New Dad Survival Guide: The Skillset

by Brett on December 11, 2013 · 94 comments

in Fatherhood, Relationships & Family

New Dad Header 1

When my daughter Scout recently passed the 3-months-old mark, I found myself reflecting on how smoothly adding her into the family has gone. Every newborn brings a certain degree of chaos into your life, but throwing baby #2 into the mix has been surprisingly chill.


Me & a newborn Scouter

But oh, ho, ho, was baby #1 a whole different story! When Gus arrived on the scene he turned our formerly childless life upside-down. Charlie at How to Be a Dad jokingly compares the experience of having your first kid to being deployed to Nam and jumping out of a chopper into “a jungle bristling with booby traps of dung-encrusted bamboo stakes.” That about sums it up.

According to a survey by Esquire Magazine, more than a third of men spend about the same amount of time caring for their kids as their spouse does. That’s how it is around the McKay household and I wouldn’t want it any other way; I love being a really involved, hands-on dad. I know a lot of men in my generation feel similarly; according to that same Esquire survey, men ages 18-29 are much more likely to spend as much, or even more time with their kids than their spouses. Yet desire doesn’t always translate immediately into ability.

For several months after you have your first child, life can feel pretty chaotic. You may have never cared for a baby before, have no idea what you’re doing, and feel majorly stressed and overwhelmed. You want to do the right thing for your kid, but you’re worried you might accidentally kill him.

There is a lot to fathering that you just have to learn from trial and error. But preparing your mindset and honing your skillset before your progeny arrives can help the experience of being a new dad go more smoothly. So today we’ll talk about the how-tos and tomorrow the preservation of your sanity.

They don’t hand out an instruction manual in the delivery room, but if they did, these two posts will cover what it ought to say.

New Dad Survival Guide: The Skillset

With all of the baby-handling tips outlined below, don’t worry so much about hurting your baby. They’re not as fragile as you think. Sturdy little buggers, really.

Starting Things Off Right: Give Your Baby Skin-to-Skin Contact

Leaving the womb and suddenly becoming untethered in the wide, wide world can be a stressful experience for babies. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that holding your baby skin-to-skin can calm and comfort him — stabilizing his heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, maintaining his body temperature, and decreasing his crying. It also helps you bond with your baby. These benefits occur whether it’s the mother or the father engaging in the skin-to-skin contact. Soon after your baby is born, and for the next few weeks, spend some time with your shirt off, holding him just in his diaper.

How to Hold a Baby

Hold Baby 2

Whatever hold you use, the important thing is supporting your baby’s neck, bottom, and small of the back.

How to Change a Diaper

“Spread the diaper in the position of the [baseball] diamond with you at bat. Then fold second base down to home and set the baby on the pitcher’s mound. Put first base and third together, bring up home plate, and pin the three together. Of course, in case of rain, you gotta call the game and start all over again.” —Jimmy Piersall, MLB center fielder, on how to diaper a baby

A new baby is a poop and pee machine. You’ll be amazed that such a small person can produce so much waste. With a newborn, you can expect to change a diaper every two hours. That’s twelve changes in a single 24-hour day! Wowza! As the baby gets older, the changings will get less frequent, but you’ll still be plowing through a lot of diapers. Unfortunately science has yet to create a self-cleaning baby, so it’s up to you and your wife to clean your little tyke and keep their waste-producing faculties in shipshape condition.

1. Assess the damage. If you smell something funky, you know you need to change your little turd machine’s diaper. When you go to check the damage, be prepared for anything. You might have just a small little nugget waiting for you, or you could have a runny, hazardous waste explosion that has left the confines of the diaper. If it’s the latter, it’s best to move the baby near the bath, so you can thoroughly clean her.

2. Get your materials. Grab a clean diaper and four or five baby wipes (if it’s #2). Place them to the side.

3. Put your gas mask on and assume the position. If your baby is formula fed, be prepared for a pretty potent smell. If your baby is breastfed, the stink isn’t quite as bad. If you have a boy, it’s always a good idea to juke to the side lest his little sprinkler baptize you into the Church of the Yellow Stream.

4. Undo the dirty diaper and lift up your baby’s butt. Lifting of the tuckus can be done by grabbing your baby’s ankles and gently hoisting her feet into the air. Use a clean part of the dirty diaper to wipe any excess poo from her behind.

5. Wipe. With your baby’s little butt lifted off the ground, grab a baby wipe and start wiping front to back. The front to back motion reduces the chance of spreading bacteria into their privates, which can cause a urinary tract infection (especially important for girls). Make sure you don’t miss a spot. Place the used wipes on top of the soiled diaper. Then, with your baby’s feet still suspended in the air, remove the soiled diaper.

6. Close the dirty diaper and dispose. Fold the diaper on itself with the hazardous waste and used wipes still in it. Use the sticky tabs to make a tight bundle. Place inside a plastic bag, tie the bag off, and hook shot the bundle into the diaper bin.

7. Pat dry. If you want to avoid diaper rashes, make sure your baby’s bottom is nice and dry. Apply some A&D or Desitin if her butt is red or irritated.

8. Slide the new diaper under your progeny. In order for a diaper to function correctly, it needs to be on right. The back of the diaper has the sticky tabs on it. Lay your baby down on this part.

9. Bring up the front of the diaper and attach the tabs. You want it tight enough so that it doesn’t slide off but not so tight it cuts off circulation to your baby’s legs. Most disposable diapers have little ruffles around the leg. Make sure those are sticking out, or you’ll have some leaking problems.

10. Give your baby a high five.

How to Burp a Baby

Burp Baby 1

With all of these methods, give your baby gentle pats or small, circular rubs to get the burp out.

Babies get gas from sucking in air whilst feeding. Burping helps them get these air bubbles out. If you’re feeding a baby with a bottle, burp her after every 2-3 ounces she drinks, as well as at the end of her feeding. If she’s fussy or spits up a lot, trying burping even more often during the feeding.

How to Calm a Crying Baby

The most important skill to have as a new dad (if you wish to maintain your sanity) is being able to calm your baby when she cries.

Whether your baby cries a lot or a little will largely determine whether your new dad experience seems easier than you thought or a whole lot harder. Unfortunately, whether you get a really happy baby or a cantankerous caterwauler is pretty much a crapshoot. Regardless of the straw you draw, here’s how to soothe their wailing.

Why is my baby crying?

It may seem like your baby is crying as part of some malevolent plot to melt your brain. But usually there’s a reason; remember, when something is bothering her, she doesn’t have any way to communicate besides howling. Therefore, when you’re trying to soothe your scream-machine, it’s helpful to run through a mental checklist of what could be putting a bee in her bonnet:

  • Dirty diaper? Doesn’t have to be full of #2. A big ol’ wet, soggy diaper can bring them to tears too.
  • Needs to burp? Try the different positions outlined above to get the burp out.
  • Gas? Try laying your baby on her back and then moving her legs and hips up and down like she’s riding a bicycle. Or gently massage her tummy in a circle. You can try over-the-counter remedies like simethicone and “gripe water,” but they haven’t been proven to work and honestly we had zero success with them with either of our kids. I think when people believe they work, the gas would have gone away on its own anyway.
  • Physical discomfort? Is the baby too hot or cold? Is there something on her that’s too tight or scratchy? I once had a very fussy Scout on my hands, and she wouldn’t calm down no matter what I tried. I was getting pretty annoyed with her, when I realized the little pieces of hair that had stuck to me after getting a haircut that morning were now all over her. Gave her a bath, and once again had a happy baby on my hands.
  • Lonely? The world is a big, unfamiliar place for your baby. If she wakes up and no one is around, she might cry out for some company and just want to be held.
  • Overstimulated? The womb was a pretty boring hang-out, so too much new stimuli all at once can make your baby feel overwhelmed. Take her somewhere quiet to decompress.
  • Hungry? Give her a bottle or hand her over to mom for some boob juice.
  • Tired? Time for a nap.
  • Fever? An easy-to-use forehead thermometer is a must for when you have a baby. If the reading says she’s running a temperature, you can give her some acetaminophen. Be sure to check with you doctor for the right dosage.

Crying Remedies

If you go through your checklist, and none of the fixes stop your baby’s wailing, you may just have a case of undiagnosed crankiness. Happens to all of us. Here are some potential soothers:

  • Stick a cork pacifier in it. Not all babies take to the pacifier, and there are pros and cons to using one, but they can definitely work wonders in silencing a cantankerous newborn.
  • Put the baby in a motorized swing. Neither of our babies ever really liked the ubiquitous baby swing, but works like a charm for others.
  • Swaddle. Babies like being tightly wrapped – it reminds them of being back in the womb. Swaddling a baby using a blanket is pretty simple – but we really like these Velcro swaddlers for further idiot-proofing the process.
  • Run the vacuum. The womb was a surprisingly loud place, so replicating that kind of white noise can put your baby at ease. Running your vacuum next to them can be amazingly effective; it’s like a hypnotist snaps his fingers and says, “Sleep!”
  • Take ‘em for a drive. When all else fails, stick the baby in her carseat and take her for a drive. Highly effective at calming a baby down — and your wife will be incredibly grateful to you for removing the scream-machine from the premises.

What if my baby has colic?

If none of the above remedies stop your baby’s caterwauling, and she cries for three hours a day for more than three days a week for three weeks, she has colic. The cause of colic is unknown, and it can wreak havoc on your mental state and your relationship with your wife. My only advice is to try the “5 Ss” (Swaddle, Stomach/Side position, Shush, Swing, Suck) as proposed in The Happiest Baby on the Block and hang in there. Colic often resolves itself around 4-6 months in.

Try to be zen about crying (and walk away if you need to)

Whether your baby has colic or just intermittent fussiness, their cries can really do a number on your equilibrium. Since babies can’t do anything for themselves, their cries are designed by nature to get your attention, burrowing into your brain and refusing to let go until you alleviate their distress. Their wails elicit a real physiological response – you start to sweat, your heart rate goes up, and your body releases cortisol – the stress hormone.

Try to deal with this physiological arousal the way you would any other kind of stressor. I find it helpful to concentrate on disassociating from the cries – I keep telling myself that it’s okay, that it’s just a noise. I also practice my tactical breathing.

Studies have shown that abusive parents have a stronger physiological response to crying, which leads them to lose control. So learning to calm yourself while you’re trying to calm your baby is crucial. Before you have a kid, whenever you see a commercial about not shaking your baby, you can’t help but chuckle and think, “What kind of Grade A moron needs to be told not to shake a baby?” Then, after you have a kid, and it’s 3 am, and you’re holding this little screaming tomato that won’t stop crying, you think, “Oh right, this is why people end up shaking their baby.” You won’t believe how angry you can feel at a little innocent baby — how tempted you are to drop kick them out the window!

If you’ve tried everything above to soothe your baby, and your brain is starting to short-circuit, there’s nothing wrong with putting your baby down in a safe place like her crib, closing the door, going into another room where you can’t hear her cries anymore (you may need to turn on the faucet and the vent), and taking five. Your baby will be fine — really. Far better to let her cry for a little while alone than for you to lose control.

The things outlined above will come more and more naturally with practice. They’re the easy stuff really. More important, and more difficult, is keeping a healthy attitude and perspective on the whole new dad experience. That’s where we will turn tomorrow.

What skills did you have to learn as a new dad? Any tips or tricks for making them a bit easier?

{ 94 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Morgan December 11, 2013 at 4:21 pm

This is great. I’m the new father of a brand new baby girl (coming on 3 weeks old), this is all fantastic advice. The hardest part is getting mama to eat, honestly, the breast feeding takes so much energy, it’s insane!

2 Thomas December 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm

definitely some great advice. as the proud father of 3.5 year old twin boys (and a baby girl due in march), i can assure you that you can and will survive. trust me, there were times my wife and i thought we weren’t going to make it those first 3 months. having twins, our boys didn’t have the luxury of constant 24/7 attention (with me at work and my wife home), and they learned to cope. it might sound harsh, but let them cry. it quickly becomes obvious which is an emergency and which is fussiness. you’ll thank yourself when they get older and can go to sleep on their own and be content without you holding them. hard at first, but pays off in the long run. being a dadi s the hardest and most incredible thing you’ll ever do! guaranteed!

3 Phil December 11, 2013 at 5:18 pm

The 5 S’s were pretty key with my daughter, but absolutely do not waste your money on the “Happiest Baby” video or book. You will want to punch the guy for taking what should be a 2-page pamphlet (or 5 minute presentation) and stretching it into a complete book or hour-long movie.

4 Josh December 11, 2013 at 5:21 pm

We have our third boy on the way and I can say this is post has good advice. Our first was colicy for nine months. It wasn’t until the second one came that we realized how easy a baby could be. Thus, I’ve had lots of experience with crying babies. Most important thing to know is a crying baby is only very rarely in danger. Their crying is designed to be painful to you and to get your attention. But, if you can’t get them to stop no matter what you try, and you haven’t had sleep you can quickly lose your cool. Just put the baby in the crib and walk away. Thirty seconds is all it takes to get your cool back.

Then go back in and try something different. You’d be surprised how often their crying is related to their stomachs. Hungry or upset, those are your baby triggers. Feed ‘em, burp ‘em, or get them some tummy calmer – Gripe Water works wonders.

5 Bike bubba December 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm

One thing that all six of my children have loved in their first few months outside the womb is a bit of dance. Nothing wild–their necks won’t bear it–but put some Frankie Yankovic 78s on the Victrola and get moving. After about half an hour, you and baby are both ready for sleep.

Also, holding that baby (do it, it’s good for you) can make your back hurt. To reduce this, put a couple of big books (about your baby’s weight) in a backpack. You’ll be heavier, but balanced.

Finally, every baby I’ve known–mine and those in the church nurseries–has preferred my left shoulder to my right. Maybe the heart being there, I don’t know, but it’ll balance your arm strength.

6 jy December 11, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Scout is a great name . Love to Kill a Mocking bird… Film/book cool name well done.

7 Nathan December 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Can I offer another tip that really saved our wits the first few days. Keep a log.

Get a notebook and write down when you fed, how much or which side for how long, when you put it to sleep, how long it slept, etc. It sounds ridiculous, but your brain is so frazzled from lack of sleep and getting adjusted, it really helps to be able to look back and see, okay he ate from the left side for 30 minutes, and slept for an hour and a half, so now it should be the right side… and he’s been eating for about 30 minutes every time, and he only slept 30 minutes the time before, so he might sleep longer this time…

Highly recommended.

8 Bryan J. Oates December 11, 2013 at 6:12 pm

@ Brett,

You had me busting up about changing the boy man! That is very true; my nephew sprayed me when I changed him about 9 years ago.

All of these points are very true. I just had my first born, my daughter Neytiri on Christmas Eve last year. She’s finally about to hit a year in less than two weeks, and man, yeah it was like (being deployed to Nam and jumping out of a chopper into “a jungle bristling with booby traps of dung-encrusted bamboo stakes.” )

It’s been a wild ride with my daughter this past year. I love it though. When I finally get some rest, I can appreciate the sleepless nights. The trick for me in that regard, was rocking her, putting her in bed, looking her in the eye, then repeating twice more and she’d knock right out!

9 Steve B December 11, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Excellent and comprehensive – except for mastering the skills of Baby Chicken.

When baby starts to cry at night, who can pretend to sleep through it longest, until the other cracks.

10 Quentin December 11, 2013 at 6:15 pm

While not a father myself, my dad has tons of pictures of himself with my sister and I without his shirt on (should be noted that he spends most of his time shirtless). While we might have very different views and went through some rough patches, we are still quite close. Hugs over handshakes with him always. Perhaps it stemmed from this simple interaction as a child.

11 Emily December 11, 2013 at 6:19 pm

“Skin on skin contact” = great reason for you to shave your chest if you’re something like Robin Williams… newborns CLENCH. My husband has been reduced to tears from a newborn refusing to release the nice comfy warm furry blanket she now had.

12 Gordon December 11, 2013 at 6:34 pm

This is all great advice. The one thing I would add is to remind all new fathers that God knows how incompetant you are at caring for a child. That’s why He makes them tough. The kid’s first birthday is as much a celebration of the child as it is a celebration of the fact that the baby survived a full year of your crappy parenting. Lol

Just remember that there are a lot of much dumber people that have successfully raised children. When in doubt, set the child down and take a break. The baby is not going to remember how long it was crying for; it is only going to remember that you were the one that made it stop.

13 Big A December 11, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Whoa, someone ELSE with six kids! Sweet!

Someone said “let ‘em cry”. Yep.

Another note: never, NEVER tell your wife that “things haven’t changed much” when a child comes along. She will not forgive that comment for years.

Lastly, there is something to being outnumbered, folks. Two is nice, because mom and dad can each hold one. Three? Notsomuch. Four? Five? Six? My wife looks like a mother spider with babies crawling all over her half the time, just sayin’.

14 Walter December 11, 2013 at 6:36 pm

This is now bookmarked on my computer! I am a soon to be father, I find out what we are having on Dec. 31st ’13 so I am very nervous and excited ! But this article really put my mind at ease for calming a baby. I will be sure to reread this again once the little bugger is here!
Thanks and love the site!

15 Patrick December 11, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Don’t panic.

16 Jusenkyo Guide December 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm

You forgot singing/reading/talking

I don’t know what it is about the male voice, but both of my sons seem to find the sound of my voice smoothing when they were fussy as infants. Heck, I spent the first December with my eldest singing the 12 Days of Christmas and Silent Night to him over and over and over again. I was heartily sick of the songs by the time Christmas came, but when he wouldn’t settle down for anything else, it worked. My youngest wasn’t into the singing, but he would almost immediately settle down if I started reading to him. It didn’t even have to be kids books either, one time he ended up getting instructions for a model I was working on read to him, still caused him to go from trying to break my eardrums into Happy Baby mode.

17 Rek December 11, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Reading other people’s experiences with newborns is a surreal experience for me. I was entirely unprepared to have a child and entirely underwhelmed at how easy it was after all of the hoopla I was told prior. I was definitely lucky on some level, my daughter was born healthy and only had one problem when she got a small yeast infection from a few days of diherea keeping her diaper area way too moist. I think part of the reason people have problems with newborns is because they worry too much. If my child was crying I would check her diaper/clothes, try a bottle, then try baby food. If she kept crying I’d just hold and rock her, and if she struggled I’d just put her down and let her cry herself out. There’s some prevailing wisdom that if your child cries for more than 10 minutes that something’s very wrong, but I’ve never seen it to be true. Sometimes babies just cry. The stressful part comes from driving yourself crazy assuming the worst.

And relatives. I swear the relatives were the most difficult part of having the child.

18 Joey E December 11, 2013 at 7:17 pm

The one, and only one, skill that I had better than my wife was how to set up a pack-n-play crib. I had learned how to set it up as a single guy at church, where we had to set up and tear down every Sunday (in schools, YMCA, etc). I got really good.

Every other baby-care skill, I learned from my wife or a nurse.

19 Andy A December 11, 2013 at 7:17 pm

First off: I love all of your articles. Have been reading for a while and they surprisingly match up with my life pretty frequently. Anyway. My first, Jacob, is almost 2 weeks old. He is an angel. The biggest advice I would also recommend for new parents is just walking from room to room. I have lights on and off in different rooms and the change of lighting seems to really calm him down when he’s upset. Fortunately, he is a rare baby that doesn’t cry for no reason too often. I have several siblings and was lucky enough to babysit them as a teenager and get more experience than most dads normally do. My wife also was a teacher in an infant room of a preschool, so we kind of had an unfair advantage as a whole. Now back to this sweet boy that is passed out on my chest!

20 Rks1157 December 11, 2013 at 7:20 pm

You didn’t mention projectile vomiting so I won’t either (the trick is to aim in the best possible direction) but I will talk about getting babykins, little ass kicker or whatever you call your bundle of joy to sleep through the night.

I was told that it would take exactly three nights to make it happen if I followed the rules. The rules turn out to be only one… No matter what do not enter the baby’s room. There was crying, screaming, more crying and some stuff that could have been used as a sound track for the exorcist movies and that was just the first hour of the first night. With night one finally completed (I didn’t sleep a wink) night two came all to quickly. Crying, screaming, cursing and night two was done. The third night contained all of the sound effects a baby can make. Man those little lungs put out! One, two, three hours into it something happened. My kid either snuck out the window, died or was laying a trap. Remembering the rule I fought the urge to peek in. When I couldnt take it any longer I did sneak a peek and the little rascal was sound asleep. And so began a new life without midnight feelings, changings, burping, cooing and all the other crap babies demand. I felt like I scored a major victory and in a way I sure did.

21 stephen December 11, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Another good one is to look after your wife! if she needs a break, she really needs a break. Chances are she has been dealing with it longer than yourself (if your working), and really needs a moment to herself. Happy wife reflects in your newborn. A newborn baby can be difficult if mum is stressed or at breaking point.

22 Daniel December 11, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Both of my son’s had colic. For the first, we experimented for weeks before discovering that it was being caused by dairy protein. Once my second son started getting colic, we immediately cut it out and the crying stopped within a couple of days. If you are formula feeding, this means switching to a soy milk base and if your wife is breastfeeding, it means that she has to cut out all dairy from her diet (not just lactose). Goat’s milk, butter, and cheese are all fine, though.

Often colic is caused by dietary issues, so be sure to check those early (with dairy protein and wheat being the two most common). Your wife can typically reintroduce those foods once the child has reached about six months old (earlier might result in lots of spit up).

23 Dave December 11, 2013 at 7:51 pm

My boy Jack’s just shy of four months now. One book I read that has helped me cope with crying is The Wonder Weeks. It suggests that peak periods of fussiness generally correspond with developmental leaps. This changed my perspective by reminding me that nearly everything a baby experiences the first several months is completely mind-blowing and, as a result, terrifying. Can you imagine what it must be like to realize for the first time that you are a separate entity from the rest of the world? Obviously I still get frustrated but it becomes easier to cope when I remind myself of this. I try to sympathize rather than getting upset. The poor little guy has only one way to communicate, after all, and he can’t help that.

Also, we got a big exercise ball. Sitting and gently bouncing on that often does a great job at calming he baby down.

24 Rich December 11, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Can you give some more advice on making the arrival of a second child go smoothly? I’ve got a second son on the way and adding a newborn to a schedule that already involves work, kid’s school, kid’s sports, wife’s work, etc. is seeming more and more daunting.

25 Richard December 11, 2013 at 8:06 pm

On the diaper change, I slide the new one underneath baby right after removing the old one, holding baby’s legs to keep her above it until I wipe her backside. Keeps the bed sheets dry if she decides to pee after the diaper is first removed.

26 Saimir Ogranaja December 11, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Very true. I love the fact that you pointed out the skin to skin. So important for a father to hold their baby like that.

Unfortunately for us, our girl HATES the car seat. Hates it with a passion. She won’t relax in it and forget falling asleep in it. It stinks because my wife and I travel very well and have easily driven 18 – 20 hours on at least 20 occasions prior to our daughter coming along.

I think every father needs an ace up their sleeve. Just something that only you can do. Mine is that I can put my daughter to sleep while dancing to music. No matter who tries to replicate she won’t fall asleep with them, but only with me. 10 minutes in my arms with Willie and Lobo’s – Donde Vayo and other type of world music and little mama’s asleep like an angel. Works like a charm for me.

Advice from a father with a HUGE 6 month old girl, 26 inches and 21 lbs 10 ozs.

Stay strong brothers!!!!!

PS – I find that as soon as I get home, she doesn’t want me to help with the dishes, cooking, cleaning or anything like that. When I come home, I’m on baby duty. She’s been with her all day so I give my wife a break. Food for thought for the men that may not know.

27 Rob December 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm

If you have a little one at home, keep it in mind: you’re living out your good old days. Your memories will be a blessing when you get to be old like I am.

28 Dave Glanz December 11, 2013 at 8:47 pm

My daughter just turned 9 months last week. It’s amazing to see everyone here mention so many of the same things we did over the past year.

1) Exercise ball: bouncing on this thing was the only way to get Julia to sleep for the first few months.

2) Walking from room to room: swaddle, hold, walk around the house and point to things. Repeat.

3) Dancing: the day after my daughter was born I downloaded Gene Kelley’s version of “Singin’ in the Rain” and danced with her for weeks. Otis Redding worked well, too.

4) Baby crying chicken-game: UGH. Worst game.

29 Mike B December 11, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Awesome article! My First child, a baby girl will be born in February. I am excited and nervous, this definitely helps!

30 Dennis G December 11, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Great article. Our baby is 3.5 months old now, and one thing I would for sure add to this article in terms of settling a child down (and something I’ve seen at least one other person mention it) is to walk around with the baby. My wife and I couldn’t understand what it was about walking around that would turn our baby girl who was having a meltdown into a perfectly calm and happy little child, but from a recent study, it appears this is related to a sort of evolutionary response, and isn’t restricted to humans.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it appears babies will retain memory of any songs that they hear regularly while in the womb and those songs can calm them after birth. Again, I’ve seen this work for our own baby girl. My wife use to hum the same lullaby every time she felt the baby moving around in her, and now that same lullaby works wonders when it comes to calming our baby down.

31 John B December 11, 2013 at 11:07 pm

@ Daniel
I think most colic is dietary. Our 1st took a couple months to figure out lactose intolerant, breast feeding pushed by the 1st pedi made it worse (all milk has lactose) Soy Formula fixed it quick, we switched Drs directly after we figured it out since she told us we were still wrong and screwing it up. The second kid had a cow protein allergy that we altered wifes diet and fixed in a few weeks total. I have a friend who has lived with an anaphalactic version of the same allergy who told us things to avoid and replacements for things that caused problems. If it is bad enough there are food additives made from dairy “byproducts” that are put into things you’d never think of like lunch meat and fruit flavored candy. I told this to some other people with a colicky baby and it helped them too. I wonder some why Drs seem unaware of it… at least around here.

32 JohnEcon December 11, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Regarding colic, we thought our kid had colic. But after some dietary examination we determined that it was wheat (or gluten). My wife stopped eating wheat and happy baby come around within a day or two. Now that he is 9 months old he seems less sensitive and will hopefully grow fully out of it. When he was when he was newborn he was suuuper sensitive! We are still careful though. Thankfully my wife can at least have a bite or two of deserts during this holiday season without upsetting the poor guy. Based on this experience and how many people are gluten sensitive now-a-days, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of colic babies were sensitive to something in their diet.

33 Justin December 11, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Anyone who says singing to help comfort there baby, I second that. I would add, sing what you know and like. Turns out our little girl was allergic to dairy and cried constantly until we got it under control. Then we could finally comfort her. I remember holding her in the rocker and wanting to sing to her, but I couldn’t think of any of the kiddie songs my wife or others may sing. Very gently I started singing Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. I turned into the master of putting her to bed and sang that to her every night for probably six months.

She is 18months now and we have our second due next June. I was calm with the first, but this one really has me scared.

34 Dirk December 12, 2013 at 12:29 am

Nice guide!

As the proud owner of a now 2-month old baby girl (our first), I get the bit of getting angry with the baby. It surprised me so much!

she seems to be teething already, right after her stomach crampiness is easing off … Yay.Any help on how to deal with this seemingly inconsolable little angel? :)

35 Jim Collins December 12, 2013 at 5:00 am

Esteemed Parents and Parents to be,

We chose, soundly I think, not to be parents. We do however admire parent’s investment in the future. I don’t know how common my attitude – and my wife’s—is on this subject; but bear in mind that there are some such as us who welcome an opportunity to offer brave souls who make new humans some relief, and to make a bit of an investment in the future ourselves. Call us “baby sitters” if you like.

Ya-damn-sure-betcha I can change a diaper, and sing while I’m doing it,

Jim Collins

36 Josh December 12, 2013 at 5:55 am

I found it to be the other way round, my son was placid as anything, he was in a sleep routine by three months, decided one day he had finished with the breast and virtually potty trained himself. My daughter on the other hand has a stubborn streak a mile wide and considers the word ‘no’ as a dialect variant of ‘yes’.
My advice would be to find an instruction book you both like and stick to it.
if you’re worried that you’re doing the right thing it probably means you are.

37 Adam December 12, 2013 at 6:00 am

As a father of two boys one tip I can give expecting dads is to take your preparation for the nights as seriously as a night in the zombie apocalypse. Sleep is a precious commodity with young children and you will need as much as you can get so take the little steps necessary to make the late nights go as smooth as possible. For example, if your newborn takes a pacifier and loses it in the night which throws her into a fit of rage, set an extra pacifier on your night stand next to you instead of army crawling through the darkness looking for the fallen pacifier outside of the little ones crib. Another suggestion would be to prepare extra breast milk or formula bottles for the night and keep them prepped for warming in the fridge if night feedings are still part of the routine. Hope this helps new and expecting dads!

38 Eric Granata December 12, 2013 at 6:34 am

Man this post makes me wish my tiny babies. We had our last kiddo about 4 years ago but I’m just as bad as my wife when we see newborns out and about.

We used to swaddle our babies in a baby blanket like tight little burritos. Was perfect for rocking them to sleep.

39 James December 12, 2013 at 6:43 am

The most fascinating part of parenting for me was when our 2nd son was born last year, and how much EASIER it seemed. Sure, there were still the usual troubles, but because most of it was something we had seen before, it all seemed relatively small.

Not sure if I agree about the gas drops though. Not so much for the 2nd, but when our 1st was a baby, Mylocon was a life-saver.

40 Chris December 12, 2013 at 7:30 am

Great article, Brett! I would love to hear updates on how things are going with the addition of baby #2.

I want to reiterate the “Happiest Baby” DVD. After weeks of struggling to get our son to fall asleep this was a god send! I think it was partly due to the exhaustion but I literally started crying with happiness when the techniques worked as well as they did. Calming him down after that was a breeze and it was amazing how much smoother things go when no one is stressed!

41 Luiz December 12, 2013 at 7:35 am

Great! Waiting for my son to arrive in february and very excited!

Cheers from Rio!

42 Chris C December 12, 2013 at 7:35 am

It may not seem like it at first thought, but babies are portable. After a week or so straight of being home with the new kid mama is going to be pulling her hair out. Grab the kid and get out of dodge for a while to give her some alone time. We got a pretty cool Jeep carrier for my daughter – like a Maxpedition backpack but on your front, lots of cool velcro and straps and other manly stuff, in cool black and green.

Something else we learned: once you’re out of the house with the baby, DO NOT GO BACK IN! If you constantly are going back to get some little do-dad you forgot, you will never get anywhere. They sell diapers, formula and wet wipes in nearly every store in America, pick some up while you’re out, you WILL use them eventually.

What about time for yourself and your buddies? When my daughter was a couple months old, we had a Welcome to the Family party with our friends. The women mostly sat in the living room with the babies and the guys played poker in the den – buy in was a pack of diapers.

43 Jacob December 12, 2013 at 7:40 am

I had to snicker at the part about why would anyone shake their child then once they have a child that won’t stop crying, they’re like “ohhhh…that’s why, someone might do that (not saying it’s ok, just saying I know what he’s talking about).” I have 3 girls, one is about to turn 2 and the other 2 are 6 months old. Let me tell you how much of a hair puller it is when they all gang up on you! You need a couple of beers just to get the heart rate back down.

One word of advice on diapers. While not necessary, get the diapers that have a special line down the middle that changes colors when your little tyke has done their business. Takes 99% of the guesswork out of it!

44 Ethan December 12, 2013 at 7:50 am


Thanks for sharing. My wife and I have our first baby due in March, so this will help. Many of friends are at the same stage having kids and there is such a huge range of advice out there – and everything seems to contradict everything else. I see you have a bunch of other related posts, I’ll have to check them out!

45 Jason December 12, 2013 at 7:58 am

My wife and I have 3 boys and a girl, all under 5, with the last two being twins. Our twins were born over the summer, so this article is well timed for me. The best advice I was ever given (or can give, for that matter) is to remember that even though they’re little, they know what’s going on around them. My Mom reminded me of this when my oldest boy was born, so that going into my first son’s birth, I knew to treat him like a person. A baby, yes, but a person none the less. They know what’s going on, even if they only know it viscerally. And as obvious as this sounds, it’s VERY easy to forget in the throws of a 3AM scream-fest.

By talking to my new born children as people, and not “things,” I was able to rationalize my way through some of the harder parts of having newborns. When my kids would cry for no apparent reason, I would first hit the checklist noted in the article. If that didn’t work, I would talk them through it, knowing they don’t yet understand the words, but also knowing they would catch my meaning. There’s obvious comfort in the repetitive drone of a voice. Plus, it kept my wife and me calm during the more stressful times.

After that, you just take your cues from your children. They’ll tell you what they need, one way or another. And once they’re happy, give them big stupid drooling smiles, so that after 2 or 3 short months of growing, they’ll give them right back!

46 Martin Verna December 12, 2013 at 8:05 am

You forgot the most important thing for a crying baby!
Mylacon! Stops a gassy baby from crying.!!! This stuff is worth its weight in gold. As a matter of fact, that’s about what it costs. :)

47 Mike d December 12, 2013 at 8:14 am

I found it highly important for the care of our first daughter to learn to take care of myself as a parent too. I’m an introvert and really need time to myself in order to function. The first thing I did was adjust my sleep routine so I could have time to myself in the morning. The second is my wife and I made an agreement to each have a night out where we can care for ourselves. I usually spend that evening playing basketball or attending a book club. It makes a world of difference in how I care for my daughter!

48 AK December 12, 2013 at 8:20 am

Great article, and couldn’t come at a more perfect time! My wife’s due date has come and gone, so we’re both anxiously awaiting for the excitement to begin.

49 Tyson Pursley December 12, 2013 at 8:26 am


It is so nice to see a Dad who knows the importance of skin to skin. This reader gives you 100% mad support.

50 Jeff December 12, 2013 at 8:30 am

Great advice all of it!

If you invest the time now to do the things that previous generations of men thought were unmanly, you won’t regret it one bit in the future. My son is going on 14 and we are super close to one another. I attribute that to the fact that I did a good portion of the parenting in those early years. Skin on skin contact is great for little babies – also be sure to touch them on their feet, arms, legs, and hands. Touch their little faces, etc. This provides positive stimulation for the baby and helps bonding.

As for the late night crying this was the biggest challenge for me. I am the most patient person in the world until hour 2 of nighttime screaming. As shameful as it feels later the article is right – you do want to drop kick the little thing. Just place the kid in his/her crib and walk away for a few minutes, it’s OK really. Go in another room or step outside – just for a few minutes and collect yourself.

I am happy that we live in a time where being involved and actually participating in taking care of our kids is considered manly.

51 Sam K December 12, 2013 at 8:35 am

Your timing is perfect… My wife and I are having our first child tomorrow. A little lady! I’ve read bits and pieces of some of this advice here and there, but what a great compendium!! and from a very trusted source! Thanks for great advice… and, as always, for a great website!

Best to you all!


52 Pawan S December 12, 2013 at 8:39 am

Nice timing, we just had a baby 10 days ago.

53 Jayson Feltner December 12, 2013 at 8:40 am

This is great for my brother who just had his first. Is the Stache required?

54 Jayson December 12, 2013 at 8:52 am

Diaper “Pro Tip”:

Put the new diaper down under your kid before undoing the dirty one. This is a precaution in case things start escaping or your kid wiggles out of your grasp. It is especially important to do this if you are working on the floor and not a cleanable changing table.

55 Nick December 12, 2013 at 9:01 am

Thanks for the article and all the posts with advice! My wife and I are expecting a baby girl next April, this’ll be the first natural girl born in our family in over a hundred years. Needless to say, I’m a little freaked out but incredibly excited to meet her!!!

56 Alexander December 12, 2013 at 9:03 am

@ Jayson Feltner -

Of course the stache is required.

But in all honesty, I’m still scared out of my freaking mind thinking about caring for a baby.

57 Chris Cowley December 12, 2013 at 9:15 am

I’m past all this now (damn that sound like I’m old :-/, I’m not), but it made me think of when my second was born.

First thing the doctor did was put him down next to my wife for skin-to-skin. His immediate reaction was open his bladder and pee in her ear. How we laughed (well, me anyway)

58 Marc E December 12, 2013 at 9:20 am

As for the Colic…some studies suggest that 95% of what was previously known as colic was actually simply a result of acid reflux. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician about this.

I had twin girls that were born over a month early, and we struggled with this until we found out that it was simply acid reflux. We got them both on medications and the crying greatly reduced (as well as the vomit) and the feeding increased.

Also…if you baby is really gassy, don’t be afraid to use those gas drops…liberally. We were eventually giving them before every bottle. According to our pediatrician, there aren’t any negative impacts of a steady stream of these drops (mylicon ).

Finally…it’s gonna suck for a while. Get over it. Eventually that blob that does nothing but cry, poop, pee, and feed will smile and laugh…and become your child.

59 Bike Bubba December 12, 2013 at 9:27 am

One other thought; you most likely will have some times when you don’t understand what’s going on with that little body. It’s a great idea to have a book on child-rearing on the shelf. We’ve got the Focus on the Family version, and it’s helped us deal with things many times.

(and of course when the problem is not obvious, don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician’s nurse line–they are there for a reason and they are generally very good at what they do)

60 CombatMissionary December 12, 2013 at 9:43 am

Here’s a tip. If baby’s screaming, massage the tummy in a clockwise motion to release the gas. If that doesn’t work, support the baby’s upper torso and neck in one hand, and hips in the other. Gently rock baby’s torso up and down like baby’s doing crunches. This has never failed for me. Just remember not to fight the baby. If he/she fights you, just wait a few seconds, and when he/she relaxes, resume the crunches. You’ll know it’s working when your baby turns into a little fart machine and his swelled-up lower abdomen relaxes.

61 Matt December 12, 2013 at 9:46 am

Most of this is spot on, but I’m really surprised nobody has mentioned baby wearing. This is where you keep your baby close to you and secure by “wearing” him/her in a sling, wrap, etc. It’s like swaddling and holding and dancing and rocking all in one–you can even add in singing or white noise to complete the trifecta.

The absolute best part is that it’s hands-free. Baby is warm, safe, and comfortable–just like when you hold him/her–but you can get done at least some of those things you normally can’t do because you have a new baby! After my oldest was a few months old I remember telling people many times that I could not imagine how it would even be possible to stay sane with a newborn without wearing him/her. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to finish my dissertation prospectus without wearing my little guy while bouncing on an exercise ball in front of my laptop.

The trick is to try several different kinds of baby wearing contraptions. Most people who are into this will gladly lend you what they have for a test drive. My oldest boy loved pretty much everything, but my youngest didn’t really want to be worn much except when he was ready to settle down and sleep. My favorite style, and the one I think works best for men in general, is the mei tai or “Asian-inspired” wrap. it’s easy-on/easy-off and can be used for front or back carry, even until the kiddo is a toddler (sometimes longer). I got mine in olive green, but they’re available all over the internet in lots of manly styles. Putting it on feels like you’re girding yourself for battle, and when people see you wearing your little guy out it’s like instant Dad-cred–even if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing!

62 Chris Adams December 12, 2013 at 10:01 am

My son (2&1/2yr) and my daughter(1yr) gave my wife and I two totally different experiences! This Skillset guide has some great streamline info that is good for any new father. Appreciate what you do here Brett, Congrats on the newbie!

63 Jorge Contreras December 12, 2013 at 10:19 am

GREAT article. Long time reader, and i love all the info you provide.

I just had my 1st baby, it is a boy, on 11/7/13

Luckily most of what you listed above came kinda naturally with me.

My secret to soothing my baby boy if all else fails, just talk to him and ask him whats wrong or having a semi-1-sided conversation.

He seems to love the deep tones of my voice.

64 Vern December 12, 2013 at 10:20 am

My boys are now 26 and 30, so caring for babies is just a fond memory. To the new Dads, first of all Congratulations! Enjoy your kids while they are little, time flies and they grow up and seek independence so quickly, as we did, I guess.
I have a favorite photo of my oldest son and I watching Monday night football-he in only a diaper and I in running shorts, stretched out on the bed in front of the TV in Sept. 1983.
I helped my wife with the 1 am feedings, just me and the little guy, so my wife could sleep. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

65 John December 12, 2013 at 10:31 am

I’ve got one boy almost 4 and another boy at 15 months, and reading aloud to them worked well, and it didn’t matter in the slightest what it was. I would read my boys a magazine article, a classic novel, or a supermarket advertisement and they liked it.

Another thing that worked to calm my 1st, though not my 2nd, is to strap him into the removable car seat (the baby bucket) and firmly holding the handle, swing him front to back. It freaks out mom who thought the baby would go through the wall, but it’s quite a shoulder workout, and the boy loved it.

Learning to block out the crying is the BEST thing you can do for everyone. If you can find a happy place where the screaming won’t reach, you can calmly change diapers, make bottles, etc. without losing your mind. Practice now by ignoring your wife, but just don’t let her know.

Get ready for when they start moving for them to constantly fall or bump themselves. Don’t freak out! As long as they are screaming they are still alive, and as long as they aren’t bleeding much they are fine. You still must check them, but accept that it’s something that will happen a million times, and don’t lose your mind and call the doctor 10 times a day (or night). Just tell them to walk it off!

66 thump December 12, 2013 at 10:36 am

Great and timely post. We’re at just over 10 weeks now, and I just found myself chuckling and nodding along as I read. There are indeed times when it seems like his crying is a “malevolent plot to melt your brain”, and I’ve definitely had one or two “don’t shake the baby” moments (thank god I’m not the only one btw..that’s a scary feeling). Now I occasionally can’t help myself but laugh when he’s giving us his “I’m super tired” cry. Seems like he doesn’t want to miss any action, so he tries his best to stay awake and it cracks me up. Fortunately, he seems calmed by my belly bouncing and tends to drift off. After rocking him for at least a half hour the other day during a fit of crying, I looked down, he gave me a coy/impertinent smile, closed his eyes and fell asleep. Little stinker almost made me snort with that smile. Laughed silently for a few minutes after just thinking about it. I wouldn’t trade this job for anything!

67 thump December 12, 2013 at 10:51 am

I want to give thanks to all the men in this comments section. This is why I love AoM! Such great, supportive and intelligent comments.

68 Charles December 12, 2013 at 11:02 am

Newborn boys tend to wizz as soon as the cool air hits their penis when you remove the diaper. Its a good idea to keep a washcloth or even just an old handkercheif on hand to drop over your little one’s little one so you don’t get a spray in the face. You can also buy little cloth cones called “PeePee TeePees” but if you’re handy with a sewing machine you can whip out your own for very little.

69 Stephanie December 12, 2013 at 11:39 am

Congrats to all of you Dads!

Here’s a tip for burping. Think: which way does an air bubble want to go in a glass of soda? UP. Try imagining your little one’s tummy as being at the bottom of the glass, with the only escape route, the esophagus, crumpled and folded. Your task is to wiggle, jiggle, pat and pound while straightening the little one’s tube out as much as possible, by getting it as vertical as possible. Laying a baby across your legs to burp is just going to waste all that good milk when he or she spits up – think vertical!

70 Stephen December 12, 2013 at 11:40 am

I am the proud Dad of a 7 month old girl. She had colic for the first 6 months, the doctors called it “silent reflux.” It was, and still is sometimes, a roller coaster ride. What seemed to help baby, mom and dad was always trying to help each other out and keeping a good sense of humour. Going on lots of walks with the family was also a great way to recharge our batteries.

71 Jeremy December 12, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I have twin boys that just turned 2. Best advice I can give is everything comes in stages. If whatever they are doing at the moment is difficult, remember it’ll change soon and you’ll get through it. If whatever they are doing is enjoyable, remember to enjoy every minute, cause you’re not getting that stage back.

72 Chris December 12, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Great advice. I have a little man coming May 10, 2014 and I’m trying to mentally prepare for the fun, excitement, and frustration. All of your advice articles on fatherhood, parenting and general manliness feel so much more real now.

73 Matt December 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Thanks for the great article, Brett. As the father of a pair of 4-year old twins, I’ve forgotten a lot of the finer details of the first year. Sleep deprivation will do that to you, I suppose.

With another bundle of joy on the way (due in June), a refresher like this was perfect, even for a seasoned vet like myself.

One tip for dads. If your wife insists on having a baby monitor as mine did, you’ll soon have the urge to murder whomever though it was a wise idea to give a baby a microphone and amplifier. The only thing worse than a crying baby is a distorted amplified crying baby. However, all is not lost – you actually can drop kick the sound of crying out the window without any repercussions, other than your wife making you go get it, which means you get a couple minutes outside of the house!

74 Caleb December 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm

1 – Use “big people talk” from when they are born. We have never done that with my daughter (3) and even before she was 1 she would look at people like they were nuts. Really fun. But she converses like she is 5 or 6. Even if people look at you like you are crazy in the grocery store, it is worth it.

2 – Due to a medical condition that my wife has we had to skip some of the usual stuff – she had to be induced (schedule the delivery – awesome) and had to use formula from the get-go. If you do this make sure you take your preferred brand with you to the hospital. They all taste different. Horrible, but different. And use PoDee bottles once they can sit up. Best. Baby. Invention. Ever.

3 – Costco Kirkland Signature diapers, wipes, and formula. Works better than brand names, no breakouts, and way cheaper.

75 Chickasha Hoolba December 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Great post and great comments! My wife and I have three girls and three boys. People constantly ask us how we “do it” with six (i.e. get by with any semblance of sanity) but honestly I thought that the transition from one to two was the hardest by far. A few of my tips:

While they were still in utero, I would talk to the baby to get him/her used to my voice; we would also hold headphones up to my wife’s abdomen and play them a variety of music. Baroque, early jazz, dance/synth pop, and pow-wow chants seemed to get the most favorable/soothing response. After the child is born, they will recognize your voice and the music they’d already been exposed to, this will help have a calming effect on them. Dancing and talking are great for bonding.

Adjust your mindset; when you come home from work it’s not time to relax yet: you’re still on duty. Help out.

We found co-sleeping and breast feeding to work best for getting us adults some sleep. There’s no getting up and staggering about the place trying to get a bottle warm while you’re still trying to pull yourself out of REM. The combined body heat in your bed also will help keep the baby adequately warm.

Prep your diaper change area before you start the change to help minimize your chances of getting hosed or painted. Have your wipes out and ready, babies are incredibly quick at reaching down and grabbing a fist full of stool and smearing it all over -including into their mouths. You’ll learn to be quick. To help reduce the cost of wipes, use washable cloths or use toilet paper to get the worst of the mess off first. Never turn your back on a baby when they’re on a diaper changing table/station -the first time you do is when they’ll discover how to roll over or crawl.

Babies cry, it’s what they do. There’s no reason to panic. Like some of the other posters pointed out, you can learn to tell the difference between a hungry, lonely, messy diaper, or bored cry. My job as a dad is to care for my child, not entertain them. It’s ok to let them fuss and attend to other business if they’re simply fussy.

76 T December 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Great Post ! We are through having kiddos, but this is a post I would have liked to have read before our oldest was born. I like your blog.
I should probably read your list of steps for changing a diaper, again, because I did not see it: the gas mask. Do you change diapers without the gas mask?
Peace, T

77 Brigal December 12, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Great article,

I have a 5 month old and we are the first of all of our friends to have kids so we are learning by doing and articles like this are great for new ideas.

Couple things that i have learned

1) Every single baby is different you have to try all the different tricks, like i thought a friend of a friend was crazy saying run the wifes blow dryer on cold if you cant get them to fall asleep. The ambient noise works amazingly though and puts our little girl right to sleep when she is to worked up or over tired to settle. If this works go buy a really cheap blow dryer with a cold setting so you dont burn out the motor on your wifes expensive one (you may get in trouble for this :) )

2) And this is probably the biggest one but does not apply to everyone, post partum depression is a very common thing, my wife is going through it and all i can say is she needs you to be the rock 100% of the time. Come home from work and the baby is crying and the house is a mess and your wife has bags under her eyes, time to man up and let her take a bubble bath or just cry on your shoulder while you try to get everything else done, enlist the help of friends and family dont be to proud to ask for help. Under no circumstances complain to your wife about her not getting any of this done or the house being a mess or supper not being on the table, you can complain to your buddies to get it off your chest and become the calm rock again but depression is very hard on a person. The best way my wife has explained it to me is, when the baby is crying and everything is going wrong her mind wont even think of the possibility to phone me and just talk or ask her mom to come over it just automatically goes to overwhelmed dont know what to do state. So support your ladies they need you more than ever but make sure you have a support system as well you dont need to be superman all the time.

3) for burping, my little girl just would not burp well. The method my mom taught me was to sit my little one on my lap and support her and have her do a roatation at the waist in a circle, bend forward then complete a circle so they go forward to the side then back to the other side in a circle motion. Also just holding my little one upright and bouncing with her really got those burps out.

4) Our little one hated the car seat and would scream sometimes half way through breast feeding, turns out she had bad reflux and had to go on an antacid, think baby heart burn. Talking to the doctor about all the little weird things seems like wasting their time sometimes but can really give them an insight and help you out.

5) teething is crazy and can last months, our doctor is telling us. Our daughter has no specific thing she likes for teething but so far the best things have been, a teething toy that is soft you can throw in the fridge, as many different texture toys as possible as one thing will work one day and not the next, she likes to chew on our fingers sometimes so keep them clean, a cold slightly damp facecloth to suck on (should not be able to wring almost any water out of it).

All the rest of the comments have been great for learning. Great community

78 K December 12, 2013 at 8:29 pm

What I’ve discovered: 1) coconut oil is a bang-up butt cream. I love it so much I put it on my own skin. Works great. 2) Babywearing can be a lifesaver. I work from home, and it will allow me to work when nothing else will, it lets the kid be near me, and my wife gets a nap. win, win, and win. 3) sleep is overrated. But beware of being short-tempered, especially if you tend to that side anyway.

79 Emily December 12, 2013 at 10:21 pm

There’s something to be said about music and voices. Your baby heard your voice for 9 months. From about 6 months onward, in the womb, the baby is actually listening though and can remember! This means if you sing a song over and over, or talk a certain way, then when baby is born they’ll remember that and associate it to that warm, comfy, back in the womb feeling they all seem to want. So if you’re expecting, start working on that lulabye you want.

Secondly, sleep training (leaving them to cry it out) should not be done until 6 months plus because the stress levels of a newborn can really be a problem. Read “The Happiest Baby on the Block” for ways to get a newborn to quiet.

I’m a firm believer in “the wait” though. This is when you hear your baby stirring. Don’t rush to run over to your baby! Even if they cry, chill out and count to 5 minutes, or at least 2-3 minutes. All of us turn over in the night, find a better position, and go back to sleep, including babies. If you rush to them the moment they’re stirring they don’t seem to learn to resettle and go back to sleep. Instead they start to expect you every time they wake up, and need you to go back to sleep, which is a pill.

On that same note, if you are holding them until they go to sleep and lay them down asleep then when they wake up to change positions and realize you’ve mysteriously disappeared, they’ll wake up full on screaming. Remember when you were a kid and would wake up startled in a strange place when your dad put you to bed from sleeping in the car, or at a friend’s house? You don’t want your baby doing that! Instead, try to keep their bed as consistent as possible, and lay then down drowsy but not asleep yet. Oh, it also helps to put a heating pad in their bed (remove it before you lay them down, but make the bed nice and warm and cozy before you put them down.) A cat can sometimes earn it’s keep to warm the baby spot in a pinch if you don’t mind hairs.

80 James Kennedy December 13, 2013 at 7:53 am

Great article! I am 39 years old with four teenagers (married pretty early) and could talk endlessly on the myriad of experiences my wife and I have had raising them. Plenty of mistakes, I’m sure, and challenges and struggles, but also days and years of satisfaction and joy.

I must say first of all that for my wife and I prayer was key. We learned (and are still learning) to make decisions after prayer. We could have just assessed the situation, talked, weighed the pros and cons, and made decisions; but we learned that when we prayed, a new dimension was added. I realize that this will resonate with some, and others will ignore it, and that’s fine, of course. It’s for “those that have an ear to hear.”

A few other quick, maybe small, things I would echo what Brett wrote, and what has been said in the comments:

- I seem to recall that that the sleep/no sleep schedule for all four of my kids was different, so we had to adapt for each one.

- My first child really loved to hear a vacuum cleaner running.

- I think I also remember that all our children loved my deep rumbling voice (which I don’t normally have, so I had to create), especially when I laid them on my chest.

- Your wife needs a break from time to time, and she needs “adult” talk from time to time, and not just from you. This especially applies for stay-at-home moms, which my wife was.

81 Briton December 13, 2013 at 8:13 am

Great article. I have a 17 month old right now that had colic, and another on the way. A lot of this is good advice for new dads.

P.S. Need an article on raising a newborn with a toddler in the “terrible twos” around the house!

82 Jeremy December 13, 2013 at 8:47 am

Some great advice that I received is that babies can sense when you’re upset or nervous. So if you’re calm, it’s easier for them to be calm.

The point about shaken babies is a great one. It’s okay to just take a break and compose yourself before giving things another attempt. The state of PA requires hospitals to give a brief talk about this before releasing a new baby.

83 icanthearyou December 13, 2013 at 11:26 am

First, I don’t have kids, so you can guess what this advice is worth.

Second, I would like to have kids. My biggest problem is that loud noises bother me. High pitched noises like kids crying, toddlers screaming, bother me the most. I think it has to do with the tinnitus. It is like the ringing combines with the screaming and makes exponentially it worse.

The plan I’ve come of with is the proper use of industrial PPE (personal protective equipment). We’ve all got ear plugs\muffs for the mower, weed eater, chainsaw, guns – right.

I’m not saying I want to use the PPE to ignore the crying, but to reduce the level of the noise so I can think and problem solve to get the noise to eventually stop.

Has anyone tried that?

84 Nyk December 13, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I’m having my first baby in February, a girl (Eva) and all of these articles about fatherhood have really helped me out.
This website has been a real life saver.

85 Jeff December 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Good advice Brett.

Dad of three with two things that have helped me.

No baby has ever cried itself to death, several have been beaten to death for not stopping crying. Walk away if you need to.

None of the individual tasks of fatherhood are hard (diapers, feeding, crying). The hard part is that they NEVER STOP. Its not the “cry at 3am,” its the fact that it is 3am after a 1am and an 11:30 and a 9:45 after getting up at 4am the day before. My wife and I would take turns and make sure we each got a break from the baby (and some good sleep).


86 Shawn A December 13, 2013 at 2:50 pm

This guide could literally have not come at a more opportune time, I just had my first kid on Monday. Well worth the time to read this thanks for sharing!

87 Jack Armstrong December 13, 2013 at 5:11 pm

My wife and I focused a lot on teaching our little girl to sleep through the night. We figured that, as long as we were all getting enough sleep (and a prolonged break from each other at night), we could handle anything else. And, boy, were we right! The first month was rough, but she caught on by month two. Now, at three months, she’s sleeping through the night consistently. It has probably been a month since the last time any of us has had to get up in the middle of the night. Getting eight hours of sleep a night does wonders for your stress levels.

A few tips that worked for us: (1) Put baby in a separate room. You’ll want to be able to hear her cry but not every little grunt she makes between sleep cycles. (2) When baby is a month old, don’t run to the rescue the minute she starts to cry. Wait a couple minutes and listen to what she’s asking for. By now, you should be able to tell if she’s just grumping or really needs something. (3) When you do check on baby, keep the lights really dim and stay quite. It’s sleep time, not play time. (4) ALWAYS put baby in the crib when she’s awake but sleepy. I think this is critical. You want her to learn to fall asleep by herself. She’s going to wake up at night between sleep cycles; we all do. If she knows how to fall asleep on her own and she doesn’t have any pressing needs, she can just go back to sleep instead of crying out for comfort.

This methodology may not work for every baby, but it worked for us. Hope it helps!

88 Dave C December 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Thanks for the post. It came through 27 minutes after my first little man was born. Let the fun begin!

89 Titus December 17, 2013 at 8:35 am

Two additional tips on calming that crying baby:

1. Bouncy is Better – Babies don’t particularly like sitting still (thus the appeal of the swing). Infants of all ages seem to enjoy and be soothed by being gently bounced while being held.

2. Babies Know When You Sit, and Prefer that You Not – I can’t explain it, but there is some subtle difference in posture or pressure that is communicated to the baby you are holding when you sit down, and they often do not like it. If you’re sitting holding a baby who cries for no other apparent reason, just try standing up.

90 Scott December 17, 2013 at 8:05 pm

This has become my favorite website…Finally a place where Manliness is honored!
My best friend gave me some good advice when we brought home my son. He made me promise to make sure that my son spent that first night in his room in his own crib (not in our room). The wisdom in this is that if you set up a nightly routine where the child is made to stay in their own bed then there will be less bedtime issues later. I can tell you that we followed his advice and we have never had an issue with our son going to bed or staying there. in fact, he was sleeping all night within the first couple of months. Unlike some of our friends (who did not follow this advice) who spend hours trying to get there kids to sleep. Also,little ones need a lot of sleep so put them to bed as early as is age appropriate. My son is 9 and he goes to bed about 8:30. when he was younger it was even earlier. Doing this keeps them rested and gives you and Momma some important time together.

91 Andy December 23, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Great post. My Sean is 8 months old and man, what a ride this has been! I second Brett’s recommendation to just WALK AWAY from your baby if the crying is getting you too torqued up. A baby screaming for a few minutes more in a safe place is much better than losing control. I’m a resident doc and I’ve seen the results of parents losing their tempers with babies – parents who up until that moment may have been awesome parents who simply lost control. So PLEASE just put the baby down and walk away. Good luck with the new babies, lads…God’s Speed!

92 Alan B January 3, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Really enjoyed this article even though I don’t have children. I’m the oldest of four and my brother is 9 years younger than I am. When he was an infant, my mom occasionally had me change him, not the poo diapers but the pee ones. Not 100% sure why she did that but I’m glad she did. I consider it part of being a renaissance man, I know how to change a diaper and how to change a flat. Nothing I can’t do.

93 Patrick LaFollette February 21, 2014 at 2:23 pm

My son is right at 7 months old, and the main things I’ve found to help me are teamwork with my wife, and patience with both my son and my wife. Neither of you can do this alone.

94 Ben April 10, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Thanks for this, very good advice it seems. I am due to have my first child, my daughter, delivered to me tomorrow, she’s 10 days overdue now so my partner is being induced. Very, very nervous about how well I will cope since I have no experience with babies/children and am quite scared I won’t do well as a father. But these tips have helped me (and made me laugh too) thanks a lot I will surely bookmark this to read when I’m feeling unsure.

Kind Regards.

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