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The New Dads' Survival Kit

Congratulations! After several hours of grueling labor by your partner, duly aided by your coaching and support, your brand new bundle of joy has finally arrived. Welcome to the world of midnight feedings, sleep deprivation, and huge quantities of diapers!

You have distributed cigars at work and gazed wondrously into your infant's eyes. You have stocked the nursery with books, videos, and classical music tapes. But after a few sleepless nights, calls to the pediatrician, and advice from well-meaning in-laws, it hits you. This thing called parenthood is a lot more difficult than you thought. Luckily, you are not the first parent to struggle through these challenges, you are definitely not alone! The problems and solutions outlined below will provide a great deal of support for you, your partner, and the baby.

Sleep Deprivation

Nobody told you that as a new dad you would become the subject in a sleep deprivation experiment. If the mom is breastfeeding, you may find that your little bundle of joy wants to be fed every 2-3 hours; formula-fed babies tend to sleep a bit longer between feedings. Either way, the circles under your eyes are becoming deeper and your patience is wearing thin.

The good news is that the baby will eventually fall into a regular sleep regimen. The bad news, this usually does not happen until he reaches 6-8 months of age. Just when you think you cannot take another sleepless night, your little one will finally adopt a regular sleeping and eating routine.

Here is what you can do to make this stage easier:

Postpartum Depression

One of the most difficult transitions that you and your partner will make is dealing with the arrival of a baby. Besides the enormous physical and emotional accommodations that occur, women also undergo dramatic physiological changes. The hormones that reached peak levels at the end of your wife's pregnancy suddenly drop off after delivery.

After delivery, many women experience what is typically known as "baby blues," as explained by Dr. Valerie Raskin, in her book, This Isn't What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression. According to Raskin, "Baby blues is actually not an illness, and it will resolve on its own. It is often confused with PPD (postpartum depression), however, because sadness and crying are so common in both conditions." Dr. Raskin explains that many women who give birth experience "a brief, temporary moodiness, sometimes with crying, sadness, irritability, or frustration." Postpartum depression, on the other hand, tends to be chronic and the symptoms may present themselves in a number of ways including chronic sadness, anxiety, fear, obsessive thoughts or actions, thoughts of harming the baby, confusion, feelings of being overwhelmed, anger, and resentment.

Your partner may experience some or all of these symptoms and it is important that you seek medical attention immediately. Do not try to diagnose postpartum depression by yourselves. A woman is more predisposed to postpartum depression if she has had difficulty with depression or anxiety prior to her pregnancy.

Here is what to do if you suspect your wife has postpartum depression:

Colic and Fussy Times

You may be blessed with a very calm baby, or you may find that your little one is fussy during certain times of the day or night. One of the most frequent complaints of new parents is dealing with a baby that has colic.

Pediatricians define colic as three or more hours of continuous crying and fussing. While some physicians feel that colic may be due to a milk or formula allergy, others attribute colic to the baby's individual temperament. A colicky baby does not sleep well, cries incessantly, and is unresponsive to attempts to comfort her.

Here are several techniques to help soothe a colicky baby, but first you should call your pediatrician to rule out other, more serious, medical problems.

The tips provided here are only a starting point; there is a wealth of information and support for new parents. Good luck with your little one. Take the time to appreciate the joys of infancy and early childhood. After all, it is only a matter of time before they ask for the keys to the car!

RESOURCES:

National Fatherhood Initiative
http://www.fatherhood.org/

Pregnancy.org
http://www.pregnancy.org/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

About Kids Health
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/

Men's Health Centre
http://www.menshealthcentre.net/

REFERENCES:

Kleiman KR, Rasking VD.This Isn't What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression.New York, NY: Bantam Books; 1194.