Dad’s Guide to Getting to Know Your New Baby
Whether you’ve been mentally preparing for your baby to come home for years, months or weeks, they’re finally here. And if you watch a lot of heart-tugging movies you might expect an instantaneous psychic connection with your wee one that will magically tell you exactly what they need and when. But outside of Hollywood, it’s unlikely.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get to know your newborn in a way that will seem magical (almost). And even if it doesn’t happen overnight (it never does) you’re going to get there. In the meantime, here’s some insight into ways you and your little one can become better acquainted.
Bonding: It’s impossible to spoil them.
This is what it’s all about, right? There are so many ways to solidify that bond between you and your baby. Whether it’s skin-to-skin contact or sharing your favorite tunes through singing or dancing, any time you spend connecting with your baby will help enhance the bonding process.
And don’t worry about overdoing it. Babies crave your touch, your voice, and your very presence. Plus, this is a great way to get to know them—are they ticklish, is there a special spot you can caress that lulls them to sleep? Do they seem to like a particular tune you hum? Be there, experiment, and the bonding will follow.
Handling: You won’t break them.
A lot of us grew up afraid that if we didn’t hold a baby just-so, we’d hurt them. And while caution is a good thing, it can be detrimental in large doses. Babies aren’t as fragile as we think they are. Their bones are malleable and unlikely to break if we breathe too forcefully on them. Even that soft spot on the top of their head is less dangerous than you may think.
That doesn’t mean you should be careless, but you can trust your instincts about how to touch, carry, and play with your baby. If your little one has a full head of hair and you want to comb (or style) it, go for it. Just be gentle.
Feeding: They know what they need.
It’s tempting to put your baby on a feeding schedule right out the gate. The problem with that is that we don’t know when other people are hungry. Try to resist the urge to enforce a strict feeding regimen with your newborn. This can be challenging, but it’s a great opportunity to learn how to listen to your baby’s cues about what they need. You get to learn how to read them, and they get to trust that you will give them what they need.
Don’t obsess about weight gain or ounces guzzled. If your baby seems happy, is sleeping (albeit in short spurts), and shows interest in eating, they’re probably okay. But if you’re worried that your baby isn’t eating enough or shows signs of listlessness, contact your doctor right away.
Pampering: Skip the daily bath.
Babies aren’t working up a sweat at the daily grind like we are. They don’t need daily bathing—and their skin could do without it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge your baby’s inner-Kardashian.
Consider learning infant massage. Many local massage schools and clinics teach classes, or you can find instructional videos online. This is a great way to institute regular touching, which is one of the most fundamental ways to bond with your baby. And it helps you gain confidence in your touch, especially for new parents with a lot of anxiety about hurting the baby.
Venturing: You don’t have to become a shut-in.
One of the best ways to get to know your newborn is to see them interact with the rest of the world. Granted, if they’re very newborn evidence of that interaction may be hard to detect, but you should make a point of getting your tot outside the house regularly as soon as possible.
Just use a few precautions—keep newborns out of direct sunlight, stay away from loud venues (no concerts), avoid people who are sick, and carry wipes and hand sanitizer with you (for the baby and those who want to touch the baby). This lets you get a change of scenery while you share your joyous bundle with the rest of the world.
Sleeping: This is the tricky one.
It’s true that you’re going to lose some sleep with a new baby at home. But this seeming curse of new parenthood is yet another way to get to know your little one. While their tendency to be a morning or a night person probably won’t be set in stone, you will learn when they sleep best, what environment encourages their best sleep, and when you’ve waited too long to put them down.
This might be the trickiest dance you’ll do with your baby, but it’s one that will yield some of the most helpful information. And if you pay attention, you just might get a full night’s sleep in six years or so.
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