“Are you ready for the baby?”
The words, heard ad nauseam, from friends, family, and the woman at the grocery store (who keeps trying to rub your wife’s stomach but is less-than-thrilled when she returns the favor), resonate with any parent-to-be. This is no different for the new dad.
The question reflects our own nervous excitement and barrage of worries. Are we ready? Even if we have all of the essentials—the diapers, crib, changing table, bottles, and the Diaper Genie that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker—the answer will always be no.
My daughter was born a little over a month ago. I’m still not ready. I have the luxury of being a second-time dad (our other daughter is 18 months; my beer budget has become a diaper down payment). Still, I’m learning just how different each child is—from birth through toddlerhood and beyond. Each child comes with a unique set of challenges, stressors, and life circumstance.
Throughout this series of new dad blogs, I want to share what I’ve learned, what I’m learning, and what I wish I knew. If I can help at least one dad push through the rocky nights, mountains of diapers, and oceans of spit-up, I’ll consider it well worth the effort.
Hey, New Dad, It’s Okay To Be Imperfect!
Holding your new son or daughter in your arms is going to be one of the most impactful moments of your life. It’s a moment you’ll never forget and that you’ll always cherish. Your baby will likely recognize your voice from inside the womb. It’s the perfect moment; your baby is perfect, and you’re ready to be the perfect parent, right? Don’t stress—the first month is anything but perfect, and the perfect parent is a work of fiction.
Parenting is absurdly stressful, difficult, and demanding. By day 3, a newborn’s stomach isn’t much bigger than a walnut, so they’re constantly hungry. When it’s 3 a.m. and your baby just interrupted the dream where Scarlett Johansson finally accepted your date offer, you aren’t going to be singing lullabies. When your baby has woken up hungry every hour, on the hour, you’re going to be screaming into a pillow—and that’s okay.
Above all else, be patient with your partner. They’re going through a lot of hormonal changes, physical pain, and sleepless nights. If they say they want to gouge your eyes out, just shrug it off. Let them vent. Do what you can to take care of your new family, and remember—better times are coming.
As for feeding, it’s okay to supplement with formula or use formula exclusively. Yes, breast milk is ideal, but so is maintaining your sanity. Neither you nor your partner is a failure for using the tools available to make your lives easier and keep your baby healthy. Make sure you reiterate that to your partner—whether you’re using formula by choice or necessity—she is not a failure, and neither are you. If your baby has an upset stomach or excessive gas, seek out a formula specially designed for easy digestion.
Look for the Little Things, New Dad!
Working through the stress is hard, especially during the first few weeks. However, each and every day, your baby gets a little better at sleeping through the night and holding down their breakfast. When you’re telling your baby how awesome they are, they might just respond with a couple of squeaky noises. As the first month goes on, they’ll follow you with their eyes, listen for your voice, crack a tiny smile, and fall in love with their Daddy.
That first smile will come at the perfect time when you think you can’t go on and you’re stressed beyond belief. From that day forward, you’ll spend all of your energy keeping that smile on their face. Those smiles are what keep us going.
Missed the other months? If you’re new to fatherhood, there’s no judgment here. You can find the next month here: