The family way

Kidderminster Shuttle: The family way The family way

After nine months of waiting, your new bundle of joy has finally arrived.

But what do you do now?

For new mums, there's plenty of help and guidance available, but for many new dads, the path is far less clear.

And that's where books like The New Dad's Survival Guide come in. It's written by father-of-one Rob Kemp, who says the book arms dads with skills and know-how, but tries hard not to preach.

He says: "As a father, the best advice I can give to new dads is to get 'stuck in' as soon as you possibly can.

"Never ever underestimate your influence upon your child and your role as a father - especially in the first year of their life."

But before dads unleash their impressive father power on little junior, Kemp, 44, advises them to get to grips with the basics of baby care, giving advice on everything from how to pick a baby up, to what to expect on their first night at home and how to burp and bath baby - and, of course, change a nappy.

He takes new dads through each month of their baby's first year, asking questions such as where can I get good baby gear to fit my budget (answer: 'nearly new' baby sales, eBay, Gumtree or Preloved), and when will we get a decent night's sleep (condensed answer: hard to say, but in the meantime learn to cat-nap).

"It's very much actionable tips, so the guy can get involved and play an active part," says Kemp, whose son, Stanley, is now 10.

While he'd obviously had the experience of being a new dad himself, Kemp chatted to dads at dads' clubs and a children's centre to reaquaint himself with the territory, and says: "One of the biggest differences between when my son was born and now is that dads are encouraged to get more hands-on now.

"As well as society evolving, I think it goes hand-in-hand with what's been happening to the economy over recent years - men are staying at home more and sometimes their partner is taking on the role of the breadwinner, so they find they need to help out more and can't necessarily afford childcare.

"It's certainly a lot more socially acceptable for dads to be strapping a baby in a papoose and wandering round to a coffee shop with them during their paternity leave.

"It's the David Beckham 'it's great to be seen with your kids' mentality we have nowadays that's rubbed off on society generally."

One of the results of there being less stigma associated with dads caring for their babies these days is that companies are more tolerant and liberal-minded about dads taking time off work to look after their new families, says Kemp.

Shared parental leave comes into force in the UK next year, and Kemp says the key to a successful family life is sharing as much of the household responsibilities, including the childcare, as possible.

"I think dads should be encouraged to get involved and play a part, and I think most dads want to, but they don't necessarily know how.

"So much of the literature, and the social and health care aspects of childcare are focused on mums, but from the earliest possible opportunity, there needs to be encouragement to get men involved - their involvement is key to the development of their child, and the sanity of their partner."

Kemp thinks it's more likely to be women that buy his book for their partners than the men themselves - possibly, of course, for Father's Day (June 15).

"Much as I'd like to think the world's changed and dads are all queuing up to get a survival guide and learn to be more hands-on, I think it'll still be mums who lead the way with this," Kemp admits ruefully.

"I'm not sure we're quite so far down the road yet that a new dad will think he's going to go out and buy a manual for himself to learn how to do it."

Whether they do get a manual or not, Kemp strongly advises new dads to take enough time off work after their partner's had the baby.

"A lot of men still feel they either can't take the time off work to be there in the early stages of their child's life, or they feel there's not really much point and they're not necessarily important at that stage.

"But there's plenty of research, and anecdotal evidence, which shows that dads being there at the very start really is important - it helps develop the bond between dad and baby, and it helps their partner at a particularly stressful and exhausting time.

"Dads need to know their paternity situation, try to cut down on their work in those first few weeks and months, and be there as much as possible."

Kemp says there's often an impression that as the baby doesn't really do much in its first few months of life, it's not necessary for dad to do much either.

But he points out that doing what's necessary and what's nice, like bathing baby, taking him/her to baby massage classes, or swimming when they're a few months older, is both useful and rewarding.

"Spending parts of your day with your baby, doing things that are engaging for both of you, is so beneficial," he stresses.

:: The New Dad's Survival Guide by Rob Kemp is published by Vermilion, priced £10.99. Available June 5

ASK THE EXPERT

Q: "My two-year-old son frequently gets constipated and suffers a lot of pain with it. How should I help him, and what's the best way of avoiding it happening to him again?"

A: Brenda Cheer, a paediatric specialist continence nurse at the charity ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence), says: "It sounds like your son's problem has become chronic and it's important he gets the right treatment as soon as possible to prevent this persisting for months or years.

"Up to 30% of children suffer with constipation at some point and in England alone there are over 5,000 hospital admissions with it every year in the under fours.

"A child pooing less than four times a week could indicate they're constipated. If poo stays in the body for a long time, toxins will be absorbed into the bloodstream and this can make children lethargic and irritable. Their appetite can also be affected as they always feel full.

"It's important that you see your GP and ask them to prescribe the laxative Movicol Paediatric Plain. Some doctors prescribe sodium picosulphate or senna instead, but these are stimulant laxatives and can cause pain. Sometimes, however, they may be needed with Movicol if the bowel hasn't cleared.

"The child should also follow a clear toileting routine where they sit on the toilet after meals, are encouraged to have fun with toys and books, and are given lots of praise.

"NICE has just produced a new quality standard aimed at helping healthcare professionals improve the care of children with constipation, designed to help reduce emergency hospital admissions and progression of symptoms, as well as prevent recurrence.

"It's important that children have a balanced diet with plenty of fibre, however this alone will not address underlying constipation once it's become chronic (usually after one month of difficulties).

"Children with constipation should be having a minimum of eight drinks a day, two of which could be milk. Additional milk shouldn't be encouraged as it has an indirect link with constipation, as children are likely to drink less water because they're full and to eat less."

:: ERIC has produced new, downloadable leaflets about children's bowel problems. For more information, visit www.eric.org.uk

FANTASTIC FOR FATHER'S DAY

Daddy Pig Lounge Pants

Peppa Pig's 'bit of an expert' father, Daddy Pig, features on these comfy cotton lounge pants that will make a perfect Father's Day present. Available at Asda stores nationwide and www.asda.com, £10, in sizes from small to XX large.

My Dad's Beard book

A cute and funny children's story by Zanib Mian about a little boy's love for his father, personified through his beard. Suitable for children aged two to seven years, published by Sweet Apple on June 1, £5.99. Available online at Waterstones, Foyles, Amazon and at most good book shops.

Funky Giraffe Dad Dribble Bibs

A range of 100% cotton baby dribble bibs bearing slogans including 'Daddy's Double' and 'Flowery Dad'. Available in one standard size from www.funkygiraffebibs.co.uk, £4.

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