New Baby Bonding: Faraway Family

If you’re like me, you’re eager for your new baby to spend as much time as possible with her relatives. Seeing your baby bond with aunts, cousins, and grandparents is immensely special, and I couldn’t wait for my girls to meet their extended family. Unfortunately, there was one thing that made this a challenge: Many of them lived far away. We live in New York, but my girls have grandparents in Vermont and various aunts and uncles all over the United States—but I didn’t let that stop us! Here’s how I was able to keep my daughters close to our faraway family:

Picture this: Got extra pictures lying around? Make a photo album with some of the outtakes, and then read it to your baby a couple of times a week. I named the people in the photos and told stories about them. This helped my daughters remember the faces, so that cousins and uncles weren’t complete strangers when they met them in person.

Go digital: Put technology to good use and set up an account on a video chat site with faraway family. Your new baby will look forward to video chats, especially if you make them a regular event, and she’ll begin to recognize faces and voices during these sessions. To truly keep your relatives in the loop, share even more: post pictures through Pampers Baby Book app, put videos on YouTube, or by start a blog to document your new baby’s days.

Family trips: Every summer, my entire family spends a week or two on the same tiny island in Maine. We rent houses near each other and enjoy lounging on the beach, eating lobster, and playing games. My girls love this annual vacation, and it’s definitely brought them closer to their cousins who live in Colorado and Virginia.

Little Picasso: All grandparents will love to receive homemade art in the mail. As my daughters got older, we made sure to ask them to put aside a few of their finger paintings, hand prints, drawings, and scribbles to send to grandma and grandpa. (If you’re tech-savvy, you could also scan them to relatives.) Your child will have fun making a special piece of artwork for her family, and your relatives will love the gift!

It took some time before my girls bonded with all of their faraway family members, but now, they are as close to them as if they lived next door! Don’t worry if your new baby seems nervous around her relatives at first. She will get to know them better over time -- no matter the distance.

Photo by ???????? Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

New Baby Tips for Dads

Entering fatherhood is a lot like learning to swim: You breathe and kick, hoping to make it to the other side of the pool without gulping too much water. Cradling a fragile infant in your arms, struggling to place her flailing limbs in her shirtsleeves, or calming a sobbing newborn in the middle of the night can seem daunting, if not impossible, for a new dad. But there’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s what I wish I had known back then:

Thanks to my wife, my girls had all kinds of coordinated outfits with matching knit caps. But, every ensemble I came up with was just a bit, well, off. My tip to all new dads: Don’t worry about it! Ignore the stares from strangers as you push your kid through the supermarket in her Halloween costume. Turns out, new babies don’t know red from blue, or flowers from paisley, so as long as your little one is dressed warmly and comfortably, she’ll be fine.

Newborn crying can be hard to take, and not only because the screeches can bring on a headache; they can also make you doubt your fatherhood skills. But keep in mind that crying is how new babies communicate -- and it’s not necessarily a reflection of how good a new dad you are -- so try to take it in stride. I practiced different calming techniques, like swinging my daughters gently from side to side or using a pacifier. Believe me: You’ll eventually find one that works.

Napping is not only allowed when you have a new baby; it’s strongly encouraged! Late-night feedings, endless diaper changes, and hours of patting your baby to bring up a burp can be exhausting. Lie down -- it’s okay! I aimed to sneak in some sleep when I put my daughters down for a nap. We all woke up in a better mood.

When your new baby is wailing beyond belief, don’t hesitate to make a call to the pediatrician, especially when nothing seems to soothe her or you notice a rash that you swear wasn’t there an hour ago. Your doctor expects to hear from new dads and moms, and talking to an expert will put your mind at ease.

Sure, life is forever altered once your new baby arrives, but not everything has to be tossed out the window. Tiny babies are a pretty adaptable bunch and tend to enjoy being held as you watch hockey, go out for brunch, or just lounge around and read the Sunday papers. So enjoy your time as a new dad!

Photo by Mikael Stenberg on Unsplash

First Words: Reach this Baby Milestone

Every new mom waits patiently to hear her baby’s first words--probably secretly hoping it will be “mama.” But when that first bit of language finally emerges, don’t panic if you can’t understand exactly what your baby is saying. For my firstborn, her early utterances were tough to discern, but one day in her 13th month, she clearly said “fan” (a strange first word, I know) -- and I was certain a genius was born. Here’s how to encourage your baby’s first words:

Keep on talking: Experts agree that the more words your new baby hears, the better, so keep talking to her even if you think she’s tuning you out. I talked endlessly to my daughter when she was a baby, commenting on what we saw in the park, what she was eating, and what the plans were for the day. I explained the weather, talked about what we were buying in the food store, and even narrated how I changed her Pampers diaper. No topic was too dull.

Take pause: As you chitchat during the day, be sure to give your new baby time to digest what you’ve said -- and to reply in her baby gurgle. This will help her learn the flow of conversation. My baby babbled away and tried to repeat what she heard, so I acted as if I was having a conversation with her and gave her time to explain “her side.”

Crack the books: Begin to read from day one! It’s never too early to start short board books with new babies. Isabel loved to snuggle up and hear a couple before bed, and she’d chew on them during the day, too. To help along baby development, work up to longer picture books, and let her help by turning the pages.

Break into song: Simple rhyming ditties are entertaining, of course, but they also serve to teach new babies new words. I used to sing as we were walking in the park, picking up toys, or eating a snack or meal. Pop music hits, church hymns, camp songs -- any happy tune will do the trick.

Above all, I learned not to feel silly as I taught my baby to talk. Yes, gabbing about your to-do list to your little one can be a bit strange, and you will often feel like you’re talking to yourself. However, it will be more than worth it once your new baby says her first words.

Photo by ???????? Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Capture Your Baby’s Milestones

The first year is filled with so many baby development "firsts" -- rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, and talking, to name a few. And then there are the other baby milestones parents treasure -- first tooth, first haircut, maybe even a first trip in an airplane. I tried to stash all of these memories in my mind when my twin sons were infants.

However, I find that the older my boys get, the harder it is to recall some of these important baby milestones. That’s why I’m thankful the twins’ grandmother made a baby photography collage that highlights their month-by-month baby development during their first year. Here are some other great ways to document a new baby’s first year.       

First year calendars: These calendars typically come with special stickers to help you keep track of baby milestones like crawling and walking, as well as your new baby’s first tooth and haircut.

Baby books: Keepsake journals have been around since you and I were infants. But now, you can use online photography sites to create personalized books specific to the events in your little one’s life, like the first trip to the zoo. If you are really crafty, scrapbooking is a beautiful way to preserve baby milestones, too.

Shadow boxes: You can always tape a lock of your little love’s hair into his baby book, but if you’re looking for something a little different, try a shadow box, an enclosed glass-front case that shows off mementos, while keeping them safe. Include the lock of hair, pictures taken during the first haircut, and before and after photos in the 3-D display. Shadow boxes are also a great way to display your new baby’s first photo, his hospital identification band, and the outfit he wore home from the hospital.

Handprint and footprint mementos: Many parents make impressions of their newborn's hands and feet with ink, paint, or plaster. Visit a local do-it-yourself pottery store to capture your little one's prints on plates, mugs, and more. Carry this tradition forward by making the same impressions at around 6 months (or when your new baby starts to crawl) and at around 1 year (when she starts to walk). You can display these keepsakes together to show how much your baby grew during her first year.

Pictures and videos: Smartphones -- with their camera and video capabilities -- have made it so much easier to capture the moments when your new baby reaches a milestone. But if your phone is lost, stolen, or damaged, those moments can be gone in an instant. Make sure you back up photos and videos to your computer at least once a month or use an online photography service.

When you are busy with diaper changes and feedings, it can be hard to find the energy and time to get creative and find ways to document baby milestones. But I promise you won’t regret preserving these precious moments before they become fuzzy memories!

Photo by Troy T on Unsplash

A Day in the Life of a SAHD of Twins

Before I became a new dad, my time was my own. But now that my twin boys -- Carter and Camden -- are in my life, those days are long gone. Staying at home to take care of my 4-month-old twins while my wife is working has proven to be a lot of work -- and a lot of fun. Here’s how a typical day unfolds in our house:

6:00 a.m.

My boys are already wide-awake. I take them out of the crib and prep for the first diaper change of the day. Before my new babies were born, I’d never changed a Pampers diaper in my life. But after four months with twins, I feel like I’ve mastered this and other baby care basics.

6:30 a.m.

We head to the kitchen for breakfast. The boys are making “feed-me-now!” noises as they kick in their bouncy seats that I’ve set on the floor. I look forward to the day when they can eat in their highchairs, but for now, I’ve found the best and safest way to give bottles at the same time to these two little guys is by sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor with the boys in their bouncy seats in front of me. After they eat, each kid gets his own pat-on-the-back session, since I haven’t mastered the art of burping two babies at once.

7:30 a.m.

Carter had a bowel movement, so it’s time for another diaper change. Both boys are starting to get fussy, which means they’re ready for their morning nap -- and so am I. I snuggle back into bed to grab a little bit of sleep. I’ve learned that snoozing when the babies nap is the number one way for a new dad of multiples to stay sane!

9:00 a.m.

It’s time for another feeding, more diaper changes, and some playtime. Today, I break out the baby activity mats, which are always a hit. The stimulation from the different textures, shapes, and sounds keeps them busy while boosting their baby development. We also read together often.A note to stay-at-home dads: The sports section of the newspaper counts!).

10:30 a.m.

At this age, my sons still need to nap often. And that’s fine with me! I settle them down for their second nap of the day, and use the free time to catch up on my to-do list.

12:00 p.m.

We all need some fresh air, so I strap the twins into their double-jogger stroller, and we head to a nearby park. We say hi to the neighborhood dogs as we go, and I point out the really cool cars that we see. Research shows the more I talk to the new babies now (even if they don’t understand much about sports cars), the better their vocabulary will be when they’re older.

2:30 p.m.

Once this round of feeding and diaper changes is over, the boys and I head to the grocery store to get food for tonight’s dinner. At the store, I strap one new baby into a front carrier while the other stays in the portable car seat now attached to the cart. I’m grateful there aren’t many items on my list!

4:30 p.m.

The boys are hungry and tired again by the time we get home, so it’s another round of bottles, then a quick nap while dinner is fixed.

6:00 p.m.

My sons play on their activity mats and get a baby bath before bedtime. After one more feeding and a quick diaper check, the boys are down for the night. I’m thinking of turning in as well. Tomorrow is another busy day for this SAHD!