New baby on the way! Help!?
June 23, 2011 1:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 32 y/o male who has a baby girl due on September 1st This will be my first child and I'm curious about what I need to do and learn beforehand. Please give me advice and/or direct me to must read books or websites. Thanks!

I have a great family and support system and my wife and I both earn a decent salary.

My wife has read a couple books on pregnancy and newborns and I would also like to be also be proactive and try to figure out what's expected of a new Dad.

We have the baby's room and furniture already set up and I expect to receive about 90+% of everything we need in the three baby showers we are having.
posted by Paalen to Society & Culture (42 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
90% of the baby gear that you'll be given and/or buy will be completely useless. Keep the tags on them and return them for gift cards.

As such, get everything used off of Craigslist (except the carseat), and then sell it as soon as you're done. Basically, the same baby swing is bought and sold on Craigslist for $50 over and over again, you use it for 3 months (maybe!?! if the baby likes it...) and then you're done.

Figure out your childcare situation. In many places, good quality childcare is hard to find.

Don't have strong expectations. Maybe baby won't sleep in a crib and will sleep in your bed. Maybe you or your wife will want to stay home and quit your jobs. Maybe breastfeeding won't work out. Remember that most of the decisions you make are temporary, can be easily changed, and rolling with it calmly is key.

Happiest Baby on the Block DVD or book is great for those early months.
Get some swaddle blankets.

Baby will be much more in the domain of Mommy for awhile, so do whatever is possible + 10 for your wife/partner to make her happy and comfortable. Keep the house cleaner than you'd expect (hire a weekly cleaner if you can afford it), feed her, provide her with water.
posted by k8t at 1:32 PM on June 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

PS, read the dozens of previous questions on this topic.
posted by k8t at 1:34 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've heard good things about the book Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, 5th Edition: Birth to Age 5. Specifically, I've heard it's better than What to Expect the First Year.
posted by Falwless at 1:35 PM on June 23, 2011

I have to tell you that you should read everything you can, but nothing you read will prepare you for the blessed event and the 21 years afterwards.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:37 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

If I had to do it all over again, I'd get a first-aid certification. Not that I've ever really had call to use it, but kids spend a lot of time falling down and getting sick, and I think having some kind of first-aid/medical info locked away in my cranium would cut down on a lot of the confusion and panic of the moment.
posted by lekvar at 1:39 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Try to find an old copy of Dr. Spock's Baby and Childcare, as opposed to one of the new posthumous editions...his writing is soothing when you're faced with Baby Mysteries. Dr. Sears can write a good book too, if you don't put too much stock in the attachment parenting thing and can get past the "When my wife was taking care of our 32 kids" stories. Practice what Sears calls "the football hold" while gently bouncing on the balls of your feet.

Practice your housekeeping skills until you've got them down to a science. You would not believe how messy your house is about to become, and how much maintenance it will take.

Buy the books you loved as a kid, but don't expect baby to care about them at all. That'll come later.

Look up songs so you can remember the words. Alternatively, get good at improvisation. Plan on singing for hours.

You need more diapers than you think you do.
posted by mittens at 1:40 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Relax. Millions and millions of people have managed to be decent parents without AskMeFi, and without books and videos telling them how to do it. No matter how much you try to plan for what your daughter will be like and what she will need, it will not work out that way. So relax. When you are a parent and have specific questions, the answers are out there, or in here. But trying to figure it all out in advance is a fool's game.

Spend some quality time with your wife or partner prior to her getting uncomfortably pregnant. Quality alone time will be a rare commodity for the next couple of years.
posted by COD at 1:41 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a male, I would stress being sensitive to how women are often seen and viewed in society. Educate her about that those things and teach her that they're not a limit. I'd also make sure that the roles you and your wife have in the household aren't under the usual gender stereotypes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:42 PM on June 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

I have to tell you that you should read everything you can, but nothing you read will prepare you for the blessed event and the 21 years afterwards.

Before my daughter was born, I felt lost and helpless. The second I held her in her arms I thought, "I can do this! I'm going to be the best dad in the world!"

My daughter is now 21 and she really does think I'm best dad in the world. You'll do fine.
posted by The Deej at 1:44 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Be flexible. My wife's pregnancy, birthing and our daughters first weeks did not go as we expected, but we managed, and I wouldn't change a thing.
posted by fzx101 at 1:48 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Read up on what to expect during the labor and delivery.

Do you know what bloody show is? You're going to want to know about that before it happens.

Do you know positions for labor other than lying on one's back? You should know about those and be prepared to help her with them during labor.

And make sure you know what your wife wants for labor and delivery. Is she aiming for a natural birth? Does she know she wants an epidural already? Whatever it is, be prepared to be an advocate for her, not just a support person.

As for the newborn phase, make sure your wife gets at least a few minutes to herself each day. That baby is going to be strapped to her for the better part of three months, so make sure she gets to take a shower. Make sure there's some dedicated time each day that is just her time.

Help her get the sleep she needs. Take the baby for an hour after the baby's eaten.

Know how to change a diaper, give the baby a bath. If you can do as much baby duty as possible when you get home from work, it will help you bond with the baby and will help your wife have some time to recuperate from her long day with a newborn.

And know the warning signs of PPD. Don't be afraid to call in reinforcements if you need them --- friends, family, her doctor, anybody.

I have my second on the way, due right around the same time as your wife. I'll be really honest and say I'm incredibly unprepared. And I've done this before. I don't think there's any remedy for that no matter how many kids you have.
posted by zizzle at 1:51 PM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

We had our first child this past January - after looking at (and being frustrated by the contradictions in) the pile of books we picked up, the ones that we've kept and refer to are:

The Nursing Mother's Companion
The Baby Book
The Happiest Baby on the Block*

Really, though, the main skills that you need as a new father are endurance and patience - the practical tasks are mostly rote (do all of the chores, cook, change diapers), so there isn't a lot of new knowledge needed - just much more emotional strength than most of us had to apply to daily life pre-parenthood.

Start saying to yourself now "this isn't about me, and I won't take things personally", because you're going to have to do a lot under tough and sometimes very stressful (though also beautiful and exhilarating) conditions for the next 4-6 months.

Also, line up professional help for the technical aspects now, especially if she'll be breastfeeding - a good lactation consultant and pediatrician will save you a lot of stress and worry.

* Happiest Baby is a useful pamphlet padded out into a book, but the burping technique and the pointers on calming have saved us some stress, and are worth having on hand for when you're too tired to remember the specifics.

posted by ryanshepard at 1:57 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I always have trouble getting new parents-to-be to understand how exhausted they'll be. Get in good physical shape, sleep, sleep, sleep, and enjoy quality time with your spouse.
posted by idb at 2:10 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed this book: Be Prepared.

It has a lot of great information, and is light-hearted and realistic enough to remind you that this has been done a few times before.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:12 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get everything ready a month ahead of the Big Event. (Sleeping arrangements, car seat, Hospital stay bag, etc.) It will make you both feel more prepared, plus you want to be ready in case things get rolling a little early.
You probably know this, but mine didn't: If your wife packs something for the hospital, don't unpack it to "lighten the load." It's not worth the flack you will get. (Really??? You switched my bathrobe for a mini-skirt???? The birth announcements were too heavy to carry???!)
Stick some shelf stable food in that hospital go-bag. Your wife won't be allowed to eat but the whole having a baby thing can take a *really* long time, and having food on hand means you won't have to leave to hunt down food at 4am.
posted by Ys at 2:16 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

- You need far less than you expect. I agree to keep the tags and return stuff. Really.

- Take your ego and put it in your pocket. It's all about Mommy and Baby for a while. Enjoy being of service, find the joy in doing things a new way and entirely for someone else.

- There's a great book written by a pediatrician after he had his own kid called Eat, Sleep, Poop.

It's a quick breezy read that left me expert on all the essentials. I've barely consulted Dr. Google or my pediatrician since the birth of my son thanks to having read this book. Read it! This is the only book you'll need for the first 3 months or so, IMHO.

- You will need far less than you think. Repeated for truth.

- Stay calm. The more your kid cries, the crankier you and your sleep deprived wife get, just Stay Calm. Being zen and relaxed is the only way to figure out what needs doing to soothe your wife and child. Be cool, bro. Be cool.

This Last One Is VERY Important

Frankly, I was SHOCKED at how shitty the after-care is for mom.

Giving birth, while joyful, is also a major trauma with all the emotional and physical baggage that goes along with that.

An acupuncturist I know suspects that a lot of what gets interpreted as postpartum depression is actually related to physical depletion (like
serious anemia and other deficiency type illnesses) rather than a mood disorder. Having just given birth myself -- YEP. They give you scripts for vitamins and iron when you leave the hospital, and you need them for sure!

It's been 2.5 months and I finally feel back to myself. Trouble is, you are so HIGH from becoming a mom, you don't notice how sick you also feel.

It's really important that you get a plan together for your wife. Work out ways to take over night-time duties for the first few weeks so she can sleep undisturbed. Does she get therapeutic massage, acupuncture, know about herbal medicine, or anything like that? Postpartum is a GREAT time for your wife to get into some kind of restorative health routine, even if you both think it's mumbo jumbo. She'll do no wrong if she pampers herself in this regard.

And I think the reason western medicine is so crap caring for the bodies of new moms is because that's not what it is designed to do. All they can say is to rest. Fair enough, but there is plenty out there beyond prescription meds and rest to help new moms recover their much needed strength. (I think this is why more traditional cultures feature that 40 days of bed rest belief - I didn't do that and got pretty sick. So yeah, tell your wife even if she feels like a super hero (which she is!) she needs to take care of her health in ways she never thought to before in the weeks after becoming a new mom.)
posted by jbenben at 2:18 PM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Make sure you are 100% set up by August 1st. We did this, saved so much worry and drama.

In CA, the Highway Patrol conducts carseat installation days. They install your carseat for you, check your model for recalls, and teach you proper install, too

In some places the fire departments provide this service. Google.
posted by jbenben at 2:28 PM on June 23, 2011

You need more diapers than you think you do.

This. Repeated for emphasis. If you have any influence on the shower gift-givers, have them ditch their ideas and pool their money to get you a diaper service for as many months as they can afford. We did this for a friend couple and they loved it. I wish someone had done it for us.
posted by trip and a half at 2:32 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Read Jean Liedloff. Here. Trash Spock.
posted by Namlit at 2:44 PM on June 23, 2011

Sleep in every chance you get. You'll never get to do it again.

I brought a little boombox and a mix CD into the delivery room and it helped with the mood during the birth.

Oh, and we hired a doula and did 90% of the labor at home and my wife was able to give birth with no drugs.
posted by PSB at 3:24 PM on June 23, 2011

I really liked Heading Home with Your Newborn which specifically covers birth to four months. Babies aren't too hard and by four months you've got the hang of it, but newborns are moderately terrifying and you're trying to learn as you go. I referenced that book ALL THE TIME but have only occasionally looked at books since.

The single BEST thing we did, and it was happenstance -- when my son was six weeks old, I started a volunteer commitment that had me out of the house four to six hours at a stretch every other Monday, leaving my husband alone with the infant to sink or swim on his own. He rose to the occasion magnificently and became a confident, competent caregiver who doesn't need to check with me. Even the most involved dads can end up relying on mom a lot (especially if breastfeeding) and gradually feeling like the #2 caregiver. My husband didn't really have an option but to learn the same way I did (by doing it solo and figuring it out), and it's really paid off as our son has gotten older. We know a lot of involved dads, but he's the most confident and relaxed of them by a long way. My friends get a lot of calls of "Uh -- this happened, what do I do?" I almost never get that call unless a doctor is about to be involved.

So once your wife feels up to leaving the house again, DO THAT. On purpose. Send her away to shop, go to the library, play poker with friends, whatever it is she does out of the house, for a multi-hour stretch, and do it regularly. (or you take the baby on an outing and leave her to bond with her home for a while, whatever she prefers.) And resolve not to call her unless direly necessary. Whether she works or is at home, she'll need the alone time, and it'll be good for you and baby to get to know each other one-on-one.

(And yes, we breastfed and did this; I pumped enough to be away for one feeding, and if the baby needed a second while I was away he got a formula bottle.)

My husband and son also started a daddy-and-me class at 6 months one evening a week ... it was really nice for my husband to have a thing that HE introduced the baby to and was THEIR thing. They're still doing it at 2 years (it's the Red Cross pre-swim sequence) and it is seriously the highlight of my toddler's week because he LOVES swim class and he gets to do it with DADDY. I have to hide the swim diapers because if he sees them he gets really upset if swim class does not happen right away! My husband also met a lot of other dads this way ... a lot of the kiddie classes that are in the evenings or on Saturday mornings have a good proportion of dads.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:33 PM on June 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

Sleep. From now til Sept, sleep like you have never slept before. Go to bed early and get up late. Read in bed all day. Stay in bed for an entire weekend and order take-out food. Because you will be short on sleep for the next decade or so.

Also, take a few relaxing weekend road trips this summer.
posted by gnutron at 3:36 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you thought PC vs Mac was bad, wait until you start discussing what baby books to buy (not him, them, omg how could you listen to him/her), how to put a child to sleep , breast feeding vs formula (zomg formula kills), and everything else. My stream of consciousness $.02 follows, and give it just as much consideration as anyone's.

Be ready early.

Baby's aren't as fragile as you might believe. We had a forceps delivery. I have seen tractors pulled out of mud pits with less force than the doctor used. It is all good. Birth is not a gentle process.

I had seen graphic birthing videos. It didn't prepare me for what it was going to smell like (there is a certain smell, I can't describe it) and for what the baby was really going to look like when it arrives. I can't describe how long it took between the time her head was out until she took her first breath. When she took a breath, I resumed breathing myself.

Stay calm. No shit, as I write this my wife and I are listening to our 4 month old cry from the crib because she doesn't want to take her nap. Babies cry sometime for no reason.

Buy what you want. As long as you buy a car seat made by a major manufacturer, it is all good. We can debate baby gear all day long. Most likely it will be just fine having or not having it. A car seat, something to feed him/her, and a place to sleep. That is all you really need. The biggest things we liked? The Boppy and the Miracle Blanket. The Boppy was really handy for feeding and our baby loved to be swaddled, so the MB was great. You can replace either of those with a pillow and a blanket, but I loved both of those items.

We really like the Baby 411 book.

Have a list of books you would like to read or a DVD box set ready for when the baby arrives. It is nice to have something to do when they are screaming in the middle of the night, I mean when you are feeding them.

People have been raising babies for a little while now. Just remember, it will be OK. Trust your instincts. Don't be afraid to call your pediatrician if you need to feel better. They have heard it before.

It is the best thing we have ever done. This is coming from a guy who never wanted children.
posted by Silvertree at 3:50 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Start cooking larger proportions of everything, and stashing the leftovers in the freezer - you and your wife will be thankful for the convenience of being able to pop something in the microwave for many of your meals during the first few weeks at least.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:14 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

We have an 8 month old, and the most valuable piece of advice I think I can offer is to focus your care on your wife rather than the baby so much. The caring for baby thing will happen by default, but your wife is going to need a lot of after care, realistically more than the baby will need. The baby will basically care about being warm, comfortable close to you and fed. All of that stuff is pretty much built in and a given.

There will be times over the next several months where you're going to need to stay calm and reasonable even though you're totally wiped out. Technically, I think this probably goes on for the rest of your life now, but I'm only 8 months I can't speak about things too far out.
posted by iamabot at 4:15 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Came in to recommend a 1st Aid class, lekvar already recommended. Have an easy-to-use thermometer. Do you have a land line? It makes it easier for 911 to find you in an emergency, and if you have a babysitter, they might not have a mobile. Most of the stuff you get is superfluous, but everybody has some thing they felt was terrific. We had hardly any stuff, and it was not a problem at all. Good music to play to the baby is fun. Congratulations on your coming Big Adventure.
posted by theora55 at 4:18 PM on June 23, 2011

I have an 11-month-old and second the recommendations of Be Prepared, Baby 411, finding a lactation consultant, buying everything on Craigslist, lining up childcare, and getting someone to double-check your car seat installation.

My husband went back to work about a week after our daughter was born. If there was one thing that would have really helped, it would have been for him to work fewer hours during the first eight weeks, especially week six, which was the peak of crying for us. The period of purple crying is no joke. When you're sleep deprived and it feels like your baby has been crying for hours, you go a little crazy. Being able to hand off your baby to someone for half an hour or more is essential.

I'd also recommend planning on dividing up the night. So, you could watch Baby Paalen from 8 to 2 am and then your wife could have the morning shift, or vice-versa. If possible (after the first two weeks when your wife is establishing her milk supply), I'd recommend doing everything you can to make sure that she can get 5 to 6 hours of continuous sleep. I found that this made all of the difference in the world for me.

Congratulations! Having a baby has been a simultaneously amazing and exhausting experience so far. It seems like every month is better and more fun than the last.
posted by JuliaKM at 4:55 PM on June 23, 2011

baby stuff

don't overthink it. it's just a baby.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:04 PM on June 23, 2011

Every baby is their own little person and just because someone else's baby never cries or loves being swaddled or sleeps through the night does NOT mean that you are doing anything wrong.

Also, different things work for different babies. Be flexible and gentle with yourselves.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:22 PM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

First, congratulations....this is one of those rare before-and-after moments in life.

The number one rule that saved my sanity (I thought about getting it tattooed, either on me or the baby):

Fussy babies go to bed.

If you know she's not hungry, cold/hot, wet/dirty or in pain, and she's still fussing, nine times out of ten, in my experience, she will need to sleep. It is not easy to remember in the trenches of sleeplessness and upside-down schedules, but remember:

fussy babies go to bed.

(this is how much parent amnesia I had...when second baby Ginesthoi arrived, I had to learn that sanity-saving rule all over could I have possibly forgotten?)
posted by Ginesthoi at 5:35 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I disagree with the above posters that "let" babies cry. IME, baby cry = boob, and most of the time, the problem is solved.
posted by k8t at 5:37 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

nthing Happiest Baby on the Block. Check it out of the library, make a list of the 5 S's, and photocopy the pages that illustrate the swaddling technique. It's definitely just an oversized pamphlet, as ryanshepard said, but I found the advice indispensable.

Surprisingly, it was his advice to lay the baby on his side that worked the real magic for us, and I NEVER would have thought of it. My parents were watching my husband and I and saying, "Boy, we wish we'd known how to do that stuff when you were born."

I really, really wish I'd learned how to swaddle before I gave birth, so I could make use of it in the hospital -- that first night was scary. And only the Happiest Baby swaddling technique worked for my me, not what the nurses demonstrated.

A friend also gave me a book called "The first 8 days of being a mom," I think it was originally from the Netherlands. It claimed that day 4 after the birth was the worst, and that it got better after that. It was totally, totally true and I'm glad I had that piece of advice to cling to. I never knew I could feel so awful, but things went up from there!
posted by queensb at 6:36 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think which of the baby books is going to work for you depends on how you like your information delivered and how you approach things (are you emotional? Do you like rules and schedules? science?, etc), so YMMV, but we loved the wonder weeks, which we learned about from Ask Moxie, both of which I highly recommend. I find baby brain development fascinating, and sleep problems frustrating, so that was a good combination.

The other best thing my spouse did: was to expect nothing of me during my maternity leave other than keeping the baby alive. Some days I managed a lot, and some days I didn't make it downstairs until 5pm. The fact that he didn't care made that a lot easier on my brain.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:57 PM on June 23, 2011

Nthing the 5 S's - you can watch a documentary on it on Netflix.

Our son is 2.5 months old - the 5 S's made his life SO much easier once my husband and I were both on board. The weirdest thing? After employing the techniques jointly for a week or so, our son doesn't need them anymore as "crisis management" because he's clicked in to the fact that we are totally serving his needs, so generally, he has no need to panic/cry.


If you are the type of folks who are having 3 showers... then I can only caution you about the TONS of baby advice you might be getting;)

Shut most or all of it out of your mind. Listen to your newborn instead. Parenting is surprisingly instinctive. Every baby is different, and the more time you spend responding to him/her only, the better you will do.

Everyone will have an opinion. Tell them to fuck off (in your mind! In person, smile and nod appropriately like the good member of society you are:)
posted by jbenben at 10:56 PM on June 23, 2011

I am a father to 8 week old twins, our first.

Here is what I know as a new Dad.

>> I found there to be a *lot* of conflicting advice on the web, in books etc. Mothers' forums etc. are great, but full of anecdata. If you have any concerns at any stage, talk to a professional who (presumably) can give you advice tailored to your situation. (e.g. We had trouble with feeding and we're driven to distraction by how badly the books said we were doing until we realised the books were written for singletons. A visit from the lactation consultant sorted us.)

>> You will need more nappies than you think you do. Buy now and stock up in bulk.

>> Ditto swaddle blankets (we rotate 3 per baby) and muslins.

>> Learn as quickly as possible to fit baby's nappy properly. Leaks aren't a lot of fun.

>> Go to breast feeding classes now with Mum. You need to do this because Mum will only ever have a fixed view of the latch-on and another set of eyes can see what's going on, e.g. underneath.

>> I'd take this opportunity to do the mother of all clear-outs of your house. De-clutter. Get rid of all the crap you never use, will never use and are just hanging onto through inertia. Your life is about to hit turbulence - you want as few loose items in the cabin as possible.

>> If you're working, I'd reiterate the suggestion above that you take the early watch (e.g. until 1-2 a.m.) after which Mum takes over. She gets some guaranteed sleep in the evening, and you get the ~6 hours minimum you need to be a functional employee. (For weekends, Mrs Day and I switch - she wakes up just for feeds but I'm responsible for settling the twins through the night.)

>> When you get home from work, it's your job to take baby off Mum's hands to give her as much of a break as possible in the evening. You won't have a lot of "me" time at home. Suck it up. Try and work your "me" time into your working day (on the commute, lunch hour).

>> Warning: your baby will lose ~10% of its bodyweight post-birth. This is normal. I wish someone had told me that prior to the event because it freaked me out.

>> Your baby might like a sling (some don't). They get all warm and cosy and they'll probably fall asleep. You get to keep both hands free. I got a Wallaboo.

>> You should be able to work out your baby's cues through observation, some of which are obvious, but it's useful to differentiate. e.g. for my boy: head banging = wind, leg wriggling + screaming = gas/colic, bright red face = pooing, sucking = hungry

>> Prepare for the amount of food Mum will need. A breastfeeding mother has a licence to eat whatever she wants, pretty much. Stock up on snacks (biscuits, cakes, muesli bars). Mrs Day has a tub of trail mix in the bedroom for snacking during the overnight feeds.

>> Also, if Mum is breastfeeding she will need hydration. Be prepared to bring her her beverage of choice in large quantities.

Good luck and congratulations.
posted by bright cold day at 2:26 AM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Toddlers hate order and will create chaos whenever possible. Be consistent with rules. Present a unite front, it's you and the wife against them, this is war. If they fall down, let them pick themselves up. Be heartless whenever possible. The crying stops quickly. Tolerate messes. Let them experiment and try new things. They never forget what you tell them. The always get it wrong though. Genetics is 90% of who they are, your role is to just keep them alive, they're already programmed to come out a certain way.
Toddlers are at the same time, the slowest and fastest creatures on earth. Everything is covered with shit, literally. Nothing is where it should be, ever. What you say really really matters. You're going to get sick, alot. Time is always your enemy. The crying stops very quickly & it ain't so bad. You will make them sad & angry sometimes. You are teaching limits. They lose interest very quickly in whatever it was they're crying about. It's not that you'll never get any sleep, it's that you'll never know when you'll get sleep. If you have more than one someone is always crying. Pick it up or it's lost forever. The most important trait you can have is patience. This includes not giving in.
Sometimes there's no right answer, but don't let your judgment go bad from crying. You'll need to make more choices. Want the laundry done? The bedrooms will be a mess. They mirror your moods and attitudes. If you're happy it goes a long way to getting them happy. They learn by making mistakes and making a mess. Their brains are different and see the world differently. One of those is that they can't predict the future. Praise and encourage carefully. If you speak less it'll mean more. Routines are good things. Keeping them at a distance will help them be independent which is a good thing
Parenting three kids is so different from parenting one kid that it should be a different word. I didn't feel like this with 2, but having three is not so much parenting as it is crowd control or something.

It never gets easier, it just gets different.
posted by Blake at 3:56 AM on June 24, 2011

This advice is probably off the path of what you were looking for, but I always suggest starting some upper body workouts once you find out a baby is on the way. Sure the kid is only going to weigh 7-ish pounds at first but they'll be up to 10 before you know it. Imagine carrying this 10-pound kid in the car seat (which adds a few more pounds) in one hand with a diaper bag slung over your shoulder while you try to open a car door or carry some groceries with the other hand. You may also use one of those slings where they baby hangs on your chest. These are great for walks around town or even just wearing around the house so you can get some other stuff done at the same time.

Also, if it's not too late, don't share potential baby names you are seriously considering. There will always be someone who has some issue with one name or another and this might plant seeds of doubt about using it or if you do end up using it you'll always remember how that one relative sort of made that face when you mentioned maybe using that name. Just pick some name you know you won't use if people press the issue - "Yes I think the name Vampire Smith has a cool sound to it and she will be the envy of her classmates!" Once you present the baby with the name no one will be rude enough to say "Really? That's what you went with?"
posted by mikepop at 5:28 AM on June 24, 2011

2 main things:

1) Lotrimin AF will be the the diaper cream the you need but no one has told you about. Diaper rash happens, and when it becomes clear that it means business (it'll be pretty obvious, both visually and by your baby's reaction to being wiped during changes), Lotrimin/clotrimazole is the not-fooling-around solution. Generics exist and are much cheaper and worked just as well for us. I tend to resist medicating problems, but even I had to admit the enormous benefit of clotrimazole when she was suffering despite our combined constant care and probable over-changing (we loved the sensitive skin diapers with the indicator strip, but in retrospect they probably contributed to an overzealous changing frequency).

2) I see other folks have have recommended Happiest Baby/5 S's, much as I would. It worked really well for our daughter, so much so that I called it "tricking the baby." Sometimes a different motion was best for keeping her calm/asleep (I think there's video of me basically doing curls with a sleeping baby for 5 minutes), but it's tough to top the 5 S's for creating the initial calm.

As a part of that, learn to swaddle really well. You should know it cold and be able to do it efficiently when you're really tired. Practice that a lot.

Our kid was on the larger side (long in the body) and it took some searching to find swaddling cloths that were generously sized for her. I preferred plain swaddling cloths, but onlyconnect liked the ones with extra flaps and whatnot.

Lastly, consider every moment your newborn sleeps to be a victory.
posted by NortonDC at 6:28 AM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Giving birth, while joyful, is also a major trauma with all the emotional and physical baggage that goes along with that.

Yes - I think it's really important to keep that in mind. No one really told me this and I sincerely thought I was going to walk out of the hospital feeling fine and ready to be supermom. I didn't rest properly (grocery shopping on day 3? what was I thinking?) and I'm positive I would healed weeks sooner had I avoided walking around so much - resting doesn't just mean sleeping. I ended up at the hospital again and at doctor's appointments several times because healing was happening so slowly and what was going on with my body scared me so much - awful pain from stitches that rivaled labour and got worse before it got better, a very sore tailbone, funny smells (infection? eventually, yes), difficulty getting urine out. While a bit on the extreme side, these things were still NORMAL and it was all going to be OK and I wish I had known that. I felt really betrayed by womankind because I had no warning. They didn't teach it in the prenatal classes and it's like the doctor's and nurses thought that unless you have a C-section or third-degree tearing (don't know what that is? no need to be scared of it, just make sure you and/or your wife look it up in advance), you're completely fine.

So, make sure your wife knows, really knows, that the post-delivery might not be easy. Encourage her to rest, because it's not just a cute thing; she won't heal as quickly if she doesn't. Don't carry expectations about how 'happy' she's supposed to be during this period. My husband thought I would be happier. But those feelings have no bearing on how much she's going to love the child and how happy she's going to feel down the road. Even women forget what's it's like to give birth and have a newborn; my grandma told me I should be having fun a couple weeks in. For god's sake, it's ok not to think being physically drained and taking care of a newborn is fun!!!!! If you can, shield her from these expectations.

Congratulations! Despite the gloom of what I said above, this is going to be awesome :)
posted by kitcat at 7:23 AM on June 24, 2011

Remember to talk to your baby. My husband was surprised that he had to remember to talk. He could be with the baby all evening long and never say a thing unless he forced himself. At first.

Develop your own relationship with your baby. Develop your own routines. This is how we do dinner. This is how mom does dinner. This is how we do dinner as a family. Maybe its the same, maybe not. I was appalled to find my husband giving the baby a bottle in the high chair while he put away groceries. And was firmly told to "Butt out. Their system was working fine for them." And it was, once I let go of the control freak thing. My husband is an awesome dad.

You are not an extension of the mom. Commit to being a full parent, not just a fill in for mom. Never talk about 'babysitting' your own child. Learn from mom. Learn with mom. Teach mom what you know, or what you figure out. Learn from your baby.

Get more sleep.

Pick your battles. Some things are worth dying over, some things aren't. Unless it is Tuesday, then those things are reversed. Usually.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:40 AM on June 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't know if she's planning on breastfeeding, but the one thing I really wish someone had warned me about once the baby arrived was how much breastfeeding can hurt. Baby Vampire Smith was sucking down as much blood as milk, & even the experts said we were doing it right ("Wow, she's got a powerful suck!"). MeFi's had reems of mothers check in wondering what they could possibly be doing wrong. Just be aware that there's a whooooole range of experiences in that area, from divine to unholy Hell on breast feeding. If Mama wants to breastfeed, be prepared for some discomfort, at least initially, maybe for a long-long time (hopefully she won't be in that group). Be aggressive about using balms/shields early (think *severly* chapped's far, far easier to stave it off by applying balm ahead of time, than to make it better once things get tore up), don't hesitate to call in consultants, and do bear in mind: No one has failed as a parent if the determination is made that breast feeding is not for you. It can really, really feel like that for a woman who has made up her mind to breast feed. But lots of beautiful, healthy babies have been raised on formula and/or pumped milk.
posted by Ys at 6:40 AM on June 25, 2011

Thirding Baby 411. Seriously, it was the single book that my wife and I kept coming back to whenever weird rashes, behavior, etc. would crop up. That book paid for itself in not having to pay doctor visit co-pays within the first two weeks.
posted by po822000 at 8:25 AM on June 28, 2011

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