Guest post: Life as a new dad - baby sick, buggies and bonding
Mums have had a whole nine months to bond with their little'uns before they make their appearance. So how can Dads make up for lost time? Here, journalist, author and Bumpfest speaker Rob Kemp gives his top tips for baby bonding.
Rob Kemp, author of 'The New Dad's Survival Guide'
It's all about ‘the bond’ these days – fathers getting hands-on and happy-daddy-like, in order to forge a relationship with their newborn that will last a lifetime. But how do you do this when baby understandably spends so much time with mum in their early days? The truth is, you've just got to get stuck in. Always one to lead by example, here's my top baby-bonding moments:
1. One of my first attempts at ‘bonding’ was to take my son out for a stroll in a BabyBjorn baby carrier. After a few trial runs around the house – getting to grips with the practicalities of having a 14lb baby strapped to your chest in a stylish papoose – we were off. Shopping was a doddle. Using the cash machine presented no problems either – I even covered my son’s eyes as I tapped in my PIN, joking about it to the woman using the machine beside me.
My confidence growing, we headed to the department store where I knew baby-changing facilities were available to dads (I'd done my SuperDad homework, you see). Initially the looks from shop assistants and customers were ones of admiration – there was clearly something in the cliché about a man with a baby being rather alluring to other females.
As we went up the escalator, I began to spot some more sympathetic – even horrified - glances from people on the opposite moving stairway. Surely we'd moved beyond the point where people would take issue with the perceived role reversal of dad-with-sling? All became clear when I reached the toilets, however, and stood in front of the full length mirror: Stanley had thrown up the entire liquid contents of his last feed down the front of the carrier, whence it had been dripping on my shoes for some time.
Oh the joy of searching fruitlessly for a booth that could accommodate us both – and a buggy. And realising, once I'd stripped down to my trunks, that although my son's favourite toy, nappy changing gear and post-swim baby cream were here, his bathers were still back in the car.
2. Six months in to my son’s life, I took him swimming. Until then of course I'd held him, bathed him, carried him, helped feed him, changed him and chatted to him whenever I could. But taking your kid to the pool is a great way to strike up a harmonious link as they explore a new, fun-filled world – and you try and work out how to get into your trunks whilst in charge of a baby that you also need to change too… in a public swimming baths.
Oh the joy of searching fruitlessly for a booth that could accommodate us both – and a buggy. And realising, once I'd stripped down to my trunks, that although my son's favourite toy, nappy changing gear and post-swim baby cream were here, his bathers were still back in the car. Patiently getting dressed again, putting him back in the buggy and returning to the car park. Baby swim also provided a lesson in the logistics of childcare, something that dads don't necessarily get enough grounding in. Once I'd finally got us both changed, put our gear into the lockers and got both of us into the pool, I'm pleased to say my son took to the water like the proverbial duck. We'd play little splashing games, he soaking me (which he continues to do to this day, only now I'm on a sun-lounger and he's bombing off the pool side). Baby swim builds trust too – their confidence and independence grows in the water, while you trust that the water is warm because it's designed to be and not because you're in the midst of a baby-wee soup.
3. There are plenty of clichés bandied around when it comes to babies, and as is usually the case with clichés, they're rooted in some truth. People tell you about the unconditional devotion you feel for your little baby. I remember sniggering slightly at how twee this sounded before the birth. But in truth, I had no idea about how strong that feeling is until the arrival of my baby, and that moment when you leave the hospital. You went in a couple, and now you're coming out a family. That little life in the carrier is your responsibility from now on – it's a truly amazing feeling, and one that no amount of advice can really prepare you for.