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“I’m about to have a baby for the first time and I’m terrified and I still feel like a big kid myself and I don’t know the first thing about being a dad and I’m scared of how my life is going to change and I want to be an amazing father but I don’t even know how to change a diaper or when to feed them and I just need a bit of help.”
Never fear 30Figured fans. We’ve pulled in Neil Sinclair, author of Commando Dad: Basic Training, the best-selling book for new fathers. Commando Dad has been a staple for many dads-to-be across the world including the UK’s Prince William and Wimbledon tennis ace Andy Murray.
So let the former commando and member of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq impart his wisdom (from his own failures and successes with his three kids) on how to care for your baby with love and military precision. Attention!
Mission #1 — The First 24 Hours
So you’ve just become a dad. Congratulations! Your new baby trooper has been deployed. So what to do now?
Within the first 24 hours the main thing you need to do is turn the clock around.
Night and day timings become irrelevant because they’re irrelevant to your baby. Babies’ body clocks are in reverse.
For example, when mom’s awake during the day your baby is lolled to sleep because it’s being rocked and has contact.
But when mom lies down and is still, your baby will wake up yearning for attention. In the first 6-8 weeks do not expect a solid sleep routine. It’s a tough pill to swallow but you are going to lose a lot of sleep.
After about two weeks you can start slowly introducing the difference between night and day.
During the day, when they wake up give them a feed then play and have fun with your little trooper. Whereas at night don’t over-stimulate them.
Don’t put the big light on. Simply feed, burp and cuddle them, then change them if they need changing and put them back down. Your baby will soon learn night time is not a crying battleground but peacetime.
Mission #2 — Campaign Cry (Soothing Your Baby At Night)
During your first night your baby will likely be very tired. However, after that they will become more active and more, ahem, ‘vocal’.
There has been much debate as to whether to attend to your baby straight away or leave your baby to settle (controlled crying).
Our advice for new dads in Commando Dad is to do what’s most comfortable for you and your partner.
At night, we gave our children 20 minutes to settle when they were crying. The number of times my kids have gone to sleep at minute 19 is just amazing.
However, if you’re not comfortable doing that then go in and attend to your baby. Also, if it’s not ‘normal’ crying then go in straight away and comfort them.
There’s an intuition and it grows with your parenting. You listen to their cries and you learn to know if it’s serious or not.
When they’re crying, check to ensure their nappy [the British word for ‘diaper’] is clean or they don’t need a feed and then comfort them to help them settle.
Mission #3 — Hold On Tight! (Bonding With Your Baby)
When holding your baby it’s essential to support their head. It’s a third of their bodyweight. Do everything gently and slowly. You won’t want to put the baby down first.
Advice for new dads: hold them when they’re sitting down and hold them in the crook of their arms when they’re standing up.
It’s important to bond with your baby so plenty of time allowing them to rest on your chest.
Mission #4 — Bomb Disposal (Changing A Nappy/Diaper)
There are few things that strike more fear into the heart of any commando dad than the deep, brown trenches of a baby’s nappy. Within the first 24 hours it’s like toxic waste
Serving in the forces, I have seen trajectory but I am still amazed at the internal pressure of a newborn’s bowels. It can cover walls. It really is that explosive.
A strong word of advice for new dads. DO NOT remove the nappy before they’re either on a towel or you have another nappy right next to them ready to quickly put on.
If you’ve got a brand-new carpet and you remove the nappy without something underneath, I guarantee that’ll be the time they let of an airstrike.
I also recommend a plastic-covered changing matt in your baby-changing arsenal because it’s easy to wipe down.
Another thing to consider is gender difference. When you’re checking to see if your baby has pee’d and needs a nappy change, a boy’s nappy fills up at the front whereas a girl’s gets full at the back.
Don’t make the mistake I made of checking the front of a girl’s nappy thinking they’re fine when in reality their nappy’s so full they’re wobbling around like a weeble.
Mission #5 — Rehydration (Bottle Feeding)
Technology has changed a great deal in the past 10 years. With old bottles, if you had air in the teat when they were sucking it would give the baby really bad wind.
When you turn the bottle up make sure there’s no air in the nipple as the baby will start taking air down instead of milk.
However, a lot of the bottles now have special diaphragms so you don’t have to worry about the air coming through.
Also, allow your baby to take in as much milk as they want. Some of them guzzle a full bottle down, some of them just a few little sips.
Don’t worry too much if they have a little bit and turn away. They might not be hungry.
Without a shadow of a doubt, when you bottlefeed your baby make sure you burp them. If you put them down without winding, that whole bottle of milk is going to come back up.
Spend some time rubbing and gently patting their back until the air comes up. Trapped air is really uncomfortable for the baby. Ensure you do it at night after a feed too.
As a military man, I would wind my baby religiously for 20 minutes after I’d fed them.
However, all my children were different. My eldest son burped straight away, my younger son took longer. You’ll soon get to know what your baby trooper needs.
Mission #6 — Deployment (Going Out)
When you have a baby, a simple routine task like going to the shops can turn into a military operation.
In Commando Dad, our advice for new dads is you need your kitbag up to speed and straight away so you’ve got everything you need ready the night before.
The time to find out there’s something missing that you need is not when you’re out.
Consider a lamented checklist and a sharpie pen ready to tick off everything you need before you go out with your baby.
For example, I would have a checklist for short-term deployment if I was going to the store and a mid-term deployment list if you’re going somewhere for a couple of nights (so you might need spare nappies, teddies and a carry cot that you can break down).
And then for a long-term deployment you need to be thinking about where you’re going — are you gonna need sunscreen? Do you need a hat? Do you need extra blankets?
Final Mission — Chow Down (Introducing Real Food)
Usually, babies don’t start eating real food (as opposed to bottle feeding) until around 6-12 months but every baby is different.
Your baby trooper will dictate when they’re ready to start eating soft foods.
For example, they’ll start not being as interested in milk and will look at you while you’re eating, sometimes reaching for your food.
When you introduce certain foods make sure they’re soft and natural. You can start giving them foods such as banana, papaya or avocado.
You definitely don’t want to be giving children high sugary snacks just for convenience. My advice for new dads is to simply keep it with the fruits and veg and mash it up.
Know when to surrender at mealtime. It’s gonna get messy but just go with it. Enjoy it. Allow them to get their hands in their food and enjoy it.
Let them put it over themselves and even over you. If you start introducing rules where it’s got to stay in the bowl or it can’t go on the floor it won’t be an enjoyable experience for them.
If you make food fun it will remain fun.
Mission Accomplished. Signing Off
That’s it commando dads. Hopefully this article has equipped you with the right tools ready to enter into the world of parenting.
However, if you want to be a well-versed veteran of fatherhood be sure to check out my book in the links below and get the latest advice for new dads.
It’s a new dad’s survival kit and it will prepare you for everything.
Good luck! Over and out.
Neil Sinclair, Commando Dad
Being a new dad can be insanely time-consuming. If you want to free up time then check out ‘How To Create More Time In Your Thirties‘.
Calling all new dads! Let’s unite and support each other. If you have any parenting tips feel free to let everyone know in the comment section below.