As a father of two daughters and now a 15-day-old son, I thought I knew everything about how dad can be as helpful as possible when mom has just given birth. Well, I was wrong. There’s always something new to learn. So, I thought I'd share some tips and tricks for other dads, which I’ve figured out from my experience helping my wife and family at the maternity ward (times three).
1. Bring a folder so you can organize all the information and forms you get from the hospital (a brightly colored one is great, so you won’t forget it in the haze of everything).
2. Decide on the baby's name (and spelling) as soon as you can. My wife and I were torn throughout her entire pregnancy about what middle name to give our new son, but I knew we had a self-imposed deadline—leaving the hospital! Not deciding early can delay your discharge process. Not to mention, if you name your baby after leaving the hospital or decide to change it after submitting the birth certificate and social security application, I hear the paperwork process can be very time consuming.
3. Research Feeding Options. Breastfeeding gives your baby a great start, but for many health and personal reasons nursing exclusively isn’t always an option. If you’re concerned about what formula you may feed your new baby, call the hospital ahead of time to see what they offer and then do your research to find one that your family is comfortable with—we recommend organic. Then, you can bring a small amount of your preferred choice if they don’t offer it. Also consider taking advantage of the hospital’s lactation specialist before, during, and after your stay at the hospital. They are very helpful since each baby is different. One more suggestion, dads: Try to refrain from giving the mom breastfeeding tips. Trust me.
4. Take everything! There are so many little mementos you can take with you and cherish for years. Examples include: your baby's nametag (ankle bracelet), the name card on the baby bassinet, pictures (and names) of your nurses, the baby cap, and more pictures! You can also take supplies, which you pay for as part of your hospital stay. I know when there are free products for the taking, it's hard to be selective and you end up grabbing everything. My advice is to check the ingredients and make sure that it's the best, safest product for your baby before taking it home. My pick? The dry gauze wipes!
5. Ask your nurses questions! Even though I’ve done this before, there are always things you forget and new ways of doing things. The nurses know everything, so ask them whatever is on your mind from diapering to caring for the umbilical cord to giving the first bath to new swaddling techniques. Because labor and delivery can leave you exhausted (making it hard to process and remember everything), ask if it's okay to take videos of the nurses teaching you these things. It’s a great reference tool once you get home.
6. Pamper your wife. After the baby arrives, consider getting your wife a special gift. Pamper her. Treat her to a spa day once she’s ready for it and invite her close friends to keep her company. Hire a family photographer to take photos of your children together and capture their first moments as siblings. Give commemorative jewelry. A colleague at Honest suggested these great necklace pendants personalized with a monogram. Since we have girls, I chose the first initials of each of our girls. An "L" for Lauren and an "M" for Madeline. Now that our son Max is here, I'll be getting my wife another pendant with an "M" for Max!
7. Buy a big sister or big brother gift for your baby's siblings. Given the new addition around the house, some kids may feel deprived of mom and dad's love and attention. Big bro or sis gifts go a long way. FYI: Your work is definitely not over...making sure older siblings (especially the middle children) adjust well to their new baby bro/sis will take some time.
Enjoy your growing family!
~ Honest Eugene (aka Max Daddy)
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