Although I had my first child during a time when everything I needed to know I probably could find in the Internet, I got used to asking for tips and advice from friends and family who are fathers. Raising kids doesn't come with a manual, and I felt it was best to learn from those who have been through it.
One of the best tips that benefitted my two kids focused on me-time--for you and your wife individually and together. Dads, allow yourself a barkada night (this study may come in handy when you want to ask permission from your wife hehehe). But, more importantly, ask your wife out. Be ready, however, to hear her give a reluctant yes when you offer. She may even demur because she is feeling guilty and have the following in mind:
I don't have enough extra milk for me to leave baby even for one night (for breastfed babies).
Our baby will need me to put him to sleep.
What if something happens and you'll need help with the baby (when you offer a girls' only date).
I don't want to go out--I look and feel lousy
So be ready for all those by:
checking the milk in your freezer to make sure you have healthy amount of stored milk before asking her out
choosing a place for date night that is nearby in case she needs to quickly attend to baby or to just give her peace of mind
having a backup plan where she can have quality time all by herself: getting a massage, having a manicure/pedicure session, a haircut, etc.
You'll see that both of you are less angsty and are more focused on baby after such days or nights out with friends. But if she doesn't go for it, don't take it personally and don't get frustrated--she will love the thought you put into it.
Here are the rest of the tips I found very helpful.
1. Calm the baby with the "5 S's" techniques. My wife's Aussie cousin came to visit during the first three months of our firstborn. She made us watch a YouTube video of Harvey Karp who seemed to be able to calm any crying baby. He posits that that all you need to do to soothe a crying newborn is to mimic the conditions while he was inside the womb: put him in a fetal-like position by swaddling him; make him hear sounds as if he were still in his mother's womb aka "white noise" (shush); put him on his side when he becomes fussy; jiggle your swaddled baby using very small, rapid movements; and give your baby a pacifier or thumb to suck on.
It was amazing and worked on our firstborn who was a high-need baby. He constantly needed to be held and rocked, always wanting our calming voice. It was quite a challenge and a lot of sleepless nights, but the five S's really helped us sleep more.
This also worked: For with our second child, we discovered a hack that worked for us. We placed a "white noise" battery-operated sound machine near his crib whenever he was uneasy with his sleep. It was so effective in putting him at ease and making him sleeping tight!
2. Be in charge of baby's bath. The bond between baby and the mother is almost always forged effortlessly. With dads, it isn't always simple, at least in my experience.
My firstborn, for instance, would cry whenever I would change his diapers. It happened so often that it dissuaded me from changing his nappies (I swear it was not an excuse!). That changed when I started to bathe him daily. We read that it was an encouraged activity for fathers of newborns--the baby learns how the father holds him, the feel of his hands, the sound of his voice and even his scent.
After a week of bathing him, my baby would no longer cry when I would do the diaper change. He got accustomed to my touch and even my clumsiness! I officially became the official diaper-changer, my small contribution to the care of our little one.
Bathing tip: I recommend setting aside your bathing schedule before going off to work in the morning. It's the best physical bonding you can have with your kid while he still doesn't know how to shoot a basketball or swing a golf club! I still bathe my firstborn, who is 4 years old now, at least three days in a week.
3. Talk to your baby like an adult. We taught our firstborn to use the word "yayay" whenever he would feel pain and discomfort. Little did we anticipate that the word was too all-encompassing, and our little one could not really express the exact type of physical discomfort he was experiencing.
There was a time when our boy was pointing to his back and kept saying "yayay" and cried nonstop. We gave him paracetamol, put an ice pack on it, and tried to make him burp, to no avail. Finally, we rubbed and scratched his back, and it was all he needed--he was simply itchy (albeit the extreme kind). So from then on, we avoided the use of the baby word "yayay" and used appropriate words and statements and questions like, "this cream stings," and "do you feel like you'll get a black and blue bruise after dropping your toy on your foot."
4 . What they don't know won't hurt them. We often did a hide-and-escape routine in the mornings when we go off to work. We discovered that when we did this our child would go through his day seemingly without care or worry. But every time we would do the "adult thing" of saying goodbye, he would literally cry for hours upon our departure, and would cry in bursts throughout the day until we got home.
When he turned 3 (we really felt guilty through those three years of hiding and escaping) we explained to him that we needed to earn a living and go out, but that we would be back home in the evening to see him. After a few days of this and him seeing us fulfill our promise of being back home at night, we didn't have problems with him seeing us leave.
5. There are babies who are fussier--and it's not because you're doing something wrong. Our firstborn was a crier during his first month at home with us. The slightest change in his position or the slightest touch from the nurse would make him cry. And, boy, did he cry--he was the loudest out of all the babies in the nursery.
It was no different at home--he just cried, cried and cried. The moments he would be quiet and at ease were during nursing, and, mind you, he nursed literally every hour for twenty minutes each hour. The rest of the forty minutes he demanded that his mom rock and carry him to sleep while humming. He wanted his mother's constant touch all throughout the night. He would sleep continuously for no more than two hours.
This lasted for a month, and my wife and I were on the verge of physical and emotional breakdown. It took such a huge toll to take care of our firstborn and we were losing it, most especially my wife who was just plain drained. And that's when she started researching. She first asked her friends and relatives, but it seemed like their babies were "fine"--sleeping through the night with ease, nursing every three hours, and so forth. So she took to the Internet to research even more, and found out our baby fitted the profile of a high-needs baby.
It gave us profound ease and for some odd reason, immense pride. We were actually fulfilling our baby's needs--it was just harder work. Our experience also made us feel we could overcome anything, but we were not alone in this journey of rearing high-need babies.
6. To sedate or not to sedate while flying We should not care or be embarrassed to have a noisy crying child onboard. That said, we didn't want to traumatize our baby for his first flight either. Administering cough syrup to small children when traveling in an airplane is a controversial one. But it's actually a medically-accepted means, and it was our pediatrician who suggested it (aside from family members). We followed the doctor's instructions carefully, and the baby was calm and sleeping throughout the trips we have taken him.
There was one occasion, however, when it backfired. We did everything right--we administered the correct dose for our baby's age and weight, we gave it at the correct time (20 minutes before boarding), and guess what happened? Our flight suddenly got delayed, and our plane was on the ramp for an additional hour. Because of the noise and us still being on the ground, our little one woke up, and he was hyperactive throughout the whole four-hour flight. And as soon as we touched down and got to the hotel, our baby was tired, spent, and overstimulated. Suffice to say, we did not go out of the hotel room until the next day.
7. Try being your baby's Nat King Cole. A good buddy of mine advised that I memorize as many songs as I possibly could in preparing for our firstborn while he was still in his mother's womb. When I asked why, he simply said, just do it--you'll find out later.
In the first week of having our baby at home, with him needing to constantly hear our voices as we hummed and sang him to sleep, I was quickly at a loss for songs to sing. Besides, my go-to song, Creep by Radiohead wasn't the most ideal song to lay our son to sleep. And so I searched for lyrics online, everything from classics such as Moon River and Nat King Cole songs to children's classics such as I've Been Working On A Railroad and Wheels On A Bus. In my first week of caring for our newborn, I found that singing to your little one increases calm and assurance on his end.
I must have memorized lyrics to six songs. By the end of the first month, I probably had memorized over 30 songs, a record and personal best of mine. I still sing the same songs while making him sleep, while of course throwing in a few current hit songs in the mix every now and then. (I swear to God, my son really thinks I have the best singing voice in the world.)
10. Don't vaccinate... if you don't care about your child's health and the health of the general population.
Nico Bacani is husband to a loving wife and father of two rambunctious boys, ages 4 and 2. When not busy with his primary job--parenting--he dabbles in events, marketing and advertising.