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Survival guide for dad's first day alone with baby

Survival guide for dad's first day alone with baby

The first day you spend on your own with your child will be a special one. It is an opportunity for you both to get to know each other and to bond. When you are looking after your baby, you'll get practice at handling him, which will build your confidence. Also, taking sole responsibility for your baby for during the afternoon or morning will be important in building your ongoing relationship with your partner. Here are a few points that will help to make the day easier and more relaxed.

Be prepared

Preparation is the key to a successful experience. You should make sure you are well equipped to deal with your first day alone by running through all the routines with your partner and having everything you'll need to hand:

  • Keep the changing mat, nappies, wipes and nappy sacks handy, so you don't have to rummage through cupboards to find them.
  • For feeding, have at least one or two bottles of breast or formula milk made up in the fridge ready to warm.
  • Know where your baby's clean clothes are kept as you may have to change him several times during the day.

After the door closes and your partner leaves you both to fend for yourselves, don't panic - try to appreciate this time you can spend with your baby.

Try not to plan to do too much. Your baby's needs will rule the day and any other jobs will have to be put aside until later; slow down, and try to take things at his pace. Make the most of playing with him. There are lots of things you can do together, even from a very young age. For example play 'This Little Piggy' with his toes - this will make him aware of his body and help him learn to control his movements. Be theatrical in your responses to him and always keep eye contact, he will love to look at your face and its expressions. Give him differently textured toys to touch and name his toys and objects around the room. Hold him up under his armpits while he balances on his feet - this will help to strengthen his leg muscles.

Why is my baby crying and how can I comfort him?

All babies cry and some cry more than others. Crying is a baby's way of communicating with you, all you have to do is work out what it is your little one is trying to tell you. Go through a checklist of possible causes: is he hungry, thirsty or tired? Is his nappy full, has he got wind, is he too hot or cold or does he just want a cuddle? Always respond to your baby's cries as promptly as possible. If your baby seems unwell, give him a quick check over to see if it is anything serious, and if you are in any doubt at all, call your GP or health visitor. If the crying becomes unbearable, try taking him for a walk because this often helps.

If he is hungry or thirsty...

If your partner is breastfeeding, she can express milk for you to use. If you are bottle-feeding be sure to following the instructions on the box. Never be tempted to put extra formula in the bottle because it will cause your baby to dehydrate. Use boiled then cooled water and sterilized bottles. If you take a ready-made-up bottle straight from the fridge, place it in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes to warm it up. Make sure this is well away from baby. Test a couple of drops on your wrist. It's ready when it feels tepid. Sit down in a comfortable position, cuddle your baby close to you so he can look at your face; he should be semi-upright so he can breathe and swallow easily. Keep eye contact and let him draw the teat into his mouth, keeping the bottle tilted so he can suck the milk rather than air. Be patient and don't force him to feed if he doesn't want it. He will let you know when he's had enough or wants a break. When he has finished, wind him by sitting him on your knee or putting him over your shoulder and gently rubbing his back.

If he is tired...

Cuddle him and sing to him in a soft voice. Hold your baby, preferably against your bare skin so he will get to know your smell and feel comforted by your familiar presence. You could also try putting on some soft music to lull him to sleep. He will not be bothered about how light or dark it is, and will drift into a light sleep for about 20 minutes before falling soundly asleep.

Changing his nappy

This will need to be done frequently: first thing in the morning, after every feed and before your baby goes to sleep at night. Lay him on his changing mat then undo his clothing and his nappy. Remove the nappy and put it into a nappy sack. Holding his feet together in one hand, lift his legs up and use nappy wipes or moistened cotton wool balls to wipe from front to back, using a fresh wipe each time, until his bottom is clean. Take care to clean all the creases at the tops of his legs, but do not clean inside a girl's labia or under a boy's foreskin. Get a clean nappy and place under his bottom and lie him back down. Pull the front of the nappy up and fasten it at the sides with sticky tapes.

If you have problems keeping your baby still, provide a distraction: a mobile, a rattle or small toy to hold - babies love to look at themselves in mirrors.

Bathing

If you are on your own just for a day, you can get away with simply 'topping and tailing' your baby. This means using pieces of cotton wool dipped in cooled, boiled water, then squeezed dry to wipe his eyes (from inside outwards), behind his ears, over his face and around his neck. Clean his hands, arms, body and legs the same way, always using a new ball of cotton wool each time. Wipe around his bottom downwards and away from his body. Keep talking to him as you wash him and try to make it fun. Wrap him in the towel, patting him dry, taking care to dry all his skin creases. Pop him in a clean nappy and put his clothes on.

Things to do together

Your baby loves rocking movement, so put on a front sling, if he is quite small, and take him out for a walk, otherwise use a buggy or pram. The fresh air will tire him out, plus there will be plenty of interesting things to look at and listen to. Make sure your baby is wearing one more layer than you would normally wear to make sure that he is warm enough.

Baby massage classes are a fun activity that both fathers and babies can enjoy. Also, once he has reasonable head control and is able to maintain his body temperature (at approximately 8 to 12 weeks of age), you can take your baby swimming; many babies love splashing around in water as long as it is warm enough and you are watchful at all times.

Talk to him as much as possible; your baby will recognise your voice from when he was in the womb and will associate its sound with security and affection. You can help your child's mind develop by reading to him. He will follow the tones and rhythm of your voice and will enjoy listening to what you are saying.

Spending time with your baby is enjoyable for you both and giving your partner a break will always be appreciated. So send your partner off for a day out, to visit friends or just for a coffee in town, safe in the knowledge that you are perfectly equipped to look after your baby.