When we were expecting our first child, I remember my partner E reading book after book about being pregnant and the experience of childbirth. I am not exaggerating when I say that she probably read close to twenty books on pregnancy and childbirth. When we woke up the morning after our daughter R was born, I remember E saying something to the effect of "What do we do now? I read all these books on pregnancy and childbirth, but I didn't read anything about being a parent."
Indeed, after the act of childbirth is finished, and you find yourself a parent, there will be no time to read books on parenting.
So while expectant moms are worrying about things like where to have the baby, what vitamins to take, and what exercises to do, it is up to you, expectant dads, to go learn about things that new parents, not expecting moms, need to know.
Here's a list of skills and other things that you should learn about, and preferably practice, prior to the birth of your baby:
- How to cook meals, clean the house, do dishes, do the laundry, contact key doctors and friends without having to ask your partner. No kidding, this may sound silly, but after childbirth the last thing mom wants to do is worry about any of this stuff. Ideally you will have friends and family helping you with many of these tasks, but you should be able to do them without having to ask your wife questions. You may never have called your wife's best friend before, but you may need to do it after the childbirth. Do you know her last name? Her phone number? Could you get it without waking up your wife when she is taking a precious nap?
- How to hold a baby. Read about it in a book, and practice with a friend's baby, a doll, or a pet.
- How to feed a baby. This is sort of a trick question. With luck, mom will be nursing and you won't need to feed the baby. If you do need to feed the baby because nursing isn't going well, you'll probably have a lactation consultant or doula on hand to help.
- How to change a diaper and dress a baby: This is kinda obvious, isn't it? You'll be doing this 20 times a day in the beginning so get good at it. Oh, and a hint: changing diapers before your child starts solid food at about six months is a piece of cake compared to afterwards. So get started early and enjoy the easy ones.
- How to clean up spilled milk and baby spit-up. You'll be doing this lots.
- How to pack a diaper bag. Make a list of everything that needs to go in the diaper bag. Put this by your front door or closet - where ever you keep the diaper bag. Check the list every time before you go out.
- How to install a car seat. This is so much easier if you have a LATCH-ready car and LATCH-ready car seat. If not, make sure you try it out ahead of time.
- How to put your baby in the car seat.
- How to get a baby to sleep. This is probably one of the most fun parts. I love hold babies and watching them fall asleep. Very much related to...
- How to sling a baby. Ah, the modern day baby sling is a relief. You can hold your baby and send email, blog, or surf the web. You can hold your baby and wash dishes. You can hold your baby and garden. There are lots of slings out there, try a few. Practice getting babies in and out, because it isn't always obvious.
- How to burp a baby.
If you have these skills, you'll be a master dad.