Even if you have read all the books and been to all the classes, you cannot know exactly what it is like to be a parent until it actually happens. Every new parent encounters surprises and unexpected challenges. And while most of these challenges are easily overcome, they are quite serious given the fact that you now have a young human being’s life, comfort, and happiness in your hands. There is no reason to panic, though. Most new parents hit their stride within a couple of weeks, and the everyday tasks become second nature. But if you are preparing for the arrival of your first, here are ten tasks to be familiar with.
1. Feeding: If your baby will be breastfed, then this task falls largely upon the mother. However, there are numerous small things dad can do. He can bring the baby to the mother during those late night feedings. He can provide comfort and encouragement. He can also talk to the mother and attend to any of her needs while she is feeing. And if you will be feeding your baby formula, then obviously it is a job that mom and dad can share.
2. Bathing: Newborns do not need to be bathed very often as long as they are cleaned well with each diaper change. Since they are not yet crawling around on the floor or eating messy foods, they generally do not get dirty. There are a few ways to bathe newborns, the most popular ways being sponge bathing and bathing in special tubs for infants.
3. Shampooing: Many newborns are initially averse to being shampooed. We are used to it from doing it all our lives, so it is hard to imagine how strange it must feel to a baby. However, if you are gentle and use a tear-free shampoo, your baby should get used to it after just a couple of baths.
4. Burping: There are a few burping positions that tend to help babies get those air bubbles out of their stomachs. Holding the baby to your shoulder, face down on your lap, or sitting up on your knee are all common methods. All involve patting the baby gently on the back, though some babies need a little more firmness. With trial and error, you will find the best burping position for your baby.
5. Changing diapers: For new parents, the diaper-changing process is often the most daunting one, but within a week or two of having your baby you will be able to do it in your sleep (and sometimes this will not be too far from the truth). If you have all the supplies, including clean diapers, cotton balls, soft washcloths, clean clothes, and ointment or powder, the process becomes self-evident. Hopefully your childbirth class will take you through the process once or twice.
6. Dressing the baby: Getting the baby dressed is not quite as easy as one might think, because babies tend to move around, yet we must be gentle with them. That is why it is always a good idea to have loose baby clothes that can be taken off and put on easily.
7. Lifting and holding: When being held, babies like to be comfortable and fully supported. It takes time to adjust to the world outside the womb, so when carrying your baby, think of it this way: Your job is to make the baby warm and comfortable. Remember that her muscles are still undeveloped, and she needs help getting into a natural position.
8. Trimming nails: You will need special nail trimmers for babies. These are easy to find at any baby store or online. Most babies are born with long nails, and the nails grow surprisingly fast. Trim them every couple of days so that she does not accidentally scratch herself.
9. Swaddling: Babies love to be wrapped up tightly in a light blanket. This works for comforting babies who are crying, helping them get to sleep, and keeping them warm on cool days. Find a good set of instructions on swaddling the baby and practice a few times with a blanket and a doll.
10. Going out: Many new parents are surprised by how much anxiety they feel when going out with the baby for the first few times. Whether you are in a car or walking, there is just something strange about being out and about with a little one in tow. You will get used to it, though, and soon you will not think twice about it. Just make sure you have all your supplies on hand, including all your diaper-changing supplies, a change of clothes, a blanket, a pacifier, and baby sunscreen.
Get on it, parents!