Okay! So there’s always being the conversation around the woman natural responsibility to “babysit” their babies. That argument isn’t going to be the focus of this piece, though.
Truth is, the roles are changing and dads increasingly have to spend time to take care of their kids as well, allowing women to pursue meaningful engagements too. How does a first time dad play the role of a good babysitter?
Being a good babysitter takes a lot of dutiful care and attention and some ounces of ingenuity. A “baby-sitting” dad needs to understand certain rules of engagement with attending to babies including how to keep the child entertained, what to do when an emergency arises and a lot more.
These are a few useful tips to effective “baby-sitting” as a first time dad
- Consciously prepare yourself for the task of care-giving: Frustrations usually set in when expectations and results do not match. As a dad, appreciate the challenges that care-giving to an infant child could pose and mentally prepare yourself for it. A more stable, mentally aware and consciously prepared dad will provide the best “baby-sitting” experience for their children.
- Make sure the baby is comfortable at all times. If the baby starts crying, check his or her diaper. If there is poop, or if the diaper is wet, the diaper needs to be changed. Get a fresh diaper before undoing the old one. To Change a diaper, get out baby wipes, a fresh diaper, and something to keep the baby occupied while you change it. Wash your hands to avoid spreading germs, dirt, and bacteria, to the baby’s fragile bottom. First, undo the diaper. Second, if the baby is male, place a clean diaper over his private area. If the baby is female, make sure to wipe front to back so you don’t spread bacteria. Third, wipe the baby with as many wipes as you need, making sure to get into all the creases. Last, lift the baby’s feet, remove the soiled diaper, and slide on a clean one. Latch the diaper, pattern side on front. Wash your hands again, to wash off any pee or poop and to kill germs and bacteria so that they don’t spread to other places in the house. Make sure that the baby’s hands and feet are clean and free of any pee or poop after the diaper change.
- If the baby is still crying, that often means that the baby is hungry. So you will have to find the bottle and heat up the milk.
Remember, use one scoop of formula for every two ounces. Shake well. Then heat. Do not heat a bottle up in a microwave–microwaves can cause pockets of scalding hot milk. Place the bottle in a pot on the stove and heat the water. After heating up the bottle, make sure the bottle cap is securely fastened and shake the bottle well. Then squirt some of the milk onto the meat of your wrist and if the milk is too hot, continue to shake the bottle until the milk isn’t too hot anymore. Once the milk is ready for the baby to drink, prop the baby up and gently stick the rubber nipple into the baby’s mouth. Do not point the nipple straight down because the baby could choke. Take breaks between sips. During breaks, sit the baby up and gently pat his/her back right between their shoulder blades. The baby will usually burp.
- Play with the baby.Learn to play with your baby, Pop! This should be gentle and at the baby’s pace. Keep small objects away from the baby and be sure to watch what he or she puts into the mouth. Feet are okay!
- Try singing songs. Try “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or “An Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Look into the infant’s eyes as you sing.
- Hold a baby toy a few inches away from the baby’s face. Try moving the toy back and forth. Younger infants will watch the toy with their eyes; older infants will actually reach and grab the toy.
- Dance! Cradle the baby in your arms and gently move from side to side and sway to the music. Any music will do as long as it is not loud or inappropriate. Avoid this right after eating; wait about a half an hour after eating before trying this activity.
- Action rhymes and games are fun. Try “Hickory Dickory Dock.” Move your fingers up the baby’s body while you say the rhyme.
- Pinwheels are nice. Hold the pinwheel 6 inches away from baby’s face. Blow on it and watch the pretty colors!
- If the infant has an activity quilt that they can lay on, an activity gym, a baby bouncer, or a baby swing, lay them or sit them in one of these. Try pointing out the toys and activities, and encouraging interaction. Gently bounce or swing a baby if they are in a swing or bouncer, this calms them and helps them learn the difference between cause and effect, trust, and body awareness.
- Take a walk. Avoid a walk if it is over 85 degrees out, or if it is below 30 degrees. Also avoid a walk if it is around the time when mosquitos are high. Place the infant in a stroller and strap them in for safety. Slowly walk and push the stroller. Point out items in nature such as: “Look! There’s a duck!” Let baby feel items outside such as the cold snow or tickle grass on their tummy or feet.
- Sometimes you might need to bathe the baby before mama gets back. To bathe the baby, fill the tub up 1/4 way with lukewarm water. Then, gently lift the infant under its arms and bottom, and place it in tub. Do not lay the baby down! Next, with a washcloth, pat on infant safe body wash. Still be sure to get into every roll and crease. Rinse, but do not pour water over his/her face. Next, to wash the baby’s head, do the same, but VERY VERY gently. Rinse with washcloth. When you are finished, dry the baby with a soft towel, and apply lotion.
- Read books. Books for infants should be cloth or board books to avoid infants from chewing up the pages or tearing them out. Many, bright, pictures with little script are best. When the infant, starts to loose interest, stop reading, even if you are in the middle of the book, and move on to something else.
- Try mirrors! Use unbreakable mirrors made for children. Hold the mirror in front of baby and let them see themselves for a while. Then, sit them on your lap and hold the mirror in front of both of you. Make faces such as silly, a frown, a smile, and twitching your nose.
- Please note that all babies are different, and not all like to go to sleep the same way, but most like to be gently rocked.Try holding the baby in your arms and slowly swinging the baby back and forth, or holding the baby securely while walking around with a bouncy step, or rocking in a rocking chair. If the baby won’t go to sleep, gently lift the baby up and lay the baby in its crib.
- NEVER leave a baby in its crib on its back with its bottle in its hands because the baby could choke. After the baby is asleep, sit in the baby’s room with it and wait to make sure the baby will stay asleep, and that the baby’s sleep environment is safe.
- Make sure there is nothing that the baby could play with in the crib. It could distract the baby and it won’t want to go to sleep. Also, soft toys should never be in a crib, because a baby could suffocate. Keep big, fluffy blankets or pillows out of the crib. Babies don’t really need them and they are actually dangerous. Keep bed covers away from baby’s face.
- Do not lie a baby on its tummy, ever! Always place it on its back, or at most on its side. Placing it on its tummy is very dangerous, and potentially fatal. (If the baby is old enough to flip itself over on it’s tummy by itself, it’s okay if he flips himself over).
- Keep checking on the baby as it sleeps.This is very important as it is your babysitting duty to make sure that the baby is safe, is not fussing, is not too hot or cold and does not have a dirty diaper. Use a baby monitor if one is provided.
Hey dad! Care-giving is fun. Be intentional. Be prepared. Be happy. It’s not “baby-sitting”, it’s care-giving for your own baby.
This list is in-exhaustive. Please add yours in the comments section. Some dad somewhere might just be needing it.