8 things I'm glad I did as a new dad, and one thing I wish I didn't

For new dads, having a baby is terrifying. It’s also a little boring. And it makes your relationship with your spouse harder — more business-like.

And also? For the first few weeks, the baby does not care about you. He or she doesn’t even seem to realise you exist.

Eventually it gets a lot better. I can say this because I have 11 months of experience. Heh.

Anyway, here are some things I’m glad I did as a brand new dad, and one thing I wish I had not.

I wore an oversized coat all winter so I could fit a baby carrier underneath.

I live in a walkable city, so if I wanted to get out with the boy during winter, I couldn’t stick him in a heated car. Fortunately, I had an old winter coat from a time before I’d lost some weight. It was just big enough that I could button it around the carrier and the two of us could head out in the freezing wind. Sometimes we wore matching hats. I liked to think we looked like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Pop quiz! Which one do you think is us?


…or B)

(The answer is B.)

I discovered a baby-hold that works really well but people are going to look at you weird.

You put your hand under the baby’s chin and lay his underside over the length of your forearm. It’s called the football hold. It’s safe (ask your pediatrician!) and it calms the baby down.

But, yeah, people who aren’t parents or don’t know parents might look at you weird.

This is understandable. The hold looks like this:

I learned the trick to bottle feeding.

For my kid, it was the following: Let him grab hold and pull the bottle in and out of his mouth at his pace of eating. Sorry, everyone else, I have no idea what the trick will be for your kiddo. Keep trying till you figure it out?

I came up with several ways of calming my kid, and would rotate through them till one worked.

They were…

  • Rock him on my knees.
  • Sit on a giant ball and bounce with him in my arms.
  • Hold him in my arms and twist from the torso.
  • Play white noise next to bassinet.
  • Walk him in his carrier.
  • Give him a pacifier.
  • Put a (clean) pinkie in his mouth.
  • Rock with him in the rocking chair with his head in crook of elbow.
  • Play the music from my wife’s iPhone that she listened to while he was in the womb.
  • While he is in my arms, put one hand under his butt and pat your hand with your other hand.

The best splurge we made was hiring a doula.

My wife wanted to have a natural birth for all kinds of reasons we shouldn’t get into now, because who wants to fight. It was great (for me, hah), but I strongly recommend that any couple doing the same hire a doula. She comforted my wife through her labour pains. She carried a bag for us at the hospital. She took photos and video in the delivery room. She shouted encouragement while my wife pushed. She was amazing.

2015 07 13 11.27.24Nicholas CarlsonThe boy with his doulas.

I set up an email address for my kid.

I sent him a note the day he was born. It was weird, because I knew a much older version of him would be reading the note, so welcoming him into the world that way didn’t make the most sense. I did it anyway. I gave this email out to family members, and told them to do the same. I still send him notes and photos whenever else I think of it.

I learned I had to turn my phone off when I came home from work.

iPhones are designed to stimulate you every second you are staring at them. Babies are not like that. If I gave myself the option of choosing between staring at one or the other, my lazy post-work self would choose the iPhone. Which was a terrible waste of my kid’s babyhood. So I put the phone away.

I probably rocked my kid to sleep too much.

Here is a super weird thing about humans: they don’t know how to go to sleep by themselves when they are born. It’s a skill they actually have to develop. One way to keep them from developing it quickly is by helping them go to sleep all the time. That’s what my wife and I did. We would rock our boy to sleep, walk him in his carrier till he slept, nurse him to sleep — whatever worked. When I finally got him asleep I would count to 200 before putting him into his crib, to make sure he was totally zonked out. This worked at the time, but it also never let him learn how to lay down in a crib and sleep. We paid for this later…

We did “gentle” sleep training with our baby.

We didn’t want to. It was hard. But he was absolutely refusing to go to sleep until 10:30 every night, and he was getting up super early in the morning. He wasn’t getting enough sleep and he was getting sick because of it. Even so, about 25% of you reading this story now think my wife and I are evil. I don’t care. It was the right move for us and the kid. It was, I believe, our first act of parenting. Until then, our baby had only wanted what he needed. At that point, we had to prevent him from having something he wanted (to stay up) to give him something he actually needed (sleep). Please don’t throw things at me. And really, do whatever works best for your family.

We’re just really happy that he now knows how to go to bed — and even likes it.

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