Fatherhood The First Few Weeks, Part 1

Henry turned 5 weeks old yesterday. Everyone told us the first six weeks would be tough, and they have been, but not necessarily in the ways I expected. I thought I’d have the usual new parent war stories to tell by now — tales of colicky infants keening the night away, immune to the comforts of milk, clean diapers or gentle rocking. Based on what I’d seen and heard from other new dads, I prepared myself for a zombie-like existence at work. I pictured myself slumped before the computer screen with dull, red eyes staring blankly at imaginary reruns of the 2 a.m. infomercials I’d watched the night before in a vain attempt to soothe the baby.

Knocking on my desk of engineered wood as I write this, I’m pleased to report that my first few weeks with Henry have not been the typical exercise in sleep deprivation that I know many new parents endure. Certainly I’m not sleeping as well as I’d like, but I’m getting enough rest to navigate through the workday and the afternoon traffic without hurting myself or anyone else. On a good night, I can sometimes approach eight hours in two or three stints.

When my wife Helen reads this, she will rightfully insist that I clarify this last point. There’s a price to pay for my restful nights. Henry (and his father) can sleep soundly on two conditions: He must be held in a constant, maternal embrace, and he must nurse often. Naturally, the burden of meeting these requirements falls heavily on my wife. Helen cannot even dream — or rather hallucinate — about the delicious depths of sleep I have just described because she is allowed fitful rest only during brief windows between Henry’s eight to 10 daily feedings.

This brings me to the most unexpectedly difficult aspect of new parenthood thus far: breast-feeding. In the weeks leading up to the birth, we learned in our Bradley Method classes about lactation consultants — specialized nurses who help new mothers master the finer points of breast-feeding. I must admit that I scoffed at the idea when I first heard of it; after all, haven’t women through the ages successfully suckled infants without the aid of professional consultants? It struck me that the sort of people who employ lactation consultants are the same souls who keep pet therapists and psychic hotlines in business.

Part 1: A New Father’s Diary
Part 2: A New Father’s Diary
Rediscovering Natural Childbirth
The Lamaze Philosophy of Birth
The Bradley Method Philosophy
The Signs of Labor
When Is Inducing Labor Necessary?
Pain Relief in Labor
Parenting & Children’s Health Center

La Leche League International
NOTE: Any links to external sites will open in a new browser window. External sites are not part of drkoop.com, and drkoop.com has no control over their content or availability.

I changed my tune when we left the hospital and Henry’s increasingly fussy behavior indicated that he was not getting enough to eat. On the Sunday afternoon following Henry’s birth, Helen paged a lactation consultant who had been referred to us through the Bradley classes.

To our great relief, she called back within the hour, advised us to supplement Henry’s diet with formula, and set an appointment for the following morning.

Comments are closed.