Rad Dad Stories: The Deployed Dad-to-Be

image1 (1)

Army dad Paul and his baby, just after birth (Photo courtesy of the Schmidt family)

Editor’s note: This is a continuation of our ‘Rad Dad stories’ series, which we started in our inaugural magazine. This series features interviews from real dads and moms about their experiences. To be featured in a future blog post or magazine, please contact us at info@raddadbox.com

If you do a Google search on how dads can be involved during pregnancy, childbirth, or during the newborn days, you’ll find a plethora of articles (ours included!) with answers to these questions. Talk to the baby while he/she is still in the womb. Massage your partner’s arms and hips while she’s in labor. Make sure you have skin-to-skin time with baby, too.

But what if you, Dad, can’t be there for these moments? Many military dads, for example, are deployed during the entire pregnancy and even during childbirth and the first few months of the baby’s life. Some may be present for part of the pregnancy and during childbirth, but may have to deploy soon after the baby is born. How can dads bond with their babies in situations like these?

To help answer some of these questions, we spoke with a customer of ours, Kelsey Schmidt, whose husband, Paul, serves in the United States Army. Kelsey and her husband welcomed their son into the world last April 2017.

The Rad Dad Box: Was your husband deployed during your pregnancy? Childbirth? Or soon after?

Kelsey Schmidt: My husband deployed when I was two months pregnant. He was originally supposed to be deployed for nine months, meaning that he would only come back when our baby was three months old, but due to unforeseen circumstances, and what I believed to be the universe being on our side, Paul was able to come home 4 months early….TWO weeks before our baby was due! He was there for the birth, but then was called away to duty again almost a month later for another 6 weeks.

The Rad Dad Box: With your husband’s deployment, what did you as a family do to help foster his bond with the baby?

Kelsey: Before he left for deployment, we got a recording story book and had Dad read it so baby would know his voice. With hormones raging at the time, of course, I sobbed in the kitchen while hearing him record our baby’s storybook knowing how he was secretly afraid thinking our baby wouldn’t know who he was when he returned.

With military OB/GYN clinics, at least in our experience, you are just offered one ultrasound (anatomy scan). So we found a place that did private ultrasounds that allowed us to hear the heartbeat for the first time and see the baby at 8 weeks. We received a little heart that you could press and played a recording of the baby’s heartbeat, which my husband took with him overseas. They also had a gender package where you could find out at 15 weeks, which was a week before he was due to leave. We found out we were having a boy! So we went shopping and Dad picked out two coming home outfits–something we would put in the baby’s special box and keep forever. Just days before he left, we purchased a home doppler so he was able to hear and feel our boy’s first kick.

image2 (1)

Baby Max (Photo courtesy of the Schmidt family)

The Rad Dad Box: You and Paul spent the majority of the pregnancy apart. Were you able to communicate regularly, via phone or Skype? I also imagine that it must be difficult to be separated during such a time. Did you have any family or friends around for support?

Kelsey: Paul left on Halloween and I had 7 months left of being pregnant, with family hours away. Luckily I had started school earlier in the year so I had the support of some of the girls in my class. If it weren’t for a couple of them, I don’t know how I could’ve survived! If someone offers help- TAKE IT! Although I’m a very independent person (and still felt guilty), I accepted any help I could get. Baby comes first which means your body comes first.

Unfortunately, because of the location where Paul was deployed he didn’t have great signal which meant video/voice chat was a no-go. With limited communication it was hard not knowing what he was feeling- was he excited? Scared? Happy? (Of course I knew he was all of these things, it’s just nice to see it). And of course the hormones started raging once again, making myself think maybe he wasn’t? Or afraid he didn’t know what was about to hit him when he returned. As crappy as it is, there’s not much you can do about these thoughts but tell yourself it’s just hormones! Though I knew I most likely wouldn’t get replies most of the time, I messaged him daily updating him on everything knowing he would receive them eventually.

The Rad Dad Box: You mentioned that Paul was able to come home two weeks before you were due. How was it like to see each other after so long and so many changes?

Kelsey: He was shocked, but he was also excited how big my belly had gotten! He talked to our baby every night before he came into the world on April 4, 2017.

The Rad Dad Box: Can you share your birth story and how Paul was involved?

Kelsey: I was scheduled for a cesarean and the look on his face after putting on scrubs is something I will never forget- you could tell every thought in the world was running through his head.

The baby was born, and you can see dad mode automatically turned on. I will say the hospitals are GREAT when it comes to involving dads during the birthing process. He cut the cord and helped weigh/measure our son. About an hour after delivery, our boy Max was taken to the NICU due to fluid in his lungs (common after a c-section). I told Paul not to leave our baby, as I was unable to leave the bed. Paul gave Max his first bath and for the second time I saw a photo of our baby’s face without all of the headgear he had to wear in the NICU. The next week consisted of trips back and forth to the NICU, Paul delivering the breast milk in the middle of the night I spent time pumping and him sleeping on the uncomfortable chair bed when I was forced to go to bed and rest.

After coming home and enjoying every second with our happy healthy boy, less than a month later, duty called and Paul was away for another 6 weeks.

image3

Baby Max just after birth (Photo courtesy of the Schmidt family)

The Rad Dad Box: Do you have any advice for military families who are going through the same or a similar situation?

Know that the hard times of being apart will pass and the love will always be there. Just like Mom, Dad mode doesn’t turn off! If you have older children, SEND CARE PACKAGES! A simple card or letter means more than you know. And lastly the thing i think is probably most important and simple, bring dad up in conversations every day. Military life is unpredictable, take advantage of EVERY SECOND you have together!

 

 

 

How to make her first Mother’s Day special

IMG_1775 copy

Although we look out for dads here at The Rad Dad Box, we want you to know that we haven’t forgotten about Mom! (After all, this company was founded by a mom!) Part of being a Rad Dad is also being a Rad Husband, and with Mother’s Day coming up, we have a few suggestions on how you can make your partner’s day special, especially if it’s her first or second Mother’s Day (or her Mom-to-be Day!).

  1. Surprise her by dressing Baby in a “Happy Mother’s Day” onesie. There’s a reason why Mom- and Dad-themed onesies are so popular – we all like to feel appreciated! A mom-themed onesie will be very touching, and shows that you’ve thought ahead and planned for this! There are plenty of Mother’s Day onesies for sale on Amazon and with two-day shipping, you can still get them in time for Mother’s Day!
  2. Make her a special Mother’s Day card, and get Baby to contribute. We actually included an activity to make a Mother’s Day card in our May box, but due to issues with other products in the May box (sigh), we won’t be able to ship these in time for Mother’s Day. However, handmade cards and gifts have a special meaning that just can’t be bought with store-bought cards. So sit down with some cardstock and your medium of choice and get working on one! Baby can contribute in different ways, depending on her age – via fingerprints, handprints, or coloring! If she’s still expecting, make her a special Mom-to-be card – it will be appreciated, trust us!
  3. Give her a Mom-themed children’s book. We always encourage Dads to read to their babies as a way to bond with them, and the same goes for Moms! A mom-themed children’s book will help instill the love of reading and Mom in your baby and make Mom feel appreciated at the same time! A few great Mom-themed books we recommend are Mommies are Amazing by Meredith Costain, Stephan Lomp’s Mamasaurus, and Taro Gomi’s Mommy Mommy!
  4. Give her a gift that isn’t related to motherhood. Don’t get me wrong, motherhood, fatherhood, parenthood – it’s amazing and it changes you in ways you never would have imagined. But sometimes, it’s nice to be reminded of who you are outside of your role as a parent. So, give her a gift of something she enjoyed pre-parenthood – whether it’s a mystery novel, a CD from one of her favorite bands, or a set of spice rubs.

We also spoke to a few moms and asked them what their partners did to make their first mother’s (or mom-to-be) day special. The silence, to be honest, was shocking. Most women could not even remember and one even told us, “I can’t remember and if I can’t remember, it probably wasn’t anything special.” Dads, don’t be that person! We hope this list has given you some ideas, but perhaps you will draw some inspiration from the few (two) moms we spoke to whose husbands did something memorable for them on Mother’s Day:

“For my mom-to-be day, my husband bought me a card of a painting with flowers, and then he found those flowers and planted them in the garden in our backyard the night before Mother’s Day.” – M., mother of 1

“For my first mother-to-be day, my husband got me a stuffed animal baby toy that plays a lullaby. Every child has played with it since. We’ll probably keep it forever.” – S., mother of 4

Dads, now that we’ve given you all of our ideas, and then some, you have no excuse! Be that Rad Dad and give Awesome Mom an unforgettable Mother’s Day!

When push comes to shove: How dads can be involved during labor

labor pains

This post is for all the Dads-to-be! So, you’ve bought the car seat, the stroller, the crib, and you’ve stocked up on diapers, wipes, baby clothes, and almost every baby necessity you can think of. You’ve taken and attended childbirth and baby care classes with your partner. The hospital bags have been packed and are sitting by the door. The big day is almost here.

Now, you’re afraid that you’ve forgotten everything you learned about childbirth in your classes. What positions are best? What about breathing exercises? Your partner doesn’t remember either, and you both start panicking. But never fear – that’s why we’re here! We’ve been there! To help, we also spoke with 20 couples (and drew on our own personal experience) about how dads can be involved during childbirth and have put together this guide for you. Read on for more!

  1. Review birthing positions and breathing exercises as the “big day” approaches, and make suggestions and reminders to your partner during labor. Although most of the couples we spoke to told us that they completely forgot the breathing exercises while in the delivery room, it’s still helpful to review them, as well as different positions for birth, and when to push (even if the doctor/nurse will instruct you on all of these). Watch YouTube videos on this while you’re waiting for baby to come, and you’ll feel more confident and better prepared.
  2. Massage your partner’s hips, back, and arms during labor. Childbirth is hard on a woman’s body – it’s called “labor” for a reason! If you and your partner are doing a natural birth, she’ll probably be constantly changing positions, which strains the arms and legs. Dads can help here by massaging their partner’s hips and arms when they get sore.
  3. Help your partner relax. Another obvious fact: giving birth is stressful! Dads can help their partner relax by speaking in a quiet, soothing voice, holding their partner’s hand, telling her what a great job she’s doing, or, sometimes, just by not saying anything at all.
  4. Keep your partner cool during labor. Like any exercise, childbirth causes the body to heat up! Help keep your partner cool by feeding her ice chips. Ask your hospital in advance if they provide hand-held fans – if not, include one in your hospital bag and fan her during during labor.
  5. Make a playlist. Music will help distract and calm your partner down, so, while you still have a chance, make a playlist of her favorite songs and give it to the nurses to play during labor.
  6. Have mints/gum ready! Chalk this one up under the same category as the playlist, which is, “things you should do so your partner doesn’t have to think about it.” Mints and/or gum are helpful to have *after* the birth, when you’re still in the hospital and receiving visitors.
  7. Be present and encourage your partner. This was the most common piece of advice we received from the moms and dads we spoke to. Childbirth is a challenge, and it’s no wonder that dads have been present in delivery rooms for the last 40 years. Your presence and support is needed during this time. Above all else, be there and be supportive and encouraging throughout the entire process.

We also wanted to add some words of advice for couples who undergo C-sections (whether it’s scheduled or an emergency procedure). Dads can still be involved in both situations. With a C-section birth, it’s important to be there and hold your partner’s hand (if she asks). If it’s an emergency C-section, it’s possible that this may not be the ideal birth experience your partner wanted. Try to reassure her and tell her that the most important thing is that the baby will be safe and healthy. Also, since C-sections require total anesthesia from the waist down, your partner may not be able to walk for a few hours afterwards, so you will likely be the first one who changes the baby’s diaper and cares for the baby while your partner recovers and regains sensation in her legs.

Do you have any advice for expecting dads, and how they can be involved during childbirth? Let us know in the comments!

The Fifth Trimester and beyond: How Dads can bond with older babies

IMG_0097

By the time a baby hits the three-month milestone, most families have settled into a comfortable routine.  Most babies by this point are sleeping for longer during the night (5-6 hours), which gives both parents a much-needed break. If you’re lucky, your baby may even be sleeping through the night! (If you are one of these people, we envy you!)

As some things become easier, though, others become harder.  From six months on, babies start to develop their own opinions, and they aren’t afraid to express them – usually in the form of a temper tantrum! And unlike newborns, who tend to fall asleep at the drop of a hat, it may take more cajoling to get an older baby to nap. Calming techniques which worked on baby from 0-3 months may no longer work. And as babies become more mobile, they require a more watchful eye.

Some dads may step up naturally and start interacting with their babies more at this stage, but other dads may be uncertain or too shell-shocked from the 0-3 month phase to know how to proceed. To explore the post-newborn phase, we teamed up with Anthony Kim, author of A Man’s Guide to Newborn Babies and blogger at A Dad’s Guide (ADadsGuide.org), to provide a guide on how Dads can bond with their babies after the newborn (0-3 month) phase is over.

As with any stage, the challenges that come up as babies grow older are counterbalanced with benefits, one of them being more and deeper opportunities to develop the parent-child bond. “The best thing about getting past the newborn stage is richer interaction between parents and their baby,” Anthony says. “As babies get older, communication ceases to be one-way and their communication abilities grow by leaps and bounds.”

Here are 9 tips on how Dads can form excellent bonds with their little ones once they get past the newborn stage.

img_4118-small.jpg

  1. Reading time with Dad. We previously advised dads to start reading to their babies from day one: it’s not only helpful for brain and language development, but it also is a great bonding experience for dad and baby. As your baby gets older, continue reading to him/her. “Reading to your baby teaches language cadences and stimulates the imagination,” Anthony says. “As your baby gets older, they will pick up the connections between pictures and words, steadily building their vocabulary.” Around three months, babies will start responding to the illustrations by widening their eyes, shaking their arms and legs, and expressing interest/excitement. Around one year of age, babies will start pointing to pictures in the books and asking you to recite what each illustration is!DSCN2059
  2. Dads and their children benefit from spending at least one day a week having adventures together. Both Anthony and Mitya Gimon, our Rad Dad-in-Residence, were in agreement on this. When Dads go out as a family, any attention they receive usually goes to the baby. However, when dads go out alone with their babies, they are perceived as fathers. Being recognized as a father is important for dads, Gimon says. And it doesn’t have to be a huge outing – Anthony suggests that simply going to the park, the local pet store, or a walk down Main Street are great options. After all, your little one’s world is pretty small to begin with, so just stepping out the door is an adventure! Furthermore, Anthony adds, going for a mini-adventure with your baby is a great bonding experience for both dad and baby!15723413_10154321385547736_2364216528179017239_o
  3. Introduce the baby to your interests. The period between 3-12 months – that is, the period before the baby starts to develop strong opinions and expressing them – is an ideal time to introduce the baby to your interests. Take them to the museum to look at art, to the forest for hiking, to the beach to play in the sand and see the ocean, to restaurants to show them different foods and smells – any experience that you enjoy and want to share with your child. Even if baby can’t do much at this age aside from observe, each new experience helps develop your baby’s brain. Plus, it’s good for everyone in the family to get out of the house!  DSCN0652
  4. Around baby’s first birthday, dads can introduce baby to things that he/she may like. By one year of age, your baby will start developing preferences and won’t be afraid to express them – usually in the form of a temper tantrum! Most babies start walking between 10 and 16 months, which is a perfect time to take baby to the playground, for example. It’s also around this time when they start appreciating events geared towards children: sing-a-longs, fairs, parades, apple/strawberry/blueberry picking, and interactive children’s museums, to name a few.    DSCN0673
  5. As baby is weaned from breast milk, dads can prepare baby’s food and/or feed the baby. In the beginning, many dads whose partners are breastfeeding may feel useless as baby is receiving all of his/her nutrition from breast milk. (New dads, please know that this is not true! There are many ways you can be involved with breastfeeding and with your newborn baby in general.) The process of weaning (which usually starts between 4-6 months) is a perfect opportunity for Dads to become more involved in providing sustenance to baby. If you’re a dad who likes to cook, this is the time to experiment with purees! If you need a little guidance, we recommend the book 201 Organic Baby Purees by Tamika L. GardnerSosi Safe is also a great online resource for baby and toddler recipes. Dads who don’t enjoy cooking can still participate by spoonfeeding cereal and purees (either handmade or store-bought) to baby. It will help you and your baby feel closer to each other, and you may also feel a sense of pride in bringing nourishment to your child!IMG_6723 edited
  6. Play games. This is the age when you can really start having fun with your baby! It’s also a great way for Dads to continue to strengthen their bond with their children. Games and toys that we recommend for the 6 month (and older stage) include:
    1. Peekaboo! Babies love peekaboo, and all this game requires are your hands (or a blanket) and your time! Change it up a little by “peeking” out from a different side. And watch for the moment when Baby will start to play with you (usually between 8 and 9 months) – this is an amazing development and opens the doors for even richer interaction!
    2. Clapping games. At 6 months, your baby is probably a while away from clapping herself, but babies love noise and music. Try a round of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” and see how he responds!
    3. Building blocks. Again, at 6 months, Baby most likely won’t be stacking blocks, but she will love knocking them down! This is another great way for Dad and baby to spend some time together and have fun at the same time.
    4. Musical instruments, such as a xylophone or mini-piano. Although the instructions on the toy xylophone say that it is for babies 18 months and older, that doesn’t mean that Mom and Dad (who are definitely older than 18 months!) can’t start using it earlier! A 6 month old baby may not have the coordination to use the xylophone, but it doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy listening to their parents bang away on it! The same goes for mini-pianos. And by the time Baby reaches 18 months, we guarantee that they will enjoy playing on both!
    5. Bubbles. Grab a bottle of bubble liquid (or make it yourself) and blow bubbles in your baby’s direction. They will love it!
    6. Bath toys. Once baby can sit up, she will enjoy playing with her toys during bathtime. Play with her! The rubber ducky is a reliable favorite, but squirt toys from Munchkin and water pipes from Boon Toys are also a hit in our house!DSCN0089
  7. Use anything and everything to entertain them. One of the most wonderful things about babies 3 months and older is how easily they are entertained. Sit with them for a minute or two in front of the dryer as it’s drying clothes (if you have a front-load dryer with a transparent door) – they’ll be fascinated! Wiggle your toes in front of baby – they won’t be able to stop laughing! Stick out your tongue and make funny faces, and you’ll be rewarded with a huge grin! Use your imagination and it’s likely your baby will love it!
  8. Continue doing everything we suggested in our newborn post that is still applicable. Even after your partner has recovered from giving birth, continue giving regular baths to baby. Bottle-feed baby as long as he hasn’t rejected the bottle. Keep reading to baby, as we mentioned earlier. Continued involvement past the newborn stage will strengthen your bond with the baby and will be much appreciated by your partner.
  9. Meet the challenge of keeping the marriage strong as baby gets older. Although not directly related to father-child bonding, Anthony also recommends striving for a peaceful, loving marriage by dividing childcare and household responsibilities, and having regular date nights as baby gets older. All of these contribute to a happier and healthier family, and a better overall environment for the baby to grow up in.

All in all, as babies grow older, there are more and richer opportunities for Dads to be involved and strengthen their relationship with their children. Our suggestions are simply the tip of the iceberg, merely to get you started. Have any suggestions? Let us know in the comments!

How dads-to-be can be involved and bond with baby during pregnancy

 

expecting-dad-bond-with-baby

We all know that dads are much more involved nowadays than in generations past. These days, dads actually attend childbirth classes with their wives and are present during the baby’s birth. (Although, to be fair, that has been the trend since the 1970s.) Although expecting dads are stepping up to the plate more, some may still find it hard to bond with their babies-to-be, and may need a little nudging on how to be more involved during pregnancy. So, aside from attending childbirth classes, what are some other ways expecting dads can be involved?

  1. Attend childbirth classes. Yes, this list is supposed to be about other ways dads can be involved aside from childbirth classes, but this is so important that I want to emphasize it again. If your schedule permits, you should definitely do this. Nowadays, dads are expected to be active participants in the baby’s birth, which also means educating yourself on childbirth and labor.
  2. Attend the OB/GYN check-ups. Try to attend as many doctor’s appointments with your partner as your schedule permits, Jane Zhao from Baby Got Pack says. As with the childbirth classes, making this effort shows that you care. These appointments also keep you informed of the baby’s progress, and give you an opportunity to feel closer to your partner and baby.
  3. Attend breastfeeding classes. You would be surprised at how many dads are absent at breastfeeding classes. While it’s common to shelve this under “Mom’s thing,” it’s also important to remember that many women struggle with breastfeeding in the beginning. By educating yourself on breastfeeding, you will be positioned to help your partner and Baby should any issues arise. Don’t know where to start? Sign up for the breastfeeding class with your partner, and check out our previous post on how dads can help with breastfeeding.
  4. Do the heavy lifting. If you are there during the pregnancy (meaning , for example, you are not deployed or for another reason can’t be present), don’t let your partner lift anything heavy. This means, no big boxes, no laundry baskets, no storage bins, heavy grocery bags, chairs, or anything else you can think of in that category. Although lifting heavy objects does not have a correlation with miscarriage, it’s best that your partner not strain herself too much physically during pregnancy.
  5. Be patient. We interviewed approximately 20 women for this article, and this was the most common advice. Pregnant women have all sorts of hormones raging through them, and can be emotional, moody, and sometimes downright mean. Just accept it, don’t take anything too personally, and let your partner just cry it out – literally and figuratively.
  6. Help with baby gear research. The majority of moms we spoke to told us that they were the ones doing the research into car seats, strollers, cribs, diapers, and all the products that come with babies. This is one area where more dads can step in and be involved with. Even just giving your opinion on a few big-ticket items like the car seat and crib is an immense help to your partner, who is most likely going cross-eyed from all the research.
  7. Set up the crib – or hire someone to do it. Guys, please don’t let your pregnant wife/partner assemble the crib. Please. Just don’t. If you’re not handy (or, as mentioned earlier, are deployed or not able to be physically present), just hire someone to do it.
  8. Talk to the baby. Babies can hear Dad’s voice in the womb, so if you can, try to talk to the baby at least once a day. You can talk about anything, really: how your day was, how excited you are to meet baby soon, and you can even start reading books to the baby. When I was pregnant, Mr. Rad Dad would sing, “Do you want to build a snowman?” (just that one line, from the movie Frozen) to the baby. After the baby was born, singing that one line would calm him down when he was crying!
  9. Buy a toy and clothes for the baby. Most dads may hate shopping for themselves, but many like to do a little shopping for the baby! Buying a cute toy or a few outfits can help expecting dads strengthen their bond with baby.
  10. Watch the baby move. This will be easier to do as the baby gets bigger, particularly in the third trimester, but spend a few minutes with your partner each night and just watch the baby move around. You can even play with the baby a little by pushing gently on the belly!

Need more ideas? Parents Magazine also has a great list of suggestions on how expecting dads can bond with baby!

Dads, how did you bond with baby in the womb? Let us know in the comments!

How to make your baby’s Halloween memorable and candy-free

DSCN0216

It’s October, which means that Halloween is coming up! If there’s any holiday associated with candy and all those sugary treats that your baby isn’t allowed to eat yet, it’s Halloween.

But even if your baby isn’t old enough to stand (much less go around the neighborhood trick-or-treating), there are still things you can do to celebrate the holiday and enjoy yourselves! Starting with…

  1. Dress Baby in a costume. Probably the most obvious, and the one parents are most eager to do, is to dress Baby in a cute costume! Luckily, costumes of all kinds can be found at stores, or you can make one of your own. We dressed our son as a Totoro last year – I took the lazy approach and sewed ears on a white hat, then dressed him in a white hoodie and white sweat pants.
  2. Visit a pumpkin patch. If your baby or toddler is already walking, they will be fascinated by the pumpkins and their vibrant orange colors! Ours ran around pointing at the pumpkins and making fascinated sounds of approval. Even if Baby isn’t walking, it’s a great excuse to get them out into the fresh air! They will be fascinated by the pumpkins, and it will be a great experience for them. Every new experience helps develop Baby’s brain, after all! (Rad Dad tip: dress Baby in orange for color-coordinated photos!)
  3. Create a Halloween keepsake. There’s more to Halloween than just candy, as we’ve already established! So make your little one’s first, second, or third Halloween memorable by creating a keepsake. We’ve included a pumpkin keepsake kit for our subscribers in our October Rad Dad Box (and will include a photo tutorial soon), but check out this article from Parents Magazine for more Halloween craft ideas for toddlers. It’s also a great way for dad, mom, and Baby to have fun together!
  4. Decorate a pumpkin. You may not want to wield a carving knife in front of your baby or toddler, but there are lots of ways to decorate a pumpkin without sharp objects. Buy some baby-safe paints and paint a face on the pumpkin. Make a teal pumpkin. You get the idea!
  5. Tell ghost stories with a flashlight. If you haven’t done it yet, flip off all the lights in your house at night. Then light up the flashlight. Your baby will love it! There’s just something about babies and lights… Tell ghost stories, Great Pumpkin stories, or other Halloween-themed stories and, if your baby is old enough, give them the flashlight to play with. They’ll enjoy it!
  6. Bake sugar-free Halloween cookies. If you’re a baking dad (or mom), you can find recipes here and here.
  7. If they are old enough, enlist their help in handing treats to trick-or-treaters. Most babies love interacting with older children, even if they don’t quite grasp the concept of play yet. It’s also a good social exercise for the baby. Answer the door with your cute costumed baby in your arms, and have baby hand out candy (or other treats) to the kids at the door!
  8. Take them trick-or-treating, but don’t let them eat the candy. This will be fun for both babies and toddlers! If your baby is younger than one, you can probably get away with this without inciting any tantrums. If Baby is older than one (that is, if Baby is a toddler), they may realize that candy is food and want some for themselves. Try to encourage them to play with the candy, but not eat it. Put the candy in a bowl, for example, then take it out. Use the candy to help them learn how to count. Then hide it away and give it away at your office (or eat it yourself :D). Yes, I know we’re sounding like those adults who gave out apples to trick-or-treaters when we were kids (and whom we all probably hated), but it’s for baby’s own good!

What are your plans for a sugar- and candy-free Halloween? Please share in the comments!

 

More great Dad-themed children’s books

I know it hasn’t been that long since our last post about Dad-themed children’s books, but since then, we took a trip to the library and discovered a whole new treasure trove of Dad-themed children’s books! Many of these were published in the last year, and we couldn’t not share these with you! So, in no particular order, here they are:

it's great being a dad1. It’s Great Being a Dad by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Gina Perry.  This book is part of the wave of Dad children’s books that was published earlier this year, and it’s a fun book! It starts out in a magical land of Loch Ness monsters, unicorns, and robots, but when they run into trouble, Dad is there to save the day! This is a perfect read for Halloween but is great anytime of the year. We also love that this book features diverse characters.

Dads first day2. Dad’s First Day, written and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. Another library find! This is a sweet and humorous story about an at-home dad who’s nervous about his son starting school. Although our son is still quite a ways from kindergarten, we are familiar with the feeling of not being ready for certain milestones. More than that, there aren’t enough books about at-home dads (in fact, this is the only one we can think of), so we love that this book fills an underserved niche.

daddy honk honk3. Daddy Honk Honk!, written and illustrated by Rosalind Bonnet. Aput the fox finds an abandoned goose egg and, when it hatches, tries to look for a new home for the little gosling. Little does he know, though, that the little gosling will start to grow on him and win a place in his heart! I love this book because it tackles the subject of adoption, which is another underserved niche. The illustrations are also adorable.

My Daddy Rules the world  4. My Daddy Rules the World, written and illustrated by Hope Anita Smith. In a series of quiet paper-cut illustrations, this book celebrates everyday moments between fathers and their children, from bike-riding to wrestling matches to bedtime snuggles. Each illustration is accompanied by a poem. We love the diverse showcase of fathers in the book as well.

 

Little Wolfs first howling

5. Little Wolf’s First Howling, by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee. This is a fun book for Dads and babies to read together! Little Wolf can’t wait to start howling at the full moon, and he and his dad start practicing their howls. We guarantee that reading this out loud will delight any baby old enough to understand. The illustrations are also beautiful: bold outlines with soft, intricate details.

Daddy long legs

6. Daddy Long Legs, by Nadine Brun-Cosme, illustrated by Aurélie Guillerey.  This book is like an opposite “Runaway Bunny.” Matthew’s dad drops him off at school, but Matthew is worried that something might happen to prevent his dad from coming back to pick him up. He poses one hypothetical after another, with his Dad reassuring him after each question that he will be there, by teddy bear, by dragon, and finally by his own long legs himself!
rory the dinosaur7. Rory the Dinosaur: Me and My Dad, by Liz Climo. A gentler “Runaway Bunny”-type tale, Rory the dinosaur goes on a series of adventures around their island, thinking all the while how excited he will be to tell his dad about them! But although Dad is just one step behind him, he’s rad enough to let Rory think that he’s had a fantastic adventure all by himself!

What to say to new dads: a guide

dscn1060.jpg

Obviously, most people who are coming to visit new parents know to ask about the baby, the birth, and mom. However, each of these topics can take a while to discuss, so it’s not surprising that most conversations never even touch on the new dad and his well-being. We’ve found through our own personal experience, though, that just one or two questions or statements can make dads feel much more appreciated. So, if you’re talking to a new dad, or will be visiting a new dad soon, here are a few things you can ask him:

  1. “How are you?” It’s a simple question, but asking this makes a world of difference to a new dad. Everyone asks after the baby and Mom (understandably, of course), but most people don’t even think about asking Dad how he’s doing. If the new dad you know is anything like today’s dad, it’s likely he’s just as sleep-deprived and exhausted as Mom is. (In fact, some would argue that Dads are even more sleep deprived than Moms.) Ask him how he’s doing, and he will appreciate the attention.
  2. “You’re doing a great job.” Dads need encouragement, especially in the early days. He’s still learning to be a father and is most likely shouldering most of the household tasks while Mom is recovering from giving birth. It’s during this period where he’s the most insecure about his parenting abilities and the most stressed out. Telling him what a great father he is will give him a much-needed boost of confidence.
  3. “How’s the experience?”/”What’s fatherhood like for you?” Moms aren’t the only ones who like to talk about how it feels to be a mother. Becoming a father is just as much of a life-changer for men as becoming a mother is for women. Asking a new dad about his experiences so far as a father shows that you acknowledge and recognize the importance of this change for him.
  4. “May I take a picture of you and your baby/of you and your family?” No one wants to look back on their photos one day and find that there are no pictures with Dad or no pictures of the entire family. If you are visiting in person, ask the new parents if they want you to take a picture of them with the baby. They might complain that they look awful, fat, or whatever, but they will thank you later.

How dads can be involved during baby’s early days (besides changing diapers)

IMG_1172After coming home from the hospital, some dads may feel left out of family life and struggle to bond with their babies. In fact, a 2009 study found that 40 percent of dads felt that they had nothing to do after the baby was born. However, there are plenty of things new dads can do to foster their bond with Baby, help new moms to recover from labor, and be involved. Changing diapers is a given, of course, but we’ve outlined a few other ways new dads can be involved in their family’s life.

  1. Give the baby a sponge bath.  Parents are advised to give babies sponge baths until the umbilical cord falls off (usually within the first two weeks). Sponge baths are a great way for dads to begin to establish their bond with and feel more attached to baby, while also giving moms a little time to rest and recover. This article from Johnson and Johnson gives you a handy step-by-step guide on how to give sponge baths. From our personal experience, you can never have too many washcloths during this period! (In fact, this is why we include an organic cotton washcloth in our Rad Dad Newborn Starter Kit.) We also want to warn you that this is not always a pleasant task, as many babies seem to hate sponge baths!
  2. Once Baby’s umbilical cord has fallen off, give Baby a regular bath. I will be honest, Mr. Rad Dad bathed our baby until he was 7-8 months old – basically, until he could sit up on his own. I wasn’t strong enough, especially in the early days, to hold the baby under running water and my hands and arms weren’t big enough to support his head and neck *and* bathe him at the same time. Also, if bathing the baby requires you to kneel down, remember that it is very difficult for Mom to bend down when she is still recovering from giving birth. Bathing is a much more pleasant experience than sponge bathing, and it can really help new dads feel more involved and have fun with baby at the same time.
  3. Read to your baby. Did you know that a recent study found that children develop better language skills when Dad reads the bedtime story?  Reading to your baby is encouraged from day one, and it’s also a good bonding experience for Dad and baby. Even if it seems like there are only 30 minutes a day where your baby is awake and not eating, that’s still a little time where you can squeeze in a story! Check out our previous post on a few good dad-themed books to read to your baby, some of which have been included in our past boxes.DSCN7107
  4. Spend some skin-to-skin time with your baby, or just hold them as they are napping. Since newborns sleep almost all the time, one way for Dads to bond with their babies is to have some skin-to-skin time with the baby. The physical contact, the feeling of warm skin, and a beating heart is very soothing for babies. If you don’t like the idea of constantly dressing and undressing yourself and the baby, then simply holding the baby while they sleep works just as well. Trust me, as your baby gets older, they will never fall asleep in your arms the way a newborn does – so take advantage of this and enjoy while you can!DSCN7050
  5. Help baby with tummy-time. Tummy time is a great opportunity for dads to be involved from early on, especially as parents nowadays are encouraged to start tummy time as soon as they come home from the hospital. Tummy time is the practice of placing the baby on his/her tummy and practice lifting their head and exercising their neck, shoulders, body, and their eye muscles. Moms are encouraged to lie down and place the baby on her stomach or chest as early tummy time practice, but we would actually encourage Dads to do this as well. Doctors suggest starting off with 3-5 minute sessions, 2-3 times a day, although from our personal experience, we did this once a day during the first two weeks of our baby’s life, and usually stopped when he started crying. Read more about tummy time on WebMD here.
  6. Give baby a massage. Baby massage is not only a great way to bond with the baby, but researchers have found that it also promotes better sleep and relieves colic. Parents.com provides a good step-by-step guide on how to massage your baby.
  7. Rattles and Baby Paper are your best friends. Newborns aren’t very interested in most toys, but if you want to try to play with your newborn, they do react to toys that make sound. We recommend rattles, as they are also good for development and have a long shelf-life as toys, as well as Baby Paper, which is crinkle paper sewn into fabric. Babies LOVE crinkle paper. And make sure to have a camera handy to capture your baby’s first reaction to the rattle!
  8. Be involved with breastfeeding, especially if your partner is struggling to breastfeed the baby. Contrary to popular belief, there ARE ways that men can help with breastfeeding. If your partner is having trouble breastfeeding, you can sit with her while she’s breastfeeding, help her position the baby, check on latch, and you can attend sessions with the lactation consultant and read up on breastfeeding so you are well-informed to help in this aspect. If your baby is nursing like a champ, there are still ways you can be involved: washing the pump parts, bringing your partner water while she’s nursing, and making sure the remote and phone are nearby.
  9. Bottle-feed the baby. If you and your partner aren’t averse to it, bottle-feeding the baby pumped milk or formula is a very nice way for dads to bond with the baby – while also giving Mom a break! Nowadays, medical professionals recommend waiting four weeks before introducing a bottle to prevent nipple confusion, but do what you think is best for your baby. If your baby is having trouble latching at the breast or your partner’s milk supply is still coming in, it doesn’t hurt to supplement with pumped milk or formula in a bottle. Fed is best, after all!DSCN9485
  10. Take the baby out for walks. This can be done with or without your partner, but taking the baby out for a walk is a great way for Dad to spend time alone with the baby or for the entire family to get out of the house for a little bit and spend time together. Each new experience helps develop the baby’s brain, and you will be fascinated by how your newborn baby observes leaves, trees, houses, and takes in everything around them.
  11. Cook. If you don’t have any family members helping you out, cooking is one thing you can do to allow your partner more time to recover. Your partner is probably exhausted from giving birth, breastfeeding, pumping, and waking up at all hours (especially if she’s decided to exclusively breastfeed), so why not take one thing off her to-do list and do the cooking? Think about it this way: by making sure your partner has enough to eat, you are also ensuring that your baby will eat well! If you can’t or don’t want to cook, no judgment! There are also frozen meal and delivery options. Taking care of the food area, whether through cooking yourself or ordering out, makes one less thing for your partner to worry about. Less stress for your partner = faster recovery!
  12. Clean and do other chores. Speaking from personal experience and the experiences of other moms we spoke to, cleaning, sweeping the floor, washing dishes, doing laundry, shopping for groceries and other household tasks are all things that Dads can do in the early days that allow their partners time to rest and recover from giving birth.
  13. Take care of yourself. Last of all, it’s important to practice self-care during this time. You will be tired from shouldering many of the household tasks and taking care of a newborn baby during this time, and possibly working full-time as well, so make sure you get a little rest and time to yourself, too.

So, Dads, we hope that this list will give you an idea of how you can be involved, how you can help your partner recover, and how you can bond with baby after you and your partner bring your little one home from the hospital! Experienced moms and dads, do you have any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

How dads can help with breastfeeding

Dad breastfeeding

(Disclaimer: This post is written by Michelle, the mom behind The Rad Dad Box)

When I was pregnant, neither my husband nor I believed he needed to be involved in breastfeeding. While we both read parenting books to prepare for our baby’s arrival, I was the only one who read breastfeeding books, and I attended the breastfeeding and pumping classes offered by our hospital by myself. Apparently, we weren’t the only couple who thought that Dad didn’t need to be involved in breastfeeding: there were only two dads-to-be in the breastfeeding class, and none in the pumping class!

However, when our son was born and had trouble latching, and I was having issues with my milk coming in, we realized how important it was for Dad to be involved, too.

Now, if you’re one of those moms whose baby latched immediately and started nursing like a champ, and who never had an issue with supply, then consider yourself lucky: You can ignore this post! However, if you’re still pregnant or if, like the majority of women, you have struggled or are currently struggling with breastfeeding, please keep reading to see how your partner can help.

  1. Attend breastfeeding classes with your partner. As a sign of how common our belief that dads didn’t need to help with breastfeeding was, there was a total of two men in my breastfeeding class. Don’t make the same mistake we did! Of course, as with most classes, you learn by practicing, but these classes will give you an idea of how breastfeeding works. The knowledge helps!
  2. Read up on breastfeeding, either through a book or online. My recommended breastfeeding book is The Nursing Mother’s Companion. It gets a little repetitive, but it was the most helpful book on breastfeeding I read. Kellymom and Breastfeeding Basics are also good resources. I also wrote a post for the It Takes a Village blog on breastfeeding necessities in the early days.
  3. Help your partner position the baby to breastfeed. In the early days, I had a lot of trouble figuring out the best position for the baby. My husband would suggest a certain arrangement of the breastfeeding pillows, which hold he thought would be better for the baby to feed, and just stay by my side while I was breastfeeding the baby. It was reassuring to have him there – especially since we were basically on our own after we left the hospital!
  4. Attend sessions with the lactation consultant. Before I became pregnant, I didn’t even know that this service existed. If you don’t already know, a lactation consultant assists women with breastfeeding. Lactation consultants perform an extremely important job, as almost all women struggle with breastfeeding in the beginning. During your sessions, she will watch you breastfeed, advise you on latch, positioning, and make sure the baby is swallowing and getting enough to eat. She also gave me advice on which nipple shields to use and how to eventually wean our son off the nipple shield. If you can, I would strongly advise Dads to come to these sessions as well.
  5. Bring water while she’s breastfeeding. This is one of the easiest ways Dads can help with breastfeeding. It’s a fact: breastfeeding will make Mom thirsty! Have a glass of water ready by her side while she’s nursing, or get ready to bring one to her during nursing sessions. Making sure the phone or remote is by her side helps, too.
  6. Wash the pump parts. During the first three weeks of our son’s life, my world was a haze of breastfeeding (45 minutes-1 hour), followed by pumping (15 minutes), followed by washing pump parts (5-10 minutes), and then getting maybe 45 minutes of work done before the cycle started again. It was such a relief for me when my husband washed the pump parts! It’s only a 5 minute task, but when you’re exhausted, even little things help a lot.
  7. When baby wakes up for a middle-of-the-night feed, change the baby’s diaper before bringing baby to your partner. We spoke with several moms who told us that it was very helpful when their husbands would change the baby’s diaper before bringing the baby to Mom to nurse in the middle of the night. It makes sense: Mom is still waking up, and it’s hard to change the diaper *and* nurse the baby, so if one of these tasks can be taken care of by Dad, it’s immensely helpful to the mother. As I said earlier, every little bit helps! (My husband and I took 5 hour shifts in the night and morning, so fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with waking up every 3 hours to feed the baby, but I realize that this is not a possibility for everyone.)
  8. Help with breastfeeding in public. I tried to avoid it for as long as I could, but inevitably, you will wind up in a situation where you will be breastfeeding in public. Some women are fine openly breastfeeding in public, but if your partner is not, there are many ways you can help her. First of all, you can help her adjust her nursing cover. If she’s having problems getting the baby to latch and needs to look at the baby, pull the top part of the nursing cover slightly away from her so she can see the baby but remain unexposed. If she’s getting the nursing cover on with both hands and baby is in her lap, hold the baby steady until she can hold the baby again.

Did we miss anything? Have any other tips on how dads can help with breastfeeding? Let us know in the comments!