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1. BABIES LIKE THINGS TOPSY-TURVY
Whether they’re being tossed in the air, swung between your legs or suspended upside down by the ankles, older babies (not infants who can’t support their heads) will gurgle with delight during energetic acrobatics.
TIP: Grasp your baby by his torso, not his arms.
2. BABIES APPRECIATE A GOOD MESS
Moms tend to freak out when a baby starts pulling scraps out of the garbage or upends a box of Cheerios. So after you’re done laughing, assure her you’ll do the cleanup.
TIP: “Encourage your wife to roll up her sleeves and make a mess together,” says Christine D’Amico, a life coach and author of The Pregnant Woman’s Companion (Attitude Press). “It will allow her to break out, too.”
3. IT’S OK FOR BABIES TO CRY SOMETIMES
When your wife’s sympathetic sobs rival your baby’s, remind her that crying is just what babies do. It doesn’t mean she’s doing a bad job. “Dads are a calm force,” says D’Amico, “particularly at times when a baby can be expected to cry, such as when he’s getting a shot.” TIP: Stay upbeat and supportive.
4. IT’S A BABY’S JOB TO TRY TO LEAVE THE NEST
Fathers are more likely to encourage a child’s first steps toward independence. “Babies can do more than moms think they can,” says Armin Brott, author of The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year (Abbeville Press).
TIP: Make sure mom sees how much fun your baby’s having when he’s pushing the limits, like crawling up stairs.
5. BABIES CAN BE INSCRUTABLE
What’s going on inside that brain the size of a pigeon’s? By the time you figure it out, your 15-pound party is confounding you with a new dilemma. Being in the dark won’t bother you, but it drives moms crazy. “Babies are stressful to care for,” D’Amico says. “Men remember this more easily and are able to distance themselves from the stress.”
TIP: Suggest she take time for herself to recharge, and help make it happen.
6. BABIES DON’T ALWAYS NEED A BREAST TO FALL ASLEEP
One of your major missions is learning how to wrap, shush and rock your baby to sleep. Eventually, your skill will prove invaluable when mom decides she needs an alternative to nursing at bedtime. TIP: Offer to lie down with the little critter and let your wife get a head start on some sleep of her own.
7. BABIES WILL SURVIVE SOMEONE ELSE’S CARE
“A man can leave the baby with someone and know he can come back and the baby will be fine,” D’Amico says. “It’s important for a man to help a new mom realize she won’t scar the child for life if she leaves him for an hour.”
TIP: First babysitter? First drop-off at day care? Be there with her.
8. ATTENTION COMPENSATES FOR TECHNIQUE EVERY TIME
Sometimes doing their best is not enough for new moms; they strive for perfection. Dads, on the other hand, tend to be confident, calm and blithely unaware of their shortcomings.
TIP: Praise her, then pitch in. “A woman who’s having problems can feel horribly guilty,” Brott says. “That’s when a dad’s help can make a huge difference.”
9. BABIES DON’T ALWAYS GO BY THE BOOK
Parenting instruction manuals will start appearing in a huge pile on her night table, and you probably won’t read more than a paragraph. But your reductionist instincts will pay off when she comes across conflicting information on issues like soothing, sleeping and nursing. That’s when you can help her follow her heart. TIP: Be the half of the team that sticks to the basics: change, feed, burp, soothe. Rinse and repeat.