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Survival tips for new or expecting dads

A dear friend (basically a brother) recently informed me he and his wife were expecting their first baby. I’m very excited for them. I’m excited when any of my friends are expecting but this is unique. This is the first of my friends to have a newborn after I’ve had some experience. Still, I hardly have it together — but some experience.

After having 3 of my own (one within the last 3 months) a big part of me enjoys the thought of someone else struggling through sleepless nights, awkward diaper changes, and all the other chaos that goes with bringing home that first newborn. It’s sick but that image brings me joy. I’m reliving it all over. However, there is another part of me that realized this world doesn’t need more unhappy and sleep-deprived parents. So, instead of an email or a text, I thought I’d give this information some longevity and share it here.

I’ll state upfront, that I’m still figuring all of this shit out. Anyone who reads this should make sure they do what their own life and circumstances allow. This is just information, tools, and hardware that I’ve found useful over the last 4+ years of being a dad.

The following items are broken down into categories and each item has with it the recommended time to start doing/using the listed item in time from the due date. Some item links may be Amazon Affiliate (there’s my disclaimer). Some items I may explain the benefit, others I may not. Just know that if it’s listed here, it’s highly encouraged. And if it’s an app that costs a few bucks, it’s even more worth the download.

Technology

No geeky dad can get by without a plethora of apps and techy things to make being a parent a little easier.

Apps

For ease of search most or all of these links will be for the iOS version but being a former Android user, I know nearly all are available for Android as well.

Hardware

There is the obvious stuff you are going to need. A lot of which dads, you aren’t going to have any say over.

Then there is more technology. The stuff that makes things a little bit easier.

NOTE: more sound machines.

This stuff you should start saving for now and buying in the 2nd trimester.

  • Baby monitor(s)
    • Cheapo VTech DM111
      • Rechargeable, great distance, no need for something $$$$.
      • It gets the job done and you can have a home cam for the rest.
    • 2-way VTech DM211
      • A nice upgrade for if one parent needs something while in the nursery or something
    • Wyze Cam
      • Inexpensive indoor camera with App that can be repurposed way better than a video monitor you spent 2-3x as much as this camera on.
  • Hatch Baby Rest
    • Sound & Light Machine that can be controlled by App.
    • Adjust volume and brightness without needing to go into the room.
    • Great for helping with sleep patterns of a child when they are older and get in/out of bed on their own.
  • Marpac Dohm
    • a high-quality manual noise machine
  • Marpac Hush Portable
    • So your phone isn’t always hanging out in the baby carrier or car seat

Education

The internet is filled with high-quality information from those who have been through it all before. None of that information seems helpful in the first few weeks to months. Shit gets crazy with the first child. You likely won’t think to read or remember any of it. Also, there will be a lot of other people thinking they should give you advice. Just nod and smile.

These solutions, however, I highly encourage.

  • Baby / Parenting Class
    • Our hospital put one on. I don’t remember what it cost but it was worth every penny.
    • 3-4 couple hour sessions a few months out from the due date
  • Breastfeeding Class – if you’re wife is going to do that – you attend also
  • !!!! Taking Cara Babies !!!!
    • Sleep training course
    • Do this before the baby gets here and in the first few weeks
    • Took us 3 babies to find this. It is a lifesaver
    • Pretty sure we permanently screwed our firstborn’s sleep habits by not knowing what we were doing.
  • The Dad Apps I listed previously (Daddy Up & ProDaddy)
  • The Daily Dad Podcast
    • Subscribe to or read the blog
    • Subscribe to or listen to the podcast which is an audio version of the blog
    • Binge all of them to get caught up
    • Think long and hard about what being a good dad means to you and work toward it. You’re flawed. I’m flawed. I wish I had this content or known about it when I started out.
  • Warrior Kid Podcast
    • a great listen for when your child is older to listen together but has some interesting takes on childhood where if you start with the correct patterns today you can set your child up for success
    • Kids ask a former Navy Seal (Uncle Jake) questions about life and growing up healthy and strong
  • Naval Podcast
    • A podcast about happiness
    • It has a business / financial theme to it but great content that helps one realize happiness and stay there

Wisdom from EXP

Here are some additional pointers I’ve learned from being a husband and a father. Take these with a grain of salt because everyone is different and every situation is going to be unique. I’m far from a perfect husband and father and I’m still trying to figure this stuff out. Everything listed here comes from playing the game of marriage and fatherhood for over 4 years. I learned nothing overnight and there are still things I should have learned years ago that still don’t seem to stick.

Sleep & feeding

If you are working or not, get up and help with feeding and sleep. It’s rough but everyone at work knows your situation and most have been there. There will be grace and you will get through it. Sleep deprivation is not a badge of honor and can be dangerous but being a team in the process makes it much easier. I was not the best at this with our first child. I’ve evolved quite a bit.

Now with our 3rd baby, I get up for every feeding, bring baby to mom, rest my eyes for one side, change the diaper in between, and give baby back for the other side. This is hardly anything really. I miss all the times she fusses and my wife gets up quickly to soother her back to sleep but I know this is greatly appreciated. Does it mess up my sleep and make me tired? Yeah but it’s very short term in the big picture.

When you come home from the hospital, depending on the time you have at home as well and your work situation, take the baby if you can and let mom sleep during the night. Even if it is for 3-4 hours overnight. That rest does wonders for mom. My wife still did considerably more overnight work than I did. We had a rough first 2 nights but after that, it got much better. I just reminded myself Navy Seals do this all the time in much worse conditions for much longer. This is nothing. Coffee is your friend.

I write this now after struggling to get back to sleep after a 0330 wake/feed session. I almost stayed up then (which I’ve done in the past) but I got back to sleep until about 0500.

Health & wellbeing

Take good care of yourself and give every opportunity for your wife to be able to do the same. Even when she likely won’t really feel like doing a whole lot. Keep eating right. Don’t get lazy and eat junk that is going to make you feel worse even though it is easy and convenient. Don’t sit around and be stagnant or play video games. It’s your job to try and keep the house in order because she may be stuck with a baby literally attached to her 4-6 hours a day.

You will likely let personal relationships slip for a while. I haven’t decided if this is ok or just the way it is. If you aren’t letting them slip, you are likely not doing what you need to at home. This is just my personal opinion. It is still important now and again for both of you to find some time away. Just realize that your time may be sooner and the bill for her will be due once the initial couple months of breastfeeding are done.

Patience & understanding

Speaking only from personal experience here. I’m certain many others may not stress or have the personality type I have.

Take time for everything. Take it slow and steady. Everything will take longer. Nothing will go as planned for months. A lot of what you thought you could do, had wanted to do, or were already doing will likely need to be put on pause or get significantly less attention than you intended.

Ask questions and seek clarity in what your wife needs or wants from you. I started off good with this during this last baby but started to slip. While she’s basically paralyzed feeding, make sure she has everything she needs (remote, water, food, etc.) since she really can’t move. Moms being able to walk around and do shit while feeding — that’s a magic trick or a talent only a small number of moms can do. It’s not reality.

If you are used to things being clean and tidy – throw all of that out the window. That’s not real life anymore and that’s ok. There will be milk and spit-up stains on furniture and as the child gets older and can sit in a highchair there will be yogurt on the walls and (snowmelt) salt stains from shoes on the back of your car seat.

It’s all just a chapter of life you go through and grow in. It challenges you and hopefully makes you a much better person on the other side.

Take a couple of deep breaths. You got this.