A baby changes people’s life. Some dads choose not to get involved much with the journey to raise a baby, some others do. I am a proud new father who tries my best in getting involved, both for the sake of supporting my wife and giving the best care for Andrew, my newborn son. I believe that father and son relationship begins at the day he was born, therefore I want my son to know that I am there for him, from the very first day he can remember.
This post is a little self-note of a new dad, looking at things from dad’s perspective. I share this hoping it would inspire a lot of new dads to get involved more in raising their newborns.
I joined my wife in the birth room. The first moment I saw my baby boy is once-in-a-lifetime experience. Believe me, it is not the same as waiting outside the room, hearing the sound of crying baby, then having a nurse or midwife showing us a wrapped baby. It feels really really different to be there in the birth room and see the skin color of a newborn baby, to hear his first cry directly, and to watch the nurse and midwife doing their job before the baby gets wrapped.
Andrew was born a bit small, so doctors decided to let him stay in special nursery to make sure he is doing okay, capable to drink and capable to maintain his own body temperature. I was offered to cuddle him, but I was too nervous and he looked very fragile on his first day. Best I can do was touching him.
The first day was very tense. When night comes, it took me few hours to pull myself together. Tired, sleepy, plus tons of new emotions I had never experienced before.
Andrew is still in the special nursery section. I went to visit him many times. My wife is resting in the ward room for her recovery and she wants to see Andrew. So I took photos of him so my wife can see. They said he was doing great and hoping he could join us soon in the ward room.
On the evening, my wife and I went to the special nursery section. We started our lesson on how to take care of him. Well, we did read a lot and ask other people before the birth date. But the actual action could sometimes be different from what we imagined. When a baby is born small, there are things we needed to do differently, so we need to learn extra lessons and could not rely on what we have known so far. For starter, we prepared summer clothing for Andrew since he’s a summer boy (February is summer in Australia). Apparently he needs warmer clothing because he needs more help and support to maintain his body temperature. Some of the smallest clothing we have prepared for him is still too big. Therefore I had to get new clothes, smaller and warmer.
Today I did my first cuddle. A midwife showed me my first demo of nappy change. It was not as difficult as I thought, but I might be wrong. I did my first bottle feeding for Andrew.
A good lesson on breastfeeding: even when a new mom plans to breastfeed, human body is not a milk machine with on-off switch. For some, milk production already started days (or even weeks) before birth. For others, it needs to be triggered after birth, and the process can take few days to 2 weeks. Meanwhile, a baby must eat so sometimes a combined menu is unavoidable. I also learned that medically there is no such thing as “no milk production” (I heard some people used this as excuse) except in rare situations with serious health issues. There are mothers with easy production and there are others who require a bit of more work before she can produce sufficient amount of milk regularly.
Today Andrew is graduated from special nursery room, therefore he can join us in the ward room. This was the moment when things started to get very real. There is a super cute baby in the room that needs our constant attention at all times.
Before noon, I tried my first nappy change. It failed miserably and my wife had to help me. It looked easy when the midwife showed me a day before. Not so easy when actually doing it on a crying baby that struggles a lot. Plus, I think I just saw Andrew’s first smile this afternoon.
Andrew is a hungry baby. He has great appetite, probably because instinctively he tries to catch up his weight.
On the evening we had a senior midwife showing us how to bathe a baby. Until the day I am very very confident, I probably won’t do Andrew’s bath for a while.
Finally, I did my first successful nappy change at late evening. Hopefully I can repeat my success tomorrow.
Last night was our first night with a baby in our room. And as anyone would predict, we could not sleep at all. we woke up at Andrew’s slightest sound and movement. It was all new for us and we want to make sure he was okay. We are lucky that he was sleeping well. Not much crying. Plus he always wake up every 3 to 3.5 hours asking for his next feed. We did not even need our alarm because Andrew always alarmed us few minutes before.
Another interesting experience, at 4 am in the morning I changed Andrew’s nappy and got peed on. New dads with baby boys… beware… when the nappy is off, baby boys feel the breeze on their skin and some decides it is a good time to pee. And since they are boys, the “shower” will go everywhere.
Around noon I failed another nappy change. Apparently I still need more skill to handle struggling baby when changing nappy, or maybe I was just in super defensive mode not to get showered again. I think I need to learn how to protect myself in the event of sudden pee.
Thanks to a strict-but-educative midwife, I learned how to move Andrew from his cot to the change mat today. Previously I can only change nappies when he’s already on change mat. Similarly, so far I can give Andrew a cuddle, but only when someone put him on my arms. Now I learned how to actually pick him up from a cot and move him somewhere else, including to my arms for a cuddle.
As a nice extra, I learned basic skill to handle milk bottles and how to use bottle steriliser. Since it became clear that our feeding method would still be a combination for the next few days, I decided to get few bottles. To help with breastfeeding, we decided to get a breastpump device from Medela.
A midwife told us a very useful trick to help a newborn to calm down: using our phone/tablet to play white noise (the sound of fan, wave, heartbeat or something similar). There are tons of apps can be downloaded from Apple AppStore or Google Play, many of them are free. I tried her idea and it worked to help Andrew sleep better. I just had to remind myself that I need to turn on flight mode in my iPad every-time I use it near Andrew. I like the idea of using a device I already have rather than getting a new one, but I am also aware about the danger of cellular radiation, especially for newborn babies. Since I need my iPhone for communication, I can’t really turn it to flight mode most of the time. So using iPad in flight mode becomes my option. Andrew got his white noise without the extra radiation from cellular signal.
It is rather obvious that these midwives are not always agree with each other. Most of them has more than 10 years of experience and each of them has some unique tricks they are trying to teach us. Sometimes the tricks are different. Sometimes the trick are simply polar opposites. And that confused us, until we realise one thing: a baby is a human being. So what might work for some babies might not work for others. Therefore people could come up with different theories. As his parents, we need to filter out those tricks and decide what would be best for Andrew. We are still very thankful to the midwives who are trying their best to prepare us with necessary skills to become good parents. We fully understand they teach us with best intentions. So we asked them even more questions, asking for lots of more information. We tried to absorb as much as possible during our stay in hospital.
New dads, even if you do not plan to take super active role in early parenting, you will need some basic skills. At least for nappy change, bottle feeding, moving him around and what to do in case of… (lots of cases here). Trust me these will come in handy.
I slept better last night. I still woke up every-time Andrew cried, but I did not wake up from his other sound. My wife was still on her highest alert all night.
Today is basically an intensive learning day. Midwives around the clock are teaching us a lot of stuff related to baby. Not just saying, they had us to do the things they talk about. Sometimes the method they use is not always the “friendliest” way, but it worked. Sometimes they indirectly “forced” us to do something by not giving us any “escape route”. They got me to do things I never imagined I could do before, and that’s a good thing.
The most important skill I gained today is probably the skill to burp a baby. Again, Andrew’s small body requires us to do few things that other parents with “normal-sized” babies would not even need to think about. So there are some technique that would work with normal-sized baby, but not with Andrew. So I need to do it a little differently.
Andrew’s temperature was down a bit on the evening. This raised an alert as maintaining body temperature was his initial challenge. We are scheduled to be discharged from hospital tomorrow, but his paediatrician warned us that if his body temperature does not go back to normal tomorrow, she might return him to special nursery. If that happens, then he won’t be able to return home with us for few more days. We were worried, and sad, but we understand as such decision is for the best of Andrew’s need.
Day of discharge. Normally people get discharged at 9 am from our hospital. However, our obgyn asked the hospital to postpone the discharge time to noon because she couldn’t visit us in the morning and she wanted to visit us before we get discharged.
Andrew’s temperature in the morning was still a bit low, but improving. Our paediatrician did not decide on his release until few minutes before noon when his temperature was back on 36.4 C. It was a long uncertain waiting, but we are glad Andrew could come home with us today.
We took a cab from hospital to go home. The female driver was excited to have a newborn baby on-board. She told us her experience with her kids and her past experience with breastfeeding difficulties. Andrew was sleeping peacefully the entire journey so it was easy for us.
Finally arrived home, we finally realise that things are different at home. In the hospital, we have midwives helping us with almost every need. We had 3 meals + 3 snacks a day and never had to worry about what to eat. We had single-use bottles and teats. There was never any concern to wash and sterilise any equipment because everything came in sterilised package and was supposed to be one time use. So immediately I needed to go out to buy some more equipments, including bottles and steriliser. Lucky there was a promo on Philips Avent 3-in-1 steriliser.
Last night was another sleepless night for my wife and I. It was the first night at home with Andrew, and naturally we were worried. We checked Andrew’s temperature every feeding time. Got a bit of paranoid after the sudden temperature drop in hospital.
So far, his temperature is stable. His appetite remains big. His sleeping pattern remains 3 to 3.5 hours and he always calls for his milk. One little concern is probably that he drinks to fast and sometimes forget to swallow, resulting in posset or small vomit. My wife and I want to give him all the milk he needs. However, his appetite seems to be bigger than his actual tummy capacity. Therefore telling the difference between “want” and “need” becomes not so easy for us.
I stopped using iPad to play Andrew’s white noise because I need to use it. I still have an old iPhone 3GS and no longer have any use of it. So I reset the phone and put lullaby songs inside, plus some apps to help soothing babies. Of course the iPhone 3GS goes into flight mode all the time now.
Andrew seems to enjoy sleeping more at daytime, and more active time at night. I know that at some point I need to start teaching him the proper day-night cycle. But I guess that’s not a priority, at least for now. He has a lot of weight gain to catch up, therefore we still give him his milk demand, as often as he wanted, even at night.
Andrew is almost 1-month today. He is a strong baby boy, active and healthy. I will probably write other articles to share more later, but for now, I just (finally) have time to properly write something based on my note in his first 7 days.