I once observed a 6' ft. 7" teenager whose family called him the baby whisperer. In a large crowded room at our family reunion, the baby whisperer picked up a screaming infant, sat down on a comfortable chair, gently held the baby in his large arms, and they both promptly fell into a safe, secure and peaceful nap. It was amazing. I also observed, in the same group of people, a nervous grandfather try to hold a baby like a ticking bomb. The baby bomb did exactly what bombs do, went off with a bang and a scream.
Nervous new fathers are sometimes more comfortable building a house then changing a diaper. Have you ever noticed that some fathers look at their newborns like tiny glass statues that are sure will shatter at the first touch? Have you seen other fathers haul their children around comfortably like little footballs? Have you ever observed a new father proudly walking his new baby swaddled and strapped into a safety stroller with a five point harness and roll cage, while another fearlessly lies on the lawn and lets his child crawl in the grass or tosses his child high above his head?
Parent educators know the importance of the father and child relationship. A wonderful parent education program called, "The Circle of Security," teaches us that a child's feeling of security and attachment to his parents plays a significant role in the direction and quality of his life. A father's ability to observe, learn and know their child and interact with and have empathy for their child leads to a healthy attachment and grows a happy adult.
So, Dad, since we recognize that knowing all the research and the importance of your role as a parent will not make you feel magically comfortable holding your fragile new baby, here are some tips for first-time Dads in charge:
Breathe and be calm
Tiny babies are sensitive to how the person holding them feels. Before you pick up your baby, take a moment and check in with yourself. Take a few deep breaths, slow down, quiet down and be calm. If you're a cowboy, you know that the horse you're going to ride senses your fear. Well, Cowboy, so does your baby. Calm down and approach your baby with gentle confidence.
Some of you may be able to read complicated diagrams and blueprints but look at tiny baby bodies with horror. There are some basic facts about infant anatomy that you need to remember. Infants can't hold up their own heads. When holding your baby, be sure to support his neck and head at all times. Babies occasionally want to look at you and in their attempt will jerk their heads back. If your baby is on your shoulder, keep a hand gently behind their neck and support her as she searches for her daddy's eyes.
Black baby poop? Don't panic! Baby poop goes through a series of stages as their bodies are new. If you open a diaper and the poop is black, it is called meconium and is normal. Here is a website called, "Baby Poop: A visual guide," for first-time dads. New baby boys that have been circumcised need to be kept clean and protected. Here are "What to Expect," diaper instructions for circumcision. Baby belly buttons turn black and sometimes look like you should be able to pull them off. Do not! Keep them dry and keep clothing loose around them. Here are directions from the "Baby Experts," website for belly button care.
To sleep or not to sleep and how to sleep
Newborns sleep for an average of 16 hours a day, sometimes as long as three to four hours depending on their weight and how well they are breast or bottle feeding, according to "KidsHealth.org." They recommend, "...healthy infants be placed on their backs to sleep, not on their stomachs. The incidence of SIDS has decreased by more than 50 percent since this recommendation was first made in 1992." Swaddling comforts a child. Here are video directions on how to swaddle. Baby monitors give peace of mind. If you feel the need to make sure your child is breathing every 10 minutes, you are completely normal.
Soothe me, Daddy
Sometimes babies are fussy. They are a lot like adults. They get gas, get uncomfortable and bored. If your baby is fussy, try moving them to a new position or rocking them. Babies love music, noise like a fan or noise that mimics the sound of the inside of mother's womb, their father's voice and even shushing or making the "sh" sound. Start by moving your baby to an upright position and gently rubbing her back. If she pulls her knees into her chest, she may have gas and need movement. Rock, sing, shush and hold him securely to you, so he feels safe. Here are 23 ways to soothe a baby by, "Parents.com." Here is a video by, "Baby Center,"on soothing a baby.
Remember Dad, you are now this baby's hero. He will depend on you for everything. The best place in his world is wrapped in your arms, snug against your chest. Take time to look at your baby, listen to your baby and learn your baby as well as you know the sound of the engine in your favorite car. At the same time, as you get to know your baby, he will get to know and trust you. You can never spoil a baby by holding him too much.
When all else fails, remember to stop and ask for directions. Call a grandmother, she's an expert.
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh