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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Guest Post: Advice for Parents of Newborn Babies

John Landbeck is a husband, father, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and attorney. He likes his life, wants his family to be happy and wants happiness for others, too. He trends towards long, lecture-like commentaries. After all, he is the child of a lawyer and an English teacher; he loves the English language, but loves best hearing himself speak it. John's personal blog can be found here and his first guest post can be read here.

Photograph by Katie Tegtmeyer.

I wrote these advisory thoughts to a good friend as he was preparing to welcome his first child.

It is not possible to spoil an infant by holding it too much, so touch your baby as much as possible. Cradle, rub, hug, massage your baby every day. Find comfortable positions to read/watch TV while the baby sleeps on you. You will never regret having spent five more minutes touching your baby.

Of course, it is also not possible for an infant to harm itself by crying, so if holding/burping/bathing/serenading the baby isn't working, it is OK to put the baby down and go listen to the radio for five minutes. Eat some chocolate, and try again.

No one is interested in your baby's poopies but your spouse, so no matter how interesting you think they are, do not discuss them. The baby's poopies are a legitimate and important subject, which you by all means should discuss with your spouse, but no one else. Unless you need advice.

Discuss parenting choices with your spouse now. Will baby be nursing? If so, who will do all the other baby work at night, so Momma can nurse in a relaxed environment? If not, how will you share all the baby work? How do you feel about co-sleeping (letting the baby sleep in bed with you)? Pacifiers, yea or nay?

Find ways to date your spouse after the baby is born, without the baby if possible. Even if it's just a walk around the block for an ice cream cone, make it a habit now. Find a baby sitter you TRUST! People may volunteer but decide as a couple what criteria you feel is important. There are some people we love as friends but wouldn't leave our kids with.

Don't get into the habit of just setting the stinky diaper outside for minute, because you'll put it in the garbage can later. You will forget, and it will stay there for hours, maybe all night. It's an impossible habit to break, and it's gross. Take it all the way to the outside garbage can.

You are going to get peed on, so get used to the idea now. If you are lucky, this is the worst of all the baby bodily fluids (and fluid-like substances) that you will personally encounter. If you are really lucky, none of these fluids will never accidentally get into your mouth. I don't know any parents who are that lucky.

Daddy should volunteer to take the baby in when it is time for the PKU test. This is a test where they determine whether or not your baby has Phenylketonuria; babies with this condition can experience profound mental and physical problems when they ingest certain artificial sweeteners. It involves repeatedly stabbing your days-old baby in the heel with a sharp piece of metal, and massaging the bleeding wound onto a piece of paper until several dime sized circles are filled with blood. It seems like Dads handle the emotional burden of causing their children pain better than Moms. If you can swing it, volunteer to do the same for any immunization shots.

Are you Jewish? If so, and it's a boy, good luck with the Bris.

It's OK to lick your baby's face clean, but you should probably not do it where other people can see you.

If you are going to censor your baby's entertainment when they are older, you should start now. I once had a two-year old child call a sibling a "stupid ass" based on something I had watched on TV. Sure, it's a funny story, but how are you going to explain it to the kindergarten teacher?

It's OK to stay home with the baby for a little while, and not take baby out in public. If you go out, your baby will be touched, breathed on, grabbed at, etc, and you will feel guilty when your baby gets a cold.

When your baby is sleeping during the day, do not make any special effort to be quiet. I'm not saying run the vacuum as soon as they fall asleep, but it's OK if they doze during the phone ringing, so during the quiet of night it is easier to sleep. Don't tiptoe around. Live.

Some babies really like to be in a moving car. Some moms use the noise of the dryer, or put the car seat on the washing machine as a way to get baby to go to sleep with noise/vibration. But be careful, because it can become a crutch. Lots of parents end up having to frequently drive kids around for YEARS, because it ends up being the ONLY way they'll sleep.

It's OK if a baby eats a little plain, non-chocolate ice cream. Eggs, shellfish, peanut butter, honey, chocolate, nuts, (I think it is the complex proteins) no. Ice cream, yes. Unless Mom says no. Is Mom looking?

Buy lots of Lysol. Find a kind which smells good to you, and use it often. Not on the baby, though.

Wash your hands before you pick up the baby. That way, you can use your pinky, held upside down, as an emergency pacifier.

When your baby has fallen asleep in the car seat, it's OK to unbuckle the car seat and carry it inside, baby and all, to prevent the baby from waking up.

Sing really cool lullabies. Many rock songs work when sung slowly, sotto voce.

Keep a journal, even if it is just emails to family, of everything that happens. You will not remember a quarter of the feelings and experiences that you have otherwise.

Rotate the stuffed animals and blankets your baby sleeps with. Older kids who insist on sleeping with their blankies or fluffies are creepy.

There's nothing wrong with plopping your baby in front of the TV for 1/2 an hour while you make dinner, or do some other two-hands-are-necessary activity. Baby Einstein series of videos is good, but anything with bright colors and music will work.

No matter how short the trip, always take spare clothes. Have a spare shirt for you, too. It only takes one serious blow-out poopy diaper to ruin an outing. Note, you can share stories about blow-out poopies, because they are funny.

People who recommend using cloth diapers and home-made diaper wipes are all insane. Remind them of the sewage burden created by washing cloth diapers. In an emergency, wet paper towels, wet toilet paper, even wetting that spare shirt you brought along can substitute for diaper wipes. Sometimes, the little velcro/tape thingeys on the diaper will fail; duct tape works just fine.

Don't buy any newborn sized clothes. They fit for about ten minutes. 3-6 month clothes may be a little baggy at first, but your baby's fingers and toes won't turn blue from lack of circulation.

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