So here are 20 things I had to learn on my own during the first week of my new baby boy’s life. (That the baby is now two months old and I am only now getting to turn my notes into a blog post is just a small indicator of how busy a small person can make a big person):
1) Don’t hold the baby while brushing your teeth. The pointy toothbrush handle can reach from your mouth to the baby’s face. Luckily, I realized this before anything happened.
2) When burping the baby by patting him on the back, you can keep rhythm by singing him a song with a strong beat. Good ones include “Give Up the Funk,” “Proud Mary,” and “When I Ruled the World.” Patriotic songs also work, especially “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” (“Mama Said Knock You Out” is a great one, except if mama walks in on you while you are using it.)
3) If you feed the baby first, the puppy will whine and annoy the baby during his bottle, making feeding difficult. If you feed the puppy first, the baby will lose his patience and cry, making feeding difficult. Anyone who can figure this one out deserves a Nobel.
4) Babies hate cold. They hate it more than great-aunt Tillie who flees to Ft. Lauderdale when the first autumn leaf hits the sidewalk. Cold rooms, cold hands, cold bottles— all bad. Also, your “room temp” is baby’s “deep freeze.” So you put socks on him. He will kick off the socks. So he has to be bundled in a blanket. He will then kick off the blanket.
5) Babies look like whoever is holding them, according to the people looking at the ones holding them. Exception: If your wife is prettier than you, the baby looks like her. Exception to the exception: If the baby undeniably looks more like you, you will hear: “The baby looks like you— I’m sorry.”
6) Gifts brought to the hospital are appreciated at the hospital. They are less so on the way to the car with your first-time-in-a-car-seat-newborn, your post-partum wife, and several pieces of luggage, plus the discharge papers, which cannot be packed. Helium balloons are especially hard to wrestle into cars, and they block your rear-view unless they are in the trunk… and then you have to remember you have ceiling fans at home.
7) You don’t have enough blankies. You could have an automatic blankie-dispenser, or live over a blankie factory, and you won’t have enough blankies. You know how you go through a box of tissues when you have a bad cold? Like that, but every day you wash the same 17 blankies.
8) Mechanical swing + pacifier = just enough time to shower.
9) Not all baby-bottle nipples are created equal. In fact, there is more variety here than with shoes. There are sizes, shapes, materials, and “flow-rates” to consider, not to mention the viscosity of the fluid passing through the nipple and its likelihood of clogging the nipple. Too slow frustrates the baby; too fast gags the baby. Choosing a car is easier than finding the nipple your baby likes. And his preference will change in a week.
10) Some babies are clenched. They have that “put up your dukes” pose, and bent knees, too, because they have yet to get used to the fact that they are no longer in the womb, where that posture was the only one available for months. Yes, they eventually open up, but knowing this does not make getting clothes and diapers on him easier now. It’s like dressing a doll with steel springs for joints.
11) Aside from blankies, you don’t have enough batteries. You don’t have enough outlets. You don’t have time to download the 1,372 photos you take every day and forward them to desperate relatives.
12) Babies are natural clowns. Last Comic Standing would be vastly improved if the comics were replaced by babies waking up, nodding off, and in “awake-alert” modes.
13) Just because they make the nursing, pursing-lip face does not mean they are hungry. Some babies just like to suckle as a way of calming themselves. You will not know which he means until the pacifier comes rocketing back at your face.
14) Feeding every three hours is a guideline. Feeding on demand is more the rule.
15) Milk to a baby is like beer to an adult: first the chugging, then the burping, then the spewing, and then the passing out.
16) Onesies have three snaps in the, um, crotch-al area. Just use the middle one. If you try to line up all three on a squirming tush, you will fail. Even if you succeed, then you have three whole snaps to undo and redo every time you change the diaper. And they are designed to hold so fast you are more likely to tear the fabric than unsnap them.
17) Don’t both get up every time the baby cries at night. Here’s what we do: I went to sleep at 11:00 pm, while my wife stayed up until 5:30 am. Which is when I got up and took over while she slept until noon or 1:00 pm. Then we still have the whole afternoon and evening together, and both of us have had a relatively full sleep. Once I came back to work, we added a nanny to the mix so each of us three adults were on 8-hour baby shifts.
18) When the baby falls asleep on you, wait until he is really asleep, then put him down in his crib or car seat. But yes, then put him down. Eight pounds becomes 80 after two hours. If you let him learn that he can only sleep on your arm, you will get a cramp that laughs at tennis elbow.
19) There is an app for that. While in the hospital, I found one that timed contractions. And another than generates white noise. This is good for simulating the sounds the baby heard when in utero, and it’s remarkably calming for them. Also the Shabbat service because we were still in the hospital over Shabbat, but I didn’t consider that possibility and had not packed my siddur. I know, I shouldn’t have used the phone on Shabbat at all, but it was either that or not pray. Only after we got home did it occur to me that I could have contacted the hospital’s chaplain.
20) There are at least 20 more things just on the topic of what the baby books don’t tell you about poop, but I won’t go there…