as parents, will fall over laughing.

Trust us…

Chapter 1: The Much Anticipated Arrival

New Dad's Survival Guide (The Arrival)
After months of anticipation, the time has come for them to arrive. It’s natural to panic, and wonder “Are we ready?”.

If you have already welcomed your bundle of joy into the world already, this section will be somewhat redundant, but for those of you who haven’t, here’s my introduction.

Note: Medical practices and procedures can vary greatly between various Countries, Hospitals, and Doctors.  However, at the end of the day there is a constant among them: Their Number 1 priority is Mom + Baby.  You are a bystander, and if you get in the way and/or interfere, you will be removed.

Whether it be your partner’s water has broken, she has started to have contractions, or you have a scheduled delivery taking place, your top priority is to get Mommy-To-Be (MTB) to the hospital quickly and safely, .  It is also imperative that you stay calm and collected throughout this time period, because she is most likely scared and anxious, because THIS IS HAPPENING!!!!!

Know that no matter how upset, emotional, curt, or hostile she is towards you throughout the labour & delivery process, these are normal emotional processes, and it is not meant as a personal attack towards you, and simply let anything she projects at you to roll off you, like water off a duck’s back.

You are going to see A LOT during this process, and be ready to be involved.  She needs you now more than ever, so unless it is completely impossible, make sure you are there for her.

You are in for an amazing journey, and it is one you will remember for the rest of your life.  The very moment your son or daughter comes into this world, will be seared into your memory.  When you hear them cry for the first time, it will be more emotional than I can even begin to explain.

Tip # 2

Studies have shown that the emotional pain experienced during labour & delivery, stays with the partner much longer than with the Mother.

While you are going through this experience, keep in mind this is a short period in time.  She will do some amazing things over these coming hours, which will give you an amazing new picture into what she and her body are capable of.

Once the newest addition to your family has arrived, you have a new priority: Take Care of Mom.  This might sound funny, but it is very true and important.  It is easy for her to forget to take care of herself.  And if she doesn’t take care of herself, she can’t take care of baby.

Tip # 3

Force Mom to Sleep & Eat, because she will forget, and if she doesn’t take care of herself, she will crash.  If this happens, she can’t care for your baby, which is a whole different level of challenges.

Chapter 2: Sleep

New Dad's Survival Guide (Sleep)
Sleep will be fleeting at the best of times. Be conscientious of your temper and emotions. It is easy to snap at each other when you are both exhausted.

I’m afraid this is no joke, and a simple fact of reality.  Nobody is going to sleep very much, or very well, for quite some time.  If you’re lucky, you might get somewhere between 3-6 hours a sleep a day.  Keep in mind, it will most likely be broken into pieces throughout the day.

What my wife and I found to work the best for us, is I would get a couple feeding’s worth of sleep at night, and during the day she would try to nap as much as possible.  This pattern has been while I was off work, which was fortunate for us.  With me returning to my normal work schedule, we will be learning a new schedule again.

Tip # 5

Do as much as possible to ensure everyone gets as much sleep as possible.  Sleeping hen baby sleeps, it will be very beneficial.

Sleep is more important than everything other than food , and at times laundry.  Laundry will pile up fast, but sleep is essential.

Don’t worry about cleaning the house, or visiting all of your relatives.  You all need sleep, and get as much as you can, when you can get it.

Tip # 6

Speaking of cleaning the house…

If you have the luxury of in-laws, siblings, or friends willing to help, take them up on their offers!  Need a load of laundry washed, and folded?  Have them come over and hold the baby for an hour, so your hands can be free and do so.

Maybe clean the kitchen a bit while they visit.  Or (better yet) ask them to wash dishes so you can sit down for 20 minutes!

Chapter 3: Pace Yourself

New Dad's Survival Guide (Pace Yourself)
Parenting is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Learn to pace yourself, or you won’t make it to the finish line.

In so many ways I think this is the most important section of this entire article.  If I were to leave you with one piece of advice, it would be this: Don’t try to do too much, because it will take too much out of you.

Do 1 thing each day, but not more than that.  If today is grocery day, stick to that.  If today is laundry day, take your time and work through it throughout the day.  Don’t rush through too much, and exhaust yourself.

Tip # 7

Do 1 thing each day, but don’t try to cram more in each day.  It will be took taxing on you, your partner, and your baby.

Chapter 4: Laundry

New Dad's Survival Guide (Laundry)
Unfortunately laundry doesn’t do itself. Now is the time to tag in, and let your partner take a breather in this contest.

Each of us have our own unique skill-sets.  Like so many others, laundry is not mine, and I despise it.  Ironing is the bane of my existence, but laundry & ironing are a necessity.

I couldn’t even begin to count the number of loads of laundry I have done these past 3 weeks.  This has all been an effort to accomplish 1 thing: Lessen the Burden on my wife.  She is getting very little sleep right now, and is exhausted.  I can put a load of laundry through, so why does she need to?

Our structure is simple.  She sorts them into piles that I understand, and I work through them throughout the day / night.

If you’re new to doing laundry, this is going to be a learning process.  Doing something as little as 1 – 2 loads of laundry a night, could mean the difference of 3-4 hours of sleep for your partner.  This will pay off in the long run for you, I promise.

New Dad's Survival Guide (9 Months Inside)

Tip # 8

Maternity clothes almost NEVER go in the dryer.  When in doubt, don’t put it in, and hang it to dry.  If you haven’t already, invest in a clothes drying rack.  You’ll be amazed at how many things need to be hung to dry.

Tip # 9

Always have a change of shirts in the diaper bag.  You never know when your little one will spit up all over Mom (or you).

Chapter 5: Meals

New Dad's Survival Guide (Meals)
Preparing a quick, easy, and health meal is easy. Take 5 minutes online to figure out what you need before running to the grocery store.

Let’s face it.  Not everyone is as natural a cook as Snoopy was, but it’s easy to start simple.  I was gifted with much of my Mom’s talent for preparing meals, but my go-to when I know the day is going to be busy, is the good ol’ Crock Pot.  I have made hundred’s of meals with ours, and they are normally very easy to put together.

Try to limit the amount of take-out and fast-food you consume.  If your partner is breast feeding, those foods are passed along to the baby.  Even if that isn’t the case, pizza 4 times a week gets old fast.

My wife and I are iPhone users.  We use an app called AnyList, which allows us to create shared recipes and shopping lists.  If my wife notices we need some items from the grocery store, she can update the app and let me know I need to go shopping before I come home, but yet there is no need to wonder what it is we need.  The list is right there for my use, which is very convenient.

Tip # 10

Learn how to make rice or potatoes consistently, and grow outwardly from there.  Meatballs are easy and fast, and filling.

A good chicken soup is often enjoyed by many (my secret is to slice up & tomatoes to mine).

Chapter 6: Photos

New Dad's Guide (Photos)
This is a picture of my daughter Freya sleeping, which I took in the middle of the night one night. She was completely passed out, arms hanging down from her sides, and happy as could be.

Smartphones are everywhere today, and the are easily accessible to grab those quick photo opportunities.  I would be amiss if I didn’t recommend investing in a quality camera.  Our phones just can’t take the same images a decently priced DSLR can these days.  Years down the road, you will be thankful you spent the money.

I have taken hundreds of photos already, and preserving the memories of our parents holding our little one for the first time is priceless.  Having pictures of Freya meeting her cousin Georgia, precious.  Capturing a moment where our dog is checking in our her little hooman, heartwarming.  These are things you will wish you could share with that little one in years to come.

My most prized photo, is one where my Dad is handing me to my Bestefar (his Dad).  If there hadn’t been a camera there at that moment, I would never have seen that image, something I cherish to this day.  It is my hope, that even but one of the pictures I take, has that same impact upon my daughter in the years to come.

Tip # 11

Invest in a quality camera, but do your research.

The Canon Rebel series is very popular, and will take amazing photos.

Tip # 12

I work in IT, and I hear horror stories all the time, of people losing their photos.  PLEASE spend money on QUALITY backups, and not just copying data to a drive.  Systems like DropBox, OneDrive, etc. are good for storing data, but they are NOT backup solutions.

Think of the value of those photos, and put a price tag along side of them.  An average data recovery on a failed hard drive, starts at $1,500.

Myself I use a three-level redundancy combination of CrashPlan (provided by Code 42) and SilverSync (provided by SilverPoint Systems).  And yes, I have at one point had to go to my tertiary backup solution to recover a file (photos from a camping trip from 10 years ago).

Chapter 7: Emotions

New Dad's Survival Guide (Emotions)
Everyone’s emotions will be running high. Be aware of this with each other, and make sure you communicate with one another.

Be aware of your partner’s emotions.  This is obviously easy to say, but it is very important.  Postpartum Depression and Anxiety affect a large percentage of new mothers, and it is essential that it be treated.

I highly recommend all New Dad’s read an article about Postpartum by the Mayo Clinic.

The most important thing is to provide your partner with support, in everything you do.  Make sure you tell her that you are trying to help, because sometimes she may not take your words or actions are that.  Remember, her hormones and emotions are all over the scale right now, and she can’t control them.  Package that with a lack of sleep, and you have a mixture ready to boil over.

The Final Chapter: Reference Material

Of the various books I have read on the topic, I have listed 2 that I would recommend to each Expectant / New Dad.

The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-To-Be
Author: Armin A. Brott & Jennifer Ash

Dude, You’re a Dad!: How To Get (All of You) Through Your Baby’s First Year
Author: John Pfeiffer

There are also a few Podcasts which I really like (available via iTunes).

Digital Dads (by Brent Basham & Andrew Currie)

ParentCast (by Mary and Blake Larsen)

The Longest Shortest Time (by Hillary Frank)

My Closing Remarks

New Dad's Survival Guide (Closing Remarks)

I hope there has been at least something within this post that has, or will, prove useful for at least one reader.  Fatherhood is amazing.  Holding that baby in your arms is something you shouldn’t take for granted, for life is short and precious.

Once again my congratulations to those of you expecting, and welcome those of you who have new arrivals.

Tip # 13

When changing a diaper, keep your mouth closed.

Trust me.

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