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OK Reddit. My wife is pregnant. What advice/tips do you have for a father to be?(r/AskReddit)
Congrats!! Kids are wonderful!!
THIS FIRST IS MAINLY FOR HER BENEFIT, BUT IT HELPS YOU IN THE LONG RUN, TOO!!
Get chairs with high armrests. I’m a dad of two, and I can tell you, my office chair, with the adjustable armrests, quickly became my wife’s favorite breast-feeding chair with our first. We replaced it with a much more cushy chair for her, but high armrests are a huge help if she’s breastfeeding. They also help you while holding the little one. No joke, your arms will feel like you’re holding a station wagon after a short while. They gain 10x their body weight every 10 seconds you hold ’em. Yes, that’s exponential weight gain, not linear. It’s ridiculous.
Related item: Decide now if you want to breastfeed. Most medical journals and neonatal medical professionals say that it’s extremely beneficial for the child. They recommend a minimum of up to three months of age, but beyond six months you get diminishing returns. However, studies repeatedly show that infants who were primarily breast-fed in the first three months of life are healthier (that is, they get sick less often), develop faster and have much closer emotional bonds to their parents. IF YOU DECIDE TO, the most nutritious bit of milk, and the part that has the most antibodies, are the first few drops. They will leak out of your wife’s breasts shortly after birth, so make sure your doctor/HCP is aware that you want to get your baby latched on ASAP; if you tell them that, they’ll often pop the baby out, wipe off some goop (see vernix below), then place the baby right at mom’s teat. Since a lot of breastfeeding women experience cracked and bleeding nipples, Mom may want to use one of these nipple shields. My wife swears by them.
Speaking of latching, watch videos on how to get a baby to latch. It’s not as intuitive as you would think. I (the husband) was actually the one that got the two of them positioned right the first time.
Google “vernix”. It’s a long description, but some families swear by it and you should talk to your wife then tell your health care professionals your decision about it.
Hold your baby. This may seem like a silly thing to say, but there is a pheromone exchange that happens when men hold infants that helps us bond to them better. Women have a similar exchange when they breastfeed. Make it a point to hold your baby for at least twenty minutes a day. If you’re playing Minecraft, keep your little one tucked into the crook of your arm as you do so. The effect is pretty astonishing.
Try to keep things to as much of a routine as possible. Children do very well when things are structured for them. Try to wake the baby up at the same time every day. Try to have feedings at regular times. Try to go to bed at the same time. Etc. The operative word here is “try”, but make a genuine effort. We made a concerted effort with our second child and she didn’t cry at night hardly at all after about six weeks of life. It was bliss compared to our first.
Remember that EVERYTHING is going to be new to your little one. Even the sensation of a soft blanket will be new and potentially frightening. She’ll probably cry at EVERYTHING. It’s normal. Try to make as few changes as possible for her until she gets adjusted to not being in such a tight, warm, wet place.
Another important item: Your wife may feel like she’s a terrible mother because some things just don’t come to her automagically. Constantly reassure her that she’s doing a good job. I’ve read studies that indicate a large part of the depression brought on by post-partum stress can be alleviated by constant reassurance from the social support structures she has around her. Remember, this is her first time, too (presumably), and we don’t live in the same kind of farm-centric collective we used to, so her circle of friends may be less than helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s a cliche that babies don’t come with manuals precisely because it’s so true. Don’t expect to know everything and don’t hesitate to ask questions. The only stupid question where your offsprings’ health is concerned is the question that didn’t get asked.
Get a “go bag” ready before her third trimester begins. Leave a checklist on the back of your door. The “go bag” should have a few diapers and wipes, her nipple shields if necessary, a bottle of water, a few snack bars, a very soft blanket (swaddling blanket if you can get one), warm newborn clothes with footies, hand covers like these (babies often scratch themselves on the faces in the first few days of life), a change of clothes for you (just in case, not really necessary, probably) and a list of important phone numbers (more of a reminder of who the important people are than their numbers). Your checklist should have all the important things you need to do before you leave the house, like turn off electronics and lights, pack up the “go bag”, call someone to watch the dogs, take your phone and camera chargers, call the hospital before you leave so they can have the birthing team/center ready, etc.
Have the hospital’s delivery department on speed dial. You don’t have to rush there first thing when her water breaks (most women have about an hour and a half from their water breaking to the beginning of labor), but you want to give the hospital as much lead time as possible to prepare for her arrival.
MOST IMPORTANT!!! Do not let anyone overrule your wife’s decisions without a damn good reason. Remember that this is all happening to her. You’re involved, of course, but it’s her body! That means that she calls the shots. You wouldn’t take her in to get a tattoo of a butterfly and let the tattoo artist insist on a dandelion, would you? It’s the same kind of situation, but so much more pressure will be on her because, c’mon!, these are health care professionals we’re talking about. Make sure you both understand what you want from the birthing process and make sure your doctor understands that, too. Try to make the big decisions beforehand; epidural? C-section? water birth? doula? midwife? clinic or hospital? Also be aware that there may be complications that make your choices unfeasible or untenable and you may have to adapt to the situation on the ground, as it were. But don’t let anyone pressure your wife into something she doesn’t want unless there is a clear health risk; make sure that the health risk is clearly explained in terms you can understand. (Call your HCP on his/her shit if they start using big ass, high-falutin’ words just to get you to agree.) It is your job as the husband to be the clearheaded, brave defender of your wife in her time of need. This is your sacred duty. Plus, you’re the one that put her in all that pain, the least you could do is make sure she suffers the way she wants to! 😉
I swear I didn’t set out to write a novella, but I apparently have done so. Please feel free to ask me anything if any of this is unclear. Also, bear in mind that I am not the GOD OF ALL NEWBORNS!! and it is totally within your prerogative to disagree. All of this is just one man’s advice and does not constitute professional medical guidance. (That’s the fine print.)
Seriously, though, don’t sweat it. Kids are great. You’re likely to screw up. It happens. Just cover it up as best you can and move on. Good luck!