Daddy’s New Roles

During the first week of our new baby’s life, he pretty much just ate, slept, pooped, and cried…not necessarily in that order.  So most of Mommy and Daddy’s time revolved around tending to these needs via feeding, changing diapers/clothes, and soothing.  In between these activities, my beautiful bride and I tried to manage to do the same things for ourselves, without strangling one another or dumping our little bundle of joy in the diaper bin.

During the second week, all of the above were still dominant, but with each day our baby boy became more alert and animated.  He is awake a little bit more during the day (and night unfortunately) so some new pursuits have been added to our daily activities.  These include warming up with some “baby calisthenics” (it’s never too early to get fit), getting Baby’s groove on with “dance dance revolution” (his favorite artists include Flo Rida, Maroon 5, and the Black Eyed Peas), and rounding out his  with “tummy time” (thank you for snugly blankets and the Jungle Mat).

In addition to new activities for our little hall-of-famer-to-be, mommy is trying new things like breastfeeding, pumping, and more breastfeeding.  She is also going through some physical and emotional changes (can you say engorged breasts because milk is “coming in” and crazy hormones, the likes neither one of us have ever seen).  Mommies out there, you know what I’m talking about.  As a result of all these new family activities, Daddy has taken some new roles.

Daddy’s New Roles:

  • Rooster (aka “The Alarm Clock”)
  • Daily Activity Tracker
  • Timekeeper
  • Master Swaddler
  • Baby Whisperer In-Training
  • Personal Trainer
  • Massage Therapist
  • Dance Instructor
  • Manicurist
  • Sanitation Engineer
  • Maid
  • Nutritionist/Meal Planner/Cook
  • Waiter
  • Dish/Bottle Washer
  • Personal Shopper/Delivery Guy
  • Mechanic
  • Photographer
  • Historian
  • Cheerleader

Each of these roles is explained in more detail below.

Rooster (aka “The Alarm Clock”):

I wake up the family to start the day.  I wake up sleeping baby when it’s time to eat.  I wake up mommy when it’s time to feed.  Have you ever had to awaken a baby or Mommy when they are sleeping peacefully and look so cute and defenseless?  Avoid this at all costs if you can.  You don’t want to experience the terror.  Believe me, it sucks to be the bad guy.

Daily Activity Tracker:

When in postpartum recovery, the hospital has you track feeding times and duration on each boob if breastfeeding.  For the first couple of weeks, the hospital suggests that your baby should feed at least 8-12 times in each 24-hour period if breastfeeding.  Do the math…that’s a kid on mommy’s boobs every 2-3 hours per day.

The hospital also has you track the number of diaper changes and the type of excretion at each diaper check/change.  They even have minimum desired quantities of “Wet” diapers and a potpourri of poop types to watch out for, including “Yellow Poop,” “Green/Yellow Poop,” “Green/Brown/Yellow Poop,” “Black or Green Poop,” and my favorite “Black Tarry Poop.”  Seriously, like La Brea Tar Pits “black and tarry.”   You are tasked with performing this fun exercise to assess the progress of your baby’s development and to ensure that your baby’s bodily functions are working properly and progressing daily.

This regimen was so fun that we decided to stick with it for the first couple of weeks in order to make sure that our little bundle of joy was still on track.  The main difference now is that for diapers, we only log “Wet,” “Poopy,” Wet & Poopy,” and “Dry,” with the capacity to add notes if needed.  We also added a “Sleeping” category in order to collect data for establishing behavior trends so that we can develop the ever-elusive “schedule.” Yeah, right.  This probably sounds like a lot of work, but actually we use the “What to Expect – baby” app for the iPhone.  It’s a very cool tool that not only enables you to track all these things, but also includes timers for “Feeding” and “Sleeping,” the ability to track “Vaccinations” and has built in tips for your baby’s development, health, general baby care, feeding tips and strategies, and even fun.

Timekeeper:

From the beginning, I have kept track of the timing for all daily activities mentioned above.  Unfortunately, I get to play the role of “Bad Cop” again, not only reminding Mommy when it’s time to feed, but also trying to keep us on track to achieve our goal of at least 8 feeding times per 24-hour period.   We are being very diligent in making sure that our bouncing baby boy maintains his weight gain (or avoids weight loss) because we’ve heard that you don’t want to go to your pediatrician check ups and get accused of neglecting your child.  We haven’t experienced it yet, but we’ve definitely heard the stories.  Man, it sure seems like a lot of pressure….

Fortunately, we were lucky from the get go.  Since our boy was “fashionably late,” we started out with a big, healthy baby (9.5 lbs).  In addition, Mommy and Baby connected quickly on the breastfeeding thing.  Thus, we are not actually too  concerned about weight loss or lack of weight gain, which enables us to ONLY shoot for 8 feedings per day instead of 12.  That said, my beautiful bride still thinks that “Feeding Nazi” is a more appropriate moniker than “Timekeeper.”

Master Swaddler:

“Swaddling” is basically a technique of wrapping your baby tightly in some form of blanket to help your baby feel warm and secure.  It is believed that swaddling conjures up memories of when he/she was still all comfy and cozy in mommy’s womb.  This can help calm fussiness and typically makes it easier for a newborn to go to sleep once he/she has been soothed.  During your days and nights in postpartum recovery at the hospital, you will attempt to learn how to swaddle correctly.

The first time I saw a swaddled baby, I was immediately reminded of a burrito, a little baby wrapped up like a burrito.  This thought has stuck with me ever since. At first, when I attempted to “roll” our little burrito, I was a bumbling fool and it was embarrassing and frustrating.  My baby’s arms, or the “filling,” kept coming out. Ironically, just like when I make burritos at home.  I felt like a failure because I couldn’t wrap like the nurse did.  I even started to fear the times when the baby would be screaming after a diaper change and it would be my turn to swaddle.

Now that I look back on my swaddling “apprenticeship,” I think I was failing for a couple of reasons.  First, I was trying so hard to make sure that no arms came out, that the last “tail” of the swaddle was always tucked in neatly like the nurse always did, and that the “burrito” was “rolled” perfectly.  I was letting “Perfect” be the enemy of the “Good,” like what happens so many times in life, especially in my old profession of politics and policy making, but I digress….Second, I had never practiced it before so I lacked skill and confidence.  Third, I didn’t have the right tool for the job – the hospital blankets were too small for my skill and comfort level.

After getting home to a familiar environment where no one was watching over me, and prepared with my arsenal of aden + anais large cotton muslin swaddling blankets, it seems that I’ve picked up the art of “rolling the burrito.”  Actually my wife thinks that I’m the “Master Swaddler,” even under fire at 3am when our little bundle of joy is screaming like a banshee.  As always, with the right tools, the right approach or mindset, and lots of practice, anyone can become a Master.  Now we even have fun with swaddling.  We have all different kinds of healthy “tortillas” in fun colors like “sun-dried tomato,” “red beets,” or when we are feeling really healthy, “Spinach.”

Baby Whisperer In-Training:

No one likes to hear the perpetual wailing of a baby.  So if you can figure out how to “tame” your “savage beast” when they are crying or generally fussy, you will become the envy of Mommy, family and friends.  Babies cry because it is their primary way to communicate.  Unfortunately for adults, some babies emit the same cry whether they are hungry, have a dirty diaper, receive a freezing cold hand somewhere on their exposed skin…really for anything that annoys, causes discomfort, or hurts them.

Often times meeting Baby’s needs with a feeding or a diaper change will do the trick.  However if crying or fussiness continues, other measures are required.  So in addition to mastering the “art of the swaddle,” I am working on mastering all of the 5 S’s – Swaddling, Side or Stomach Position, Shushing, Swinging, and Sucking – as proposed by Dr. Harvey Karp in his book, The Happiest Baby on the Block.  Becoming proficient in all of these techniques is moving me toward the ultimate parenting compliment – Baby Whisperer.  When everything else fails, you can also try administering Gas Relief Drops or Gripe Water as a last resort, but they are only about 30% effective, according to our pediatrician.

Personal Trainer:

I know you might be thinking that it’s too early for an exercise regime (our boy is going on 3 weeks old), but if our future golfer is going to make a complete turn, execute a proper transition and extend down the target line, then things like flexibility, strong legs and grip strength are key.  Thus, each day we start with some gentle leg and hip stretches by moving his knees back and forth to his chest.  This not only gets the blood pumping, but also helps with relieving gas and getting the poopies moving.  After a few minutes of “legwork,” which also includes leg extensions, leg raisers and the “bicycle,” we move to the upper body.

Actually we focus primarily on range of motion with no real weight for the arms, shoulders, chest and hands because right now he can’t really do much while laying on his back.  Oh yeah, and he’s only going on 3 weeks old.  Anyway, he likes to work on gripping Daddy’s thumbs and then doing sets of  “bench press,” “incline press,” and “decline press.”  He also likes stretches above his head, or a modified “overhead press” because he wants to ensure full range of motion in his shoulders.

We usually end our “workout” with some “toe touches” and “tummy time,” which is when he gets most of his core work in.  Each day he is getting better at the “Superman.”  We’re usually in and out of the “gym” in less than 20 minutes.

Massage Therapist:

After a strenuous “workout,” we usually cool down with some baby massage.  I gently work on his arms, legs, hands, and feet.  Not only does this help to relieve some tension, but it also gets him used to being touched all over, which makes it somewhat easier to keep him calm during diaper changes, clothes changes, poking and prodding during doctor’s appointments, and when people other than Mommy and Daddy are holding or playing with him.

If we are specifically trying to calm him towards sleep, sometimes I’ll give him a very light head massage, actually it’s more like head stroking.  In terms of pressure, I’m talking none because the bones of his skull have not yet grown together.  Reminder…he’s going on 3 weeks old and he still has 2 fontanels (“soft spots”) on the top of his head.  “Back work,” with very light pressure (actually it’s more like “heavy” rubbing) also helps to soothe the savage beast…at times.

Dance Instructor:

Our boy loves music (see a few of his favorite artists mentioned above) and he loves to “dance.”  Listening to “Home” by Phillip Phillips is a great cure for his baby blues and he’s currently working on a routine to “Hall of Fame” by the Script featuring will.i.am.  We enjoy dance time at least once a day, more if he needs a little pick-me-up (or actually a distraction).  Pretty soon, he’ll have “Moves like Jagger.”

Manicurist:

The thought of having to trim Baby’s fingernails and toenails was originally terrifying to me.  Intellectually, I knew that it needed to be done because they’ve been growing since before he was born, and he was late, which possibly meant that they’d be even longer.  In addition, I learned from friends who were recent parents that even newborn nails can be sharper than you think, sharp enough for babies to scratch themselves, especially around the face.  Therefore, I knew I had to step up and get trimming.  So I performed a “manicure” on someone else for the first time in my life, and that someone else happened to be my son only 2 days after his birth.  With that terrifying experience complete and no blood drawn, I feel confident giving my baby boy a proper “mani-pedi.”

Sanitation Engineer:

Though he is slight in stature, this little bugger produces a lot of waste.  We change and dispose of anywhere from 8-12 diapers per 24-hour period and use 2-3 wipes per diaper change.  In less than 3 weeks after Baby’s birth, we are on our third diaper bag.  The last diaper bag that I disposed of weighed in at approximately 12 pounds.  So basically what this means is that he is producing significantly more than his body weight in waste each week.   Who would have thunk?  I guess the good news is that we know his appetite is robust and his insides seem to be working.

Maid:

Who knew there would be so much to do in terms of laundry, folding clothes, general “housekeeping” and picking up after Mommy and Baby.  I do about one load of laundry per day on average.  This includes laundry for Mommy, Daddy and Baby.  On some days it might take a couple loads to keep us current.  As for general housekeeping, it seems that there is always something to do in the attempt to keep the house somewhat “tidy”.

Nutritionist/Meal Planner/Cook:

Actually, I did most of the meal planning, food prep, and cooking before Baby arrived so this is not much of a change for me.  Since we mostly eat fresh/perishable foods, I currently attempt to plan meals (with input from Mommy) 2-3 days out so we minimize wasted food.  Produce tends to take up a lot of space in the refrigerator, so 2-3 days is also about the max we can shop for unless we wanted to get a second fridge, which is not really an option for us.  Unfortunately, this necessitates grocery shopping every 2-3 days as well (see “Personal Shopper/Delivery Man” below).

One thing we do each day to ensure that we both get at least 1-2 large serving of greens is have a daily green smoothie that includes kale and spinach first thing in the morning.  It’s a great way to start the day (it’s easy on your body and provides good energy) and eliminates some guilt, if you can’t eat greens with every meal (recipe to follow later).  I also ensure that we have a variety of pre-made juices in the fridge for those times that we’re “on the road” or in a hurry.  We like the cold-pressed juices from Evolution FRESH, which you can find at Whole Foods.

Waiter:

It is essential to keep Mommy hydrated with the appropriate fluids and to provide whatever else she needs in the way of nourishment (see “Meal Planner/Cook” above).  In addition to providing Mommy with her daily nutrition, I ensure that she always has water easily accessible, especially while breastfeeding.  To facilitate this, we have a couple of those tumbler type cups that are insulated, with a screw-on lid and a large capacity straw (which makes it easier to drink more).  We also have a pitcher of water that we keep on the bedside table for middle of the night feedings and then move it out to the family room during the day.  I periodically check to make sure that neither are empty because I want to make sure that she is not asking for water once dehydration has already set in.

Dish/Bottle Washer:

Though I did most of the dishes and general kitchen clean up before Baby’s arrival, the main change is that we now have introduced new things to constantly keep clean.  Specifically, this includes all of the “equipment” associated with feeding Baby and “expressing” (e.g., baby bottles, bottle nipples, breast milk storage containers, and breast pump paraphernalia).  The main issue here is that we hand wash all of them with “baby safe” dish soap and air-dry them, which takes up more time and counter space.  In addition, every once in a while we put all of our “equipment” through the electric steam sterilizer, which is a new addition to our counter top.

Personal Shopper / Delivery Man:

Who knew that with all the stuff you receive from baby showers, it would still be possible to find new things you need almost every day.  Well, it’s true.  I can guarantee that no matter how prepared you think you are, you probably won’t have everything you need at home.  In addition, even if you think you do, you will most likely encounter things that you little bundle of joy just won’t take to at first.  As a result, you end up trying different options, whether it’s a sleep swaddle, bouncer, hygiene products, etc.

It helps immensely if you have a large retailer that carries a variety of baby products relatively close to home.  I’m extremely grateful that we have a Target less than 5 minutes drive form our house; it’s been a lifesaver.  Unfortunately the closest Babies “R” Us is about 30 minutes away so it’s a bit of trek and time-sink to make frequent runs there.

In addition to ensuring that you have all the baby stuff that you need (e.g., diapers, wipes, etc.), someone also needs to do the grocery shopping and pick up the take-out meals.  We found that at least for the first couple of weeks, it has been easier to have Mommy stay at home with Baby in order to address feeding issues and have Daddy run all the errands.  That said, as we are getting deeper into this and understanding Baby better, we are working hard to ensure that Mommy gets out of the house as well.  It’s a big part if staying sane.

Mechanic:

Babies seem to require lots of gear to assemble and maintain such as car seats, strollers, swings, bouncers, sleepers, nursery furniture, etc.  My father would be proud to know that assembling and maintaining all of this equipment has fallen solely on my shoulders.  Fortunately most of this stuff is relatively easy to deal with if you are willing to actually read the instruction “manual”.

Photographer:

As you can probably imagine, there is no shortage of picture taking opportunities; actually I keep getting alerts from iCloud that my storage is almost full because I have so many pictures in my camera roll.  We also got a new “adult” camera (digital Canon SLR with telephoto lenses) from Santa for Christmas last year.  So we end up doubling up on photos when the iPhone camera just isn’t “enough.”  So if you are interested, keep your eyes open on the website as I start adding some weekly pictures.  Also, get ready for the forthcoming photo journey – “50 Shades of Jake.”

Historian:

It’s amazing how many “historical” events happen in just the first few weeks of a baby’s life.  There’s the whole birth of course, but beyond that there is the first time that Daddy or Mommy have to actually trim Baby’s fingernails.  There’s Baby’s first bath.  There’s the “shedding” of Baby’s umbilical cord.  There’s the first time that Baby “accepts” a pacifier (assuming that breastfeeding is going well).  There’s the first time that Baby “graduates from a kimono style side snap T-shirt to a “baby body” or some other article of clothing that Mommy/Daddy actually need to pull over Baby’s head.  There’s the first “walk” around the block and the first “lunch” at Mommy and Daddy’s favorite restaurant.  There’s the first time that Baby pees on daddy, and there’s the first time that Baby smiles.

I know that these might seem trivial, but trust me, they all seem “monumental” at the time…and someone has to keep track of them.

Cheerleader:

Let me start by saying that Mommy comes home after the birth exhausted, physically and emotionally.  Add on top of that experiencing emotions that she cannot comprehend and being responsible for the constant nurturing and nourishing of a newborn human being.  If we focus just on the nourishing portion, assuming that Mommy is breastfeeding, know that it ain’t no picnic.  Actually it can be frustrating and downright exhausting – physically, mentally and emotionally – so mommies need lots of love and encouragement, especially during the first couple of weeks.

So I find myself constantly trying to make things easier for Mommy so she can focus on bonding and breastfeeding with Baby; I also am her main cheerleader during those trying times when it seems difficult to persist.  This means telling her she’s doing great and that Baby is grateful.  It means getting up with her in the middle of the night to change Baby, burp Baby, soothe Baby or even just provide some solidarity so she doesn’t feel as if she’s in it alone.  Basically, I do whatever Mommy needs so she can feel good about herself and at the very least get just a few extra minutes of rest.

Conclusion

Let’s be clear.  I’m not suggesting that Mommy never helps out with any of the activities discussed above, but I have tried to ensure that she doesn’t need to focus on any of these except on rare occasions, at least during our first few weeks at home.  I believe that at least during the first 3-4 weeks at home she should focus her attention and energy on healing, adapting to a new life obligation, and breast feeding Baby as much as possible.

For the dads-to-be out there, I’m not suggesting that you have to take on all these roles as I have.  Frankly, I understand that it just might not be possible for everyone because everyone’s individual circumstances and outside responsibilities vary.  However, I now know how difficult it is to perform all these tasks and stay sane.

Imagine if your spouse/partner/girlfriend/whatever had to play all the roles discussed above by herself…oh, AND focus on healing from a major physical trauma, AND deal with raging hormones that even she does not understand, AND nourish your child, which itself can be exhausting, especially if breastfeeding.  No matter how much of a superwoman Mommy is, I believe that it is unrealistic to think that she can do all of this on her own and stay sane.  Frankly, why should she have to?  For the sake of your relationship and the happiness of your baby, step up and help out as much as you can.  If at all possible, I recommend that dads try to spend at least the first two weeks at home after the baby’s birth.  It will pay big dividends in the short and long run.  You will have a much better chance at bonding with your baby early on, and as many of my friends like to say, “happy wife equals happy life.”

Until soon…thanks for listening.

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