Day 101: TLC for Babies with Colds

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With their usually fragile immune systems, infants and babies are especially susceptible picking up colds and other infections. This can be a stressful time for both the baby and parents, but there are certain measures you can take in order to relieve some of your child’s discomfort.

1. The most important thing to remember is to check the label of any medicine you administer to a young child before you give it. Giving an infant or young baby a full adult does of a medicine can be extremely harmful if not fatal.

Medicines will indicate on the label whom they are intended for and if there is a smaller recommended dose for children. Many medicines are not recommended to be given to children less than two years old, but there are often infant’s versions of the same medicine for children versions that are less potent and are safe to use with children. Still check the label to make sure. If you believe you have overdosed the child, it is a good idea to contact your local poison control center and ask them for advice.

2. When cleaning off a runny nose for an infant the soft, tender skin around the nose can becoming easily irritated. In order to avoid this, you might consider using a warm washcloth to clean off mucus or using extra soft tissues instead of the normal variety. If the area around the nose does become irritated and red, apply gentle baby lotion to the spot to provide some relief.

3. If the baby is congested, you might consider using a humidifier. These are readily available at normal stores like Walmart and Target. Fill the humidifier with water to the fill line and plug it in the baby’s room. This provides a more humid atmosphere which can be soothing and make it easier for the baby to breathe in addition. You can also use a menthol rub like Vicks vapor rub and apply it directly to the baby’s chest and neck as this will assist with easier breathing and the clearing of the nasal passages.

Most importantly, be sure to show your child an extra degree of care and love. Urge them to sleep and recover. Having a few colds or other sicknesses is normal for young children, but if something persists for a long time, be sure to consult your pediatrician.

Day 94: Stainfighting for Childhood Stains

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If you want to be a father you have got to realize that it’s not for the squeamish. Every type of bodily fluid that can possibly come out of a baby will at one time to probably come out on you.

At times like this, it’s good to remember that they don’t do it on purpose…we hope. It is also good to remember that you probably did this to someone you know and love as well when you were little.

Here are a few tips to get you through the dirty days.

1. Prevention. There are many ways to prevent messes getting on your clothing. When you’re burping the baby, always do so with some sort of burp cloth or towel laid over your clothing in the direct line of fire.

When changing diapers, don’t do a haphazard job. Make sure that the seals are tight on both sides. Change your child’s diaper often enough so that it does not leak out. There’s only so much those diapers can do. Right after feeding, don’t roughhouse with your baby. Throwing the baby in the air or subjecting it any kind of motion can lead to increased spit up.

2. Treatment. You can try to prevent all you want, but the reality is that it’s going to happen. You might want to invest in a few pairs of spare pants and a few extra shirts not that you are a father. The baby does make a mess on your clothing, wash off what you can right away under running water if possible.

The next is to treat the stain. You can do this with special detergent such as Oxy Clean or other kinds of soap. Depending on the severity of the stain, you might want to let your clothing soak in detergent and water for a few hours or even overnight. Then, wash the clothing as usual. That should be enough to combat most stains.

3. Have solutions ready for the road. You will not always be able to take off your shirts and throw it in the laundry. In these situations, it’s best to still try to get off as much as you can, but also to carry some sort of portable stain fighting product. You can buy these that can fit easily in your pocket or purse how are you to treat the stain immediately and watch it later.

Above all, you just need to keep a good sense of humor. Though it may not seem so moments, incidents like this often become funny when you look back on them.

Day 52: Bathing a Baby

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First things first—ever hear the phrase, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?” That’s good advice. Definitely don’t be throwing babies, with or without water.

One of the nice things about babies is that they don’t necessarily need a bath every day. Their skin is very sensitive and if you do it too often, you might actually dry their skin too much or cause a rash.

When you first start bathing your child, a sponge bath is usually enough. You can place your baby in an infant bath or other container to catch the water and gentle rinse their bodies. You can even place the baby on a comfortable towel or blanket.  Use a mild soap designed for babies (never regular soap) and start with the face and go from there. This keeps the cloth or sponge cleanest when cleaning eyes, nose and mouth.

You can do this at least until the umbilical chord falls off. When using baby baths after that time, remember that you do not need much water. Make sure the water is warm, but not too hot and do not leave the child too long in the bath as the water will quickly cool and can cause the baby discomfort.

The most important thing about bath time is to never leave your child unattended while bathing. Take it from the man whose brother nearly drowned on his first birthday. Luckily that story has a happy ending and he’s alive and well today, but it could have easily ended tragically.

Bath time can be a great time to bond with your baby and to soothe them. Enjoy it!

Here are some tutorials about bathing a baby:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-baby/PR00041

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RnxD-KRkw8

http://pregnancy.about.com/od/newbornbabies/ss/bathebaby.htm

Day 38: Feeding a Baby

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If you are bottle-feeding, it is a great chance for you to step in as a father, especially when your little bundle of joy wakes up in the middle of the night. (In fact, some of my sweetest experiences with my kids have been waking up to feed them. )

The first thing you need to think about, is how many ounces to feed the baby. This is something you should speak to your child’s pediatrician about. As they grow older, you are going to need to increase the number of ounces you use at each feeding.

You also need to know that in addition to bottle sizes, there are different kinds of bottle nipples. Some are “low-flow”, which release the liquid less quickly, while “hi-flow” nipples release more liquid at a time. There are nipples that are differently shaped for babies  who have feeding issues.

While feeding a baby, always make sure to support their neck and head and pay close attention. If they are struggling or coughing, you might need to remove the bottle until they recover.

For more info, check out the following sites:

http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/feeding-tools/bottle-feeding/

http://www.babycenter.com/0_bottle-feeding-basics_752.bc

http://www.drugs.com/cg/bottle-feeding-your-baby.html

Day 32: Six Theories

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“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.”
― John Wilmot

If you don’t have kids or only have one, here’s something you will learn as soon as the second one arrives: no two kids are alike. Even if they are a combination of the same genetic material, each one comes out with a different personality, strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes.  If our children are all going to be different in significant ways, why should our parenting be the same for all of them?

If nothing else, each new child will teach you something new about parenting.

Let’s take my two sons for example.

My first son has always been a cautious kid. He always looked three times before he leapt. He is curious and quirky and is always singing a song. He wants things always in a routine and falls apart when he doesn’t get it. He has an incredible memory and can often bring up events that were months past in great detail. He loves being teased and messed with.

My second son is a fearless little guy. He’s always climbing, exploring and tumbling around. He could care less about routine, and often likes to push the boundaries of bedtime.  He likes to go off on his own and has his own favorite personal spaces. He takes offense if you tease him. Like his brother, he loves music and dances around whenever he hears it.

Take any advice you hear on fatherhood as just that: advice. Really the only rules should be flexibility and getting to know the needs of your children.

Day 31: Burping a Baby

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Babies are just learning to eat, and you have to feel bad that they don’t know about all of the other wonderful things there are to eat out there, besides milk or formula. Especially if you are bottle feeding, young babies swallow a lot of air when eating, which can build up in the stomach, causing bloating and discomfort, not to mention increased spitting up.

To alleviate this, it is important to burp your baby after every feeding to release the pressure. This will probably be necessary at least until your baby starts eating solid food on a regular basis.

To burp a baby, there are several common positions, such as putting the baby against your shoulder or sitting the baby on your knee. You then pat and rub them repeatedly on the back until they burp.  Be patient! Some babies are faster burpers than others.

For more info, check out the following sites:

http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-burp-your-baby_10363676.bc

http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/pages/Burping-Hiccups-and-Spitting-Up.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token

http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/newborn_care/burping.html

Question: How can you apply this to how you feed your baby?

Day 24: Dealing With Diaper Rash

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For anyone with an ounce of empathy, diaper rash is an awful, awful thing. It is caused by leaving a baby too long in a wet or soiled diaper. If it happens, don’t panic. Babies have naturally sensitive skin and it is something that happens to almost every baby.  It can cause your baby extreme discomfort, which disrupts everything from naptime to playtime.

If you see a rash when changing a diaper, change the diaper as quickly as possible and make sure everything is especially clean. Keep the area as dry as possible and make sure to change the diaper more frequently than usual.

You can apply diaper rash crèmes (zinc oxide or A&D ointment) to the area, and this usually cuts down on the length of time the rash is present.  Most importantly, show your little one a little more TLC.

For more info, check out these sites:

http://children.webmd.com/tc/diaper-rash-home-treatment

http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/skin-care/diaper-rash

http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/problems/baby/5-ways-to-treat-diaper-rash.htm

Day 17: Mixing Formula

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Many parents prefer to breastfeed, and it if it is an option, it is one that you should consider. Breastmilk is the healthiest option, but by no means the only one. With my second son, he had feeding issues and could not breastfeed.

If you do opt for formula, it does provide a way for you to be extra supportive as a father, because the baby can be fed by either father or mother.  There are several things you need to know when buying formula:

  1. There are different brands. Typically, when you walk into a store, you will have the option of Carnation, Similac and the store brand. If you baby is not doing well on one brand, you might switch it up.
  2. There are liquid and powdered varieties. What kind you get is a personal preference, as they are both usually mixed with water.
  3. There are different kinds of formula for babies with different kinds of allergies. Some babies have milk allergies and need to use a soy-based formula instead.

Many babies like their formula warm and it is best to add formula to a bottle, measure and heat the water and then add it to the bottle. If your baby is experiencing more spit-up than usual or has excess gas, it can mean they are having a negative reaction to their formula. You might need to switch to a different kind.

Always read the label and mix the formula to the recommended proportion unless otherwise instructed by your child’s pediatrician.

Check out the following tutorials for more information:

http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_newborn/formulafeed/formulafeed_storing.html

http://pregnancy.about.com/od/formula/ss/powderedformula.htm

http://similac.com/feeding-nutrition/formula-feeding/making-a-baby-bottle

Day 10: Changing a Disposable Diaper

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Changing diapers is just a fact of fatherhood. It’s not a pretty thing, but bear in mind, it’s kind of like paying your debt to society—somebody did it for you. It is also a labor of love. You are doing something for someone who really can’t do it for themselves.

All babies are a little different. Some will contentedly sit in a dirty diaper for hours, while others will wail at the first sign of wetness. Part of staying sane is figuring out your baby’s rhythms.

To avoid mess and additional comfort for your baby, don’t let them stay in there too long. A diaper can only take so much, and leaving a baby in a single diaper too long can cause a painful diaper rash.

Diapers come in various sizes that don’t follow the other sizes for baby clothes. They start with “premie”, which will only be worn by very small babies. Most will start with “newborn” and then 1-6. The best way to figure out is to look at the suggested weights on the diaper box.

You’ll want to experiment with different brands of diapers to find out what gives you the best balance between fit, dryness and price.

Need more info? Check out these tutorials.

http://www.babycenter.com/2_how-to-change-a-diaper_10347121.bc

http://www.wikihow.com/Change-a-Diaper

http://babyparenting.about.com/cs/diapering/ht/changediaper.htm

Amazon.com runs a program called “Amazon Mom” (you can think of it as “Amazon Dad” if you like) , which is a subscription service that lets you save 20% on diapers and wipes with free two-day shipping. Find out more about it here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/mom/signup

Day 3: Skills for New Fathers

“Much of life, fatherhood included, is the story of knowledge acquired too late: if only I’d known then what I know now, how much smarter, abler, stronger, I would have been. But nothing really prepares you for kids, for the swells of emotion that roll through your chest like the rumble of boulders tumbling downhill, nor for the all-enveloping labor of it, the sheer mulish endurance you need for the six or seven hundred discrete tasks that have to be done each and every day. Such a small person! Not much bigger than a loaf of bread at first, yet it takes so much to keep the whole enterprise going. Logistics, skills, materiel; the only way we really learn is by figuring it out as we go along, and even then it changes on us every day, so we’re always improvising, which is a fancy way of saying that we’re doing things we technically don’t know how to do.”
― Ben Fountain

I remember keeping my mother on speed dial the first year of our firstborn’s life. There were so many things I had seen her do with my younger siblings that I had simply taken for granted. Sure, I had picked up some skills along the way, but there were things I had never been asked to do.

I remember when it came time to bathe our son. The thought struck me with terror. Probably something to do with the fact that my younger brother almost drowned in the bath on his first birthday, all while I, not much older than he, watched on oblivious. “Tyler’s blowing bubbles” I am quoted as having said.

Imagine my relief when I realized that you can sponge bathe a newborn, or that yes, there’s a bath for that.

Every Tuesday, I’ll be talking about a new father skill that I had to learn when I became a dad. There’s a lot to know and many things I’m still learning. You’d be surprised how much accomplishment you feel when the little guy burps for you after a feeding. It’s like an audible badge of honor.