A New Dad's Q&A

How can I afford a baby? And when can we have sex again? Expert answers to the questions new fathers ask most.

A New Dad's Q&A

I humbly ask your forgiveness for what I'm about to do. I'm about to break the No. 1 rule of being a man: Thou shalt not ask for directions. I have a good excuse. Perhaps like you, I've just become a dad for the first time. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information out there on how to be a father. It's not like you can go down to the local Home Depot and sign up for a fatherhood demonstration. (Noon: how to shim an entry door; 1 p.m.: how to mix grout; 2 p.m.: how to change diapers like the pros.) So I took my questions to baby experts, and here's what I found out.

Isn't it expensive to have a baby?

It can be. Before you begin your family, figure out your financial priorities. Certain expenses, such as health care and diapers, are a must; others, such as a bigger house and a designer baby wardrobe, aren't. Breastfeeding is one way to cut costs. Another is getting hand-me-downs and shopping at yard sales and discount or resale shops. (Just make sure the things you buy meet current safety standards.) But the real key to saving money is to avoid impulse buying. Write down what you absolutely need and stick to that list. —Eric Tyson, San Francisco-based financial counselor and author of Personal Finance for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide, 2nd edition, 1998) When can we have sex again?

Usually it's safe to have sex six weeks after delivery. However, if your wife had a vaginal delivery, the area may still be tender, especially if she also had an episiotomy or suffered any tearing. And if she's nursing, hormonal changes may make the vaginal tissue more delicate or drier than before delivery. If she had a Cesarean, keep in mind that it's major surgery, and she'll need time to recuperate. Her abdominal area may be particularly sore. In any case, be gentle and use her comfort level as a guide. Try new positions — maybe have her lie on her side — to see if that alleviates any discomfort. But don't be surprised if she's not interested in sex right away. She's going through a number of hormonal changes. She's also taking care of a newborn, so she's tired. In the meantime, try other ways of being intimate. There's more to sex than having intercourse. Ask her what you could do to make her feel good, such as setting a romantic mood, caressing her and telling her she's beautiful. You can spark her interest in having sex again. — Allan Lichtman, M.D., ob-gyn in private practice in Tarzana, Calif.

Can I taste the breast milk?

Absolutely! It tastes like sugary water. And wanting to taste it is completely normal. In fact, it's a sign of a healthy relationship. Take advantage of the situation: Your wife may not be in the mood for further intimacy for a while after giving birth. —Carol Huotari, reference librarian at La Leche League International in Schaumburg, Ill. How can I tell if my wife has postpartum depression, and what can I do about it?

Eight out of 10 new mothers experience mild depression, also called baby blues, usually within the first week after giving birth. Symptoms include rapid mood shifts and crying, all of which may resolve by 10–14 days after delivery. Offer your wife opportunities for rest (have her set aside a couple of hours a day for herself), reassurance (tell her she's a great mother), physical support (take care of the baby, go to the grocery store, wash the clothes) and emotional support (encourage her to talk about her feelings and really listen). The last thing you want to do is flip out. It may take her a couple of months to get better, but eventually she will. Most serious postpartum depression (PPD) affects up to 10 percent of new mothers. It can interfere with a woman's ability to care for her baby and may cause feelings of guilt and shame. If it lasts more than two weeks, she should seek professional help. Call your obstetrician or a support group, such as Postpartum Support International (805-967-7636) or Depression After Delivery, Inc. (800-944-4PPD). — Lori Altshuler, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Research Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine What's the secret to soothing a crying baby?

Most babies cry because they're hungry, especially in the first six months. Try feeding your baby first, then check to see if he needs a diaper change. You can also offer him a well-washed finger; babies love to suck. If he's still wailing, pick him up, gently pat his bottom, bounce and walk or dance around. As a last resort, put him in his car seat and take him on a drive; this will put him to sleep. — Jay Gordon, M.D., pediatrician in private practice in Santa Monica, Calif.

It may sound selfish, but when is my wife going to lose all that weight?

That depends on how much she gained. The weight that can be directly accounted for by the pregnancy—baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, extra blood, increased breast tissue and fat stores—adds up to around 20–25 pounds. The majority of women are able to lose most of that weight within six to eight weeks after giving birth. However, many women gain considerably more than that amount. If that's the case, the weight may take much longer to come off, and it's going to require some work. You can help your partner during this time by being supportive: Offer to take care of the baby so your wife can get out and get some exercise; help prepare low-fat, healthful meals for her; and encourage her to keep breastfeeding. Some experts feel that nursing may help women take off weight more quickly after birth. — Sharon Phelan, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham

close