ACK! There's an Infant in My Car!

There’s an infant in the car seat—in my car. Is this a dream? Is this a nightmare? Is this permanent?

Thoughts like this are normal for a brand new dad. However, it's important to believe that what you see and feel today won't last forever.

That requires a healthy dose of faith in the process of human development.

Some days, you'll struggle to have this perspective. That’s okay. At the same time, remember that you have (or can get) what you need to be a good father, no matter what happens next.

Every day will fill to overflowing as you learn about your baby, practice taking care of her, and endlessly stare at her and her antics. You may not always see how fast she’s changing, but after three or four weeks, look at photos from the day she was born. You’ll see big differences.

Luckily, most babies also stay healthy during their first weeks, as if their bodies are too busy growing to have time for being sick. A baby who gains weight and wets her diaper every few hours is probably getting enough to eat. Breastfed babies tend to eat more often than bottle-fed ones, but the difference isn’t always huge. She may develop an eating and sleeping schedule, but don’t count on any such routine to last very long now, or over the next year.

Believe it or not, you (and your baby) can survive all this rapid change. The human species spent millennia producing parents and newborns. As a result, a lot of knowledge is built into your DNA and your instincts. For instance, when you bring your newborn home, your antennae are hypersensitive to anything the baby does or doesn’t do. That’s one way nature helps you meet the needs of this completely dependent little person.

Father instinct is real, powerful, and very useful. Most of the time, it's not that different from what you think of as mother instinct. In fact, French and British researchers recently demonstrated that fathers can recognize whether a crying baby is their own child just as reliably as mothers can. The key factor is how much time the parent spends with the child—not the parent's gender.

Adapted from Idiot's Guides: Pregnancy for Dads by Joe Kelly, copyright 2014 Alpha Books and used by permission.

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