Hello Charlee, My Name is Dad – Part III, My first weeks with baby

Today, Charlee turns two weeks old, and the transformation has been unreal. Physically, she is truly growing like a weed, but of course, the most beautifully stunning, exquisitely gorgeous weed you could imagine!

Here’s a little before and after for you:

IMG_6854 IMG_7269

To say that time has flown by is an understatement, and I can only imagine myself saying this same mantra weekly, monthly, yearly.

These weeks have definitely seen their share of emotional highs and lows, each presenting themselves in a multitude of situations.

As mentioned in my previous posts, the hospital was a very trying time for us all, but we overcame and are much stronger because of it, and for Charlee in particular, this is a literal truth.

She came home from the hospital having lost only 2 ounces from her birth weight (far less than the expected 10%), and since being home has put on an impressive 11 ounces in 8 days! I know this doesn’t sound like much, but as far as babies go, she’s a pretty high achiever!

Seeing as it’s two weeks in, I figure at this point, I can highlight some of the takeaways and advice I can provide with my vast fatherhood experience. Kidding aside, regardless of the small window there is a TON I’ve learned, and my first hand account of what’s worked for us can hopefully benefit other new dad’s in the early stages of their adventures in fatherhood.

For this post, I’m going to highlight 4 items in particular which, I wanted to stress, have been a huge factor in our success thus far with Charlee, and they are:

  1. Harvey Karp’s book “The Happiest Baby on the Block”;
  2. Dunstan Baby Language;
  3. Our newfound knowledge of breastfeeding; and
  4. My own personal thoughts on communicating in your relationship with your partner when you have a newborn in tow.

happiest-baby-on-the-block-book

First off, Dr. Karp’s Happiest Baby book.

This book was recommended by a slew of new parents we know, as being an excellent reference on how to deal with a ‘colicky’ baby. Colic technically refers to a baby younger than 5 months old who cries for more than three hours in a row on three or more days a week for at least three weeks. I know we’ve all heard babies crying – family members, acquaintances, or the crowd pleasing baby-in-a-public-space-who-just-won’t-give-it-a-rest. Imagine for a moment if that poor parent deals with that for 3 hour stretches throughout the majority of a week and the majority of a month – that’s soul crushing!

Fortunately, if you take the time to read Dr. Karp’s book and implement some of the strategies from the get go, you may benefit from never even having a ‘colicky’ baby… or so our experience has been thus far.

Dr. Karp’s book is quite extensive, but if you actually trim away a lot of the personal anecdotes and history of humanity, you get to the crux of his book being what he refers to as ‘the 5 S’s’ all based off the premise that after birth, your child enters the unofficial ‘fourth trimester’.

The principle of the fourth trimester is that your baby has been lovingly put up in this human presidential suite for three trimesters already, and the shock of entering a world so very different and inhospitable, is a shock to the poor little one’s system causing them to cry out in frustration.

The cure for this is to try one’s best to replicate the environment that they were so familiar with for the last 9 months, and thus we arrive at the 5 S’s: Swaddling, Side (or Stomach), Shhh-ing, Swinging, and Sucking. Done in order, or sometimes in combination, these methods effectively ease your crying baby back into a feeling of zen, and all becomes right in the world.

Often, the moment Charlee starts crying, we’ll immediately start swinging her back and forth with a loud and stern shhhhh, and let me tell you, it truly works like a charm.

The one caveat, and segue to my next topic, is that with the ability to understand Charlee’s newborn language, you should rarely have to initiative Dr. Karp’s technique… and that brings me to my second gem, the Dunstan Baby Language.

dunstan baby language

Now, since I have no affiliation with anybody, I’m not ashamed to admit that the only interaction I had with this theory was via a video shown in our prenatal class, and then a subsequent youtube clip with the founder on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Priscilla Dunstan, a former mezzo-soprano from Australia, first developed the theory and then spent 10 years traveling the world and meeting parents and babies from all walks of life. Her conclusion and theory is that there are 5 universal words that babies use to communicate. Again, these words are universal, so regardless of where you are and where your baby comes from, they will use these words to engage you and communicate 5 specific needs.

The words (or sound reflexes) are: (excerpt from wikipedia)

  • Neh (I’m hungry) – An infant uses the sound reflex “Neh” to communicate its hunger. The sound is produced when the sucking reflex is triggered, and the tongue is pushed up on the roof of the mouth.
  • Owh (I’m sleepy) – An infant uses the sound reflex “Owh” to communicate that they are tired. The sound is produced much like an audible yawn.
  • Heh (I’m experiencing discomfort) – An infant uses the sound reflex “Heh” to communicate stress, discomfort, or perhaps that it needs a fresh diaper. The sound is produced by a response to a skin reflex, such as feeling sweat or itchiness in the bum.
  • Eairh (I have lower gas) – An infant uses the sound reflex “Eairh” to communicate they have flatulence or an upset stomach. The sound is produced when trapped air from a belch is unable to release and travels to the stomach where the muscles of the intestines tighten to force the air bubble out. Often, this sound will indicate that a bowel movement is in progress, and the infant will bend its knees, bringing the legs toward the torso.This leg movement assists in the ongoing process.
  • Eh (I need to be burped) – An infant uses the sound reflex “Eh” to communicate that it needs to be burped. The sound is produced when a large bubble of trapped air is caught in the chest, and the reflex is trying to release this out of the mouth.

I kid you not…. THIS WORKS!

We are successful in avoiding any lengthy crying bouts due exclusively to this theory. It’s fascinating – Charlee makes a noise, we translate and address the situation – bingo, bango – happy baby!

There have been times where we’ll hear her “neh” and know that she’s hungry, but Becca will need to organize herself and ‘setup shop’ to start feeding, so in the interim while Charlee is continuing to ‘neh’, I’ll rely on the trusty 5 S’s from Dr. Karp, and shush her back to calmness.

I don’t want to jinx anything, but our techniques are so far working like a charm!

Charlee happens to be a champ at latching and eating, so we truly have lucked out, but this also took work. This brings me to my next trade secret to success, Breastfeeding.

Now I probably don’t need to mention this, but my role with breastfeeding is fairly removed from the actual process, but dads, let me tell you, you can and should play a large role.

Our routine, is that regardless of the time, but especially for the overnights, I’m waking up and in the room while Becca is breastfeeding.

I’m the diaper man – changing Charlee before, after, and even sometimes during. I’m the water boy, the towel guy, the burper extraordinaire. I’m the conversationalist, the time checker, and the reacher for anything just out of Becca’s grasps while feeding Charlee in the glider. In the hospital, I was the cup feeder, helping Charlee sip away at the supplemented milk while we were trying to encourage her consumption – why? – because this was something I actually could do.

One of the key messages in the Dunstan Baby Language theory, is that dads in the first 6 months of fatherhood, tend to feel less ‘involved’ in baby’s life compared to their partners.

It makes total sense.

While Becca can feed this child, and needs to in order to provide for her, Charlee is not even capable of communicating any connection with me, regardless of what I do. The ability to understand her 5 words, and also to contribute to the feeding sessions, is a great way of making your early mark as a father – an engaged parent who is there to be a part of your child’s upbringing even when it’s not mutually beneficial.

And this point about working with your partner, be it regarding breastfeeding together, staggering nap times, or scheduling walks around the neighbourhood, brings me to my last point – communication.

A little tête-à-tête with my daughter
A little tête-à-tête with my daughter

I’m not gonna lie – two weeks is not a long time, yet within it, we’ve had our struggles with communication. Struggles spawned from lack of sleep, heightened levels of frustration, and an overall sense of, at times, being quite overwhelmed. We want to entertain guests so that they can meet Charlee, yet also set boundaries so we don’t lose our minds. We want to be a team and parent united over our child, while also taking time to individually connect. We have other dependants, like Party, who needs to have the same level of attention as before, but also needs to be disciplined with the understanding that he’s sharing his house with a new addition. We have each other, and we need each other more so than ever before.

Two weeks in, and all of these things can be difficult to navigate.

I don’t have all the answers, and everyone has their opinions. But truth be told, communication is the fundamental basis for anything and everything.

Telling your partner that they’re acting crabby and shouldn’t be taking out there lack of sleep on you is justifiable and needs to be done the moment the feeling is recognized. If it’s pent up, a snowball of anger starts rolling downhill, and you know it’s just moments away from crashing. Trust me, you can tell your partner that their tone is shitty, or that they are busting your chops for no reason – you’ve had a baby with them… I know they can take it.

You both should know that the underlying theme of your togetherness, your parenting methods, your approach to each other, is love.


 

And there you have it… my little pearl’s of wisdom as a dad celebrating two weeks of fatherhood.

I know there are going to be new challenges and amazing events in the days, weeks, and years ahead. If these first weeks were any inclination as to what is to come, I know that Becca and I will be stronger and better parents for it, and Charlee will grow even more into the little masterpiece she is.

What are your thoughts?

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