Parenting Tips for New Dads
You’d be hardpressed to find a time more overwhelming, confusing, and terrifying than the moment you become a father. The hospital is the easy part. You have a staff of nurses making sure you don’t do anything TOO stupid, and you’re actually able to get a little rest. (Read: two hours at most) To make matters worse, there are few books offering parenting tips for new dads. Moms? Tons of info.
Then there’s the moment you get home. That’s when the panic sets in. The realization of, “Holy shit, we’re home. Alone. With a baby.” Your first instinct will likely guide you toward checking those parenting books you never read. Or Googling, “Parenting Tips.” You can and really should do those things. Although, beware of Google and the many doom and gloom things it will bring up.
There are some great tips online and in books. People far smarter and more experienced than I have written countless pages. But, there are a lot of tips you won’t hear, that as fathers, you really need to.
7 Tips to Surviving the First Two Years
Before you get any further in this article, know this: these tips are not a replacement for the essential parenting information made available by the doctors at the hospital, your pediatrician, etc. These are tips to make you, the proud papa bear, happier, more productive, and more helpful during the first two years. These are especially uncommon parenting tips for new dads. No run-of-the-mill advice here. There are numerous articles offering advice for new dads if you want the usual stuff.
Okay, with that out of the way, here are my best tips for new dads!
1. Protect Your Boys
This one doesn’t apply until your little bundle of joy and mayhem is a little bigger, but seriously, you’re going to take a lot of blows below the belt.
When you first bring your baby home this isn’t an issue. During the first few months you mostly need to be concerned with projectile vomiting, pee, and shotgun blasts of poo. (Nobody ever said parenting is glamorous.)
Once your newborn is starting to move around, prepare yourself for the ball-beating of a lifetime. Here are some of the most common maneuvers you need to look out for:
- The Sit and Smash: Is your baby sitting in your lap? Make sure you’re positioned in such a way that a quick up-down of their little legs doesn’t see their butt slamming down onto your groin.
- The “Tag, You’re It” Jab: Once your baby has transformed into a sprinting toddler of destruction, prepare for random headbutts or windmill smacks to the groin. I hope it’s not intentional, but this is definitely a frequently-occurring one to look out for. I recommend being ready to do a reverse hip thrust at any moment to avoid a direct impact.
- The Texas Two-Step: If you’re sitting on the floor and your legs are slightly spread, make sure nothing important is even remotely exposed. By that, I mean, sit in such a way that your kiddo won’t stomp on your testicles if and when they decide to run into you, or quickly stand up from a sitting position in your lap.
You might be thinking, “Wow, it sounds like my kid is going to annihilate me.”
2. Embrace Coffee
According to the Mayo Clinic, you can have up to 400mg of caffeine a day.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get serious. If you’re a coffee drinker, you definitely don’t want to consider cutting back anytime soon. The first few months with your newborn are especially brutal, as you’re waking up nearly every hour or two to feed them, change them, make sure they’re breathing, and so on.
Grab a nap where you can, but don’t hesitate to tip back a mug of your favorite coffee. If you don’t finish a pot, throw it in a pitcher and put it in the fridge. You’ll be grateful when you find yourself in a rush and you happen to have some great coffee ready to rock in the fridge.
When I’m not treating myself to a local roast, I love the clean flavor and cheap price of Eight O’Clock coffee. It’s smooth, hard to mess up, and it smells great. I’m not paid to say this, it’s just great for being so cheap!
Note: If you don’t like coffee, I suggest finding a great breakfast tea or green tea. Or, learn to love coffee. That’s the better option.
3. Seriously, Nap When the Baby Naps
The nurses, doctors, and everyone else will all tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps. You’ll nod in agreement, go home, and then never do this. Your wife or partner? They’ll probably do it, because they’re smarter.
Newborns, babies, and toddlers are so incredibly unpredictable when it comes to sleep. Just when you think you have their sleep pattern nailed down, they’ll pivot and kill your dreams of dreaming.
Don’t be a hero – SLEEP.
If you’re at home and the rest of your family is sleeping, seriously, sleep. I found myself trying to squeeze in any freelance, game, or work time I could when my wife and newborn were sleeping. The end result? A very tired and worthless me.
Obviously, this won’t be easy for those of you working in an office, bakery, factory, spacestation, etc. You’ll need to really embrace the previous step of drinking coffee, and try to squeeze in naps when you can. If you’re remote? Nap. A lot. You can finish your work later.
4. Tag Team Everything
If I had a dollar for every person that told me, “Oh we made a deal where I clean up puke and she gets diapers,” or, “I get pee diapers and she gets poop,” I wouldn’t have to use affiliate links. Stop this madness.
WORK AS A TEAM.
If you see your partner is sleeping or struggling with something, step in and take over. Don’t wait until there’s an S.O.S. or breakdown; get in there and change that poopy diaper. Also, don’t make some ridiculous deal to trade who gets what kind of diaper. Just change the damn thing.
Here’s a list to run down anytime you need to ask, “Is it my turn?”
- Did your partner change a diaper an hour ago?
- Are you holding the baby?
- Is the baby sitting in a pile of God-knows-what?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these, change the diaper. Please. Don’t be “that dad” that gives the rest of us a bad name.
5. Invest in a Great Lotion
I know you probably fancy yourself a manly man. Well, even the manliest of men get dry skin. Especially when you have a newborn. Why?
You’re going to be washing your hands. A lot.
I can’t begin to stress how quickly my hands went from “delicately smooth office worker hands” to “useful for sanding down pieces of raw timber.” Soap takes a nasty toll on your skin. (On that note, treat yourself to some nice soap. Your partner will thank you as well.)
I tried out numerous lotions when the little guy first arrived. After stealing my wife’s Palmers Cocoa belly butter, I decided to buy my own bottle of their skin lotion. It smells like Cocoa Pebbles and it works very quickly. Also, it doesn’t take forever to be absorbed by your skin, so you can quickly get back to typing at your computer, rocking the baby, and so on.
I can’t emphasize how important lotion is. Having a crying baby all hours of the night is tough enough. Having a crying baby while your hands are cracked and bleeding? That’s a nightmare.
6. Breathe, Man!
This might sound like common sense, but seriously: stop and take a breath. I’m no yogi, but proper breathing techniques can do your body and mind a ton of good.
Parenting is stressful, especially in the beginning. You’re going to feel like screaming or hiding under your pillows, a lot. Before either of these things happen, practice some nice deep breathing. This gives your body oxygen, obviously, but can also calm your nerves, lower your heart rate, put your head in the right place, and more.
If you’re feeling ambitious, consider looking into even more advanced breathing techniques as well!
7. Treat Yo Self
Everyone needs a break at some point.
Amidst all the dirty diapers, sleepless nights, caffeine binges, and bouts of hysterical man sobbing, it’s easy to neglect your well-being. Take a moment here and there to recharge. Shut your eyes for 15 minutes and listen to an audiobook in your car after lunch. Or play your favorite mobile game while sitting on the toilet. (I do that one a lot.)
It doesn’t matter what it is, it only matters that you’re letting your mind rest for a few.
Similarly, make sure your partner is getting some quality time. Take over parenting duties and let them go nap, watch their favorite show, or simply drive around for a bit while blasting some music.
If you’re the full-time parent, they still need a break after working all day. You both deserve a break. Make sure this happens. Being a new parent is tough for everyone, don’t be afraid to lean on each other for help.
Be a Kickass Dad
The above tips will help you protect your hands, balls, sanity, and relationship. These things are all important, but most of all, just focus on being a kickass dad.
Be there for your child when they need you, be there for your child when they don’t need you. Enjoy every second of it, take joy in what seems mundane, and take thousands of pictures. Things will fly by and you will kick yourself for those moments you can’t clearly remember.
We’re fortunate enough to live in a day and age where photos and videos cost nothing and all of us are armed with a camera in our pocket. Use it.
Last but certainly not least, don’t ever be afraid to make mistakes. You’re going to do things that make you or your partner sigh or swear. You’re going to do things that aren’t by the book. And, you’re going to not do things that you should have done. It’s all a part of the learning experience and part of being a parent. Nobody is perfect, no matter what some mommy blog will try to make you think about them.
You’ve got this, new dad. Now, go and be the awesome dad that your child, partner, and relatives can be proud to call their family. Oh, and master the art of handling spiders. You’re gonna need it.