Wednesday 25 April 2018

New baby? Not a problem when you're . . . Commando Dad

When Neil Sinclair became a father, there were no manuals to satisfy the former commando -- so he decided to write his own

I have been a Royal Engineers commando, a physical education teacher, a security guard at the UK Mission to the UN in New York, a stay-at-home dad and a registered childminder, and I can tell you that there have been few times in my life as daunting as bringing my first son back from the hospital.

All the parenting books and classes were geared towards the birth, and then suddenly you and your partner find yourselves back at home with the baby. In charge.

I found myself thinking how much easier life would be if I had been issued with a basic training manual for my little baby trooper (henceforth referred to as BT), like the manual you get when you join the army.

I did try to find such a manual, but the books available were either novelty ones (and believe me, gentlemen, if your parenting is a laugh a minute, you're doing it wrong) or, even worse, books that were too wordy to be practical. At 0-silly-hundred-hours, with a screaming BT in your arms, 700 pages of someone telling you about their emotions isn't the answer. I decided that what I needed was an accessible basic training manual for parents and, more specifically, dads.

New recruits: surviving the first 24 hours

The brief

Basic does not always mean simple.

Commando Dad basics are the key skills that you need to master to be an effective carer for your BT.

Objective

By the end of today's briefing you will have a greater understanding of the skills you need to survive the first 24 hours, and the weeks beyond, when you have a BT in your base camp.

How to deal with:

Crying

In the early days, your BT will communicate with you in the only way available to them: crying. Within weeks you will start to recognise different cries. Until then, use this useful checklist:

Hunger

Babies process food quickly. Hence the multiple nappies. Offer them a feed.

Discomfort

Check the nappy. Dirty, wet nappies are a clear source of discomfort. Check clothes aren't too tight, or that anything is causing them discomfort. Check the environment, eg, for temperature, noise, breeze, lumps in the mattress. Burp them. Make sure they're not too hot or too cold.

Tiredness

Babies need a lot of sleep.

They went through labour and now are processing a huge amount of information from a stimulating world. Give them plenty of time to sleep it off.

Illness

Look for symptoms: a rash, temperature, sickness, diarrhoea.

Act: Seek advice from your midwife, health visitor, doctor, nurse or pharmacist. Before you have learnt to recognise the symptoms of ailments, let the professionals make that call.

Do not be concerned about troubling your medical team with "minor" concerns.

How to build long-term morale

There are four cornerstones to building morale for a Commando Dad.

1 Keep fit and healthy: parenting takes a lot of energy. Make sure that you give yourself a head start by eating well and exercising. When you have very young BTs at base camp, it's difficult to get a full night's sleep. Establishing a sleep routine (enabling you to get as much sleep as possible) is important.

2 Perfect your routine: a good routine, consistently executed, builds and maintains your confidence and motivation. It reduces anxiety. It makes life easier.

3Use your support network: there is not a lot of recognition for your hard work in parenting. It can seem like an unrewarding task. Your support network -- family, friends and like-minded individuals -- can acknowledge and share your successes. They will also support you through challenging times. Do not underestimate the positive effect of belonging to a network.

4Be kind to yourself: parenting means facing new challenges and experiences. Some days you will get it right, some days you will get it wrong. Continue to increase your skills, but do not be overcritical of your abilities. If your trooper is loved, physically safe and healthy, then you are doing a great job, and you are continuing to get better by the day.

It is important to keep good morale in the unit. A caring and supportive relationship is the foundation.

Your positivity will make your trooper feel secure; they know nothing can faze you and that you are in control.

Commando Dad terms

0-silly-hundred-hours: very early morning

Base camp: home

Bomb disposal: emptying nappies into outside bins every night

BT: baby trooper. A child before it is mobile

MT: mobile trooper. A trooper that can crawl, stand up and, eventually, walk

Cookhouse: kitchen

Recce: short for reconnaissance, a mission to obtain information

Commando Dad by Neil Sinclair is out now, published by Summersdale, RRP €12.49

Irish Independent

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