Relax, dad. With this essential guide, the journey from infant to toddler will be easier than you think.
In a sense, these are the easy years, during which your main job is to keep your baby nourished, calm, clean, and dry. You also need to help your baby develop motor skills such as reaching, rolling over, sitting, and crawling. So put your baby on his stomach on a clean floor or large blanket, and encourage him to move by putting a favorite toy just out of reach. If you are a first-time father, you'll face other challenges, as well. Here are solutions to help guide you through babyhood.
1Reduce SIDS Anxiety
SIDS deaths have declined more than 50% since the American Academy of Pediatrics started its Back to Sleep campaign, which recommends always putting your baby to sleep on her back in a crib with no blankets or toys. This approach is equally important for daytime naps, according to a study in the International Journal of Epidemiology. If you have a helicopter wife, one who constantly hovers over the crib, consider a Halo SleepSack, a sleeveless blanket/swaddle that takes the place of loose clothing that can bunch up around the baby's nose and mouth (halosleep.com). It is the first product endorsed by the SIDS Alliance. After 6 months, you can ease up on the worry. SIDS is less of a concern at that point.
2Induce Faster Sleep
It has long been suspected that a consistent bedtime routine helps babies fall asleep better, and a study supported by Johnson's presented at the 2007 Pediatric Sleep Medicine Conference confirmed it. Babies treated to a soothing regimen-a bath and a massage, followed by quiet activities-fell asleep 37% faster, stayed asleep 23% longer, and spent 50% less time awake during the night.
3Learn Lifesaving Skills
Six hours of classes sounds bad, but in about the same amount of time you would burn watching a baseball double header or racing a half Ironman, you could learn CPR and first aid-skills that can save a life-at your local American Red Cross. Prioritize to make it happen. Consider getting your favorite babysitter certified as well.
4Take Him With You — Everywhere
You don't have to be focused on your infant at all times. Just strap him to your chest while you futz around at the hardware store."Whether you're carrying your child in a Baby Bjorn or just in your arms, he receives a lot of attention and easy kisses that way," says Brian Kantz, author of Stay-at-Home Dad. Stay. Good Boy. "Even when his maniac sibling is jumping off the walls, a held baby is a content baby."
5Train Her Memory
Changing just one component of your baby's over-crib mobile every week exercises her memory by forcing her to compare what's there now to what was there before.
6Serve Him Brain Food
Just as visual cues can stimulate your baby's intellect, so can nutritional stimuli. Babies who are breast-fed for at least 6 months have a significant IQ advantage over babies who are weaned early, according to neurologist David Perlmutter, M.D., author of Raise a Smarter Child by Kindergarten. That's because human breast milk is the world's best source of DHA, a fat that triggers the brain to produce brain growth hormone and build cells. Not possible? Other DI-IA-rich foods: cod-liver oil and formula mixes that include algae derived DHA supplements, such as Enfamil and Similac Advance (later on, offer fish, in limited amounts).
7Plan for College Payments
As dizzying as the tax codes have become, it's gotten easier to figure out how to best save for your child's college tuition: Invest in a state 529 plan. Congress has enacted a law that allows qualified withdrawals from a 529 to be free from federal income tax. Plus, the savings you have in a 529 don't count against federal financial-aid calculations when they're in the name of the dependent student. Each 529 plan is different, so do some comparison shopping at morningstar.com. The Chicago-based mutual fund rating service compares all 50 plans. Check what benefits exist for in-state residents, and look for plans that offer low fees and index funds.
8Get More Sex: Part 1
The first step: Don't even try. She already has one person pawing her. Expect a 3-month postpartum window in which to seduce her all over again, says Greg Bishop, author of Hit the Ground Crawling: Lessons from 150,000 New Fathers. Your best move? Bathe the baby. It gives your wife back some time and makes a good visual-you washing the baby's hair, wrapping her in a towel, dressing her. "That's the guy she'll be in love with again," he says. Your second big job? Stop any crying. Treat it like any troubleshooting problem, and run through a checklist of possible causes: empty stomach, wet diaper, too hot, too cold. When all else fails, go for a walk or drive. Motion is soothing, and new visuals are engaging. At the very least, you're getting the bawling out of the house and giving Mom some peace-and a chance to save up some energy that might possibly be redirected at you.
9Get More Sex: Part 2
You've shown yourself to be the baby-washing, noise-diffusing superdad — now you're ready to reengage in what made you parents to begin with. What will follow is foreplay that will rival the Godfather trilogy. Think exquisitely slow plot development. Be patient. When the moment finally arrives, remember that her body has changed and your tried-and-tested techniques may no longer be what she likes. Embark on a voyage of rediscovery. Be sure to have lubrication handy, and consider encouraging her to be on top: It gives her more control — something Don Michael Corleone would appreciate.