Having a newborn: 4th trimester lessons for the smart father

Based on experiences in 2023

It's a baby!

Having a baby was perhaps the most transformative experience of my life. Beforehand, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy being a father or, even though I would be a much parent than many are, if creating another life in this overpopulated world was a moral thing to do, but it was certainly an intentional decision that I was mostly ready for. Personally, being a father brings me much joy and is a great long-term challenge and adventure to sink my teeth into. It also brings me the understanding that caring for a newborn is a lot of repetitious work, though I soon figured out new attitudes as I got used to new routines. Yes, the newborn phase is rough, but keep in mind that things (mostly) just keeps getting better after that!

After a brief honeymoon period, most people go through a period of sadness trying to adjust to their new lives with a newborn. Do you remember the scene in The Matrix when Neo is flushed down a tube after taking the red pill? Well, that's the same as being there for the birth of your first child, and everything that follows in the movie, both good and bad, is your new reality. Learning Kung Fu was the honeymoon period. Personally, I eventually started to feel that having a baby is not the life I want! I didn't want to be The One. To give some context, my wife was sick in the hospital for three weeks after birth, and I texted various people more in those weeks than I had the rest of my life combined, which I hated. I then realized that I never gave a crap about people "being nice" (though kindness is always important and was very welcome). I stopped replying to people who were "being nice" for their own benefit, and I had to draw up many rules for an oblivious person. I then felt much better and back to myself.

In time, the weirdness faded and rapid learning was no longer needed, and I had a new member of the family! I had a wonderful important role: father. I had a new little buddy who could not yet learn much from me, but I would show her things and say things to her. I just want her to know that I'm there for her when she needs me, and I so look forward to seeing her personality and intellect develop!

I immediately noticed that I got a much deeper understanding of anyone who took care of my baby. All of a person's strengths and any weaknesses are amplified through the baby. (If you are reading this and took care of my baby, yes, I figured out your secrets.) By watching extroverted people who are very verbal, I noticed that verbal skills or being extroverted are not useful for newborns, though they were useful when preparing for the baby and gain some use a couple months after the newborn stage. Instead, mechanical skills, problem-solving skills, motor coordination, and being observant are important. I also noticed what I had already heard: men are just as good and necessary at loving and caring for babies. In fact, being a man, I greatly appreciate people with the "let's solve this problem and do what it takes" masculine attitude around my baby! Men also tend to expose babies to more interactive stimulation allowing the to develop their brains and bodies. I have no idea what my baby appreciates, though I have learned how to more gently cuddle the baby from some great women.

Before I had a baby, many babies made me sad because the baby amplified their parent's trashiness. But healthy smart people can have intentional healthy happy families! Of the many ways of being trash, a common but horrible one is sticking a screen in front of the child for most of the day. This is especially bad if the device has no restrictions! If a screen raises your child, the rest of society will have to deal with that little monster for many long years to come. In public school, the US legal system will prioritize your future criminal over the learning of the rest of the class. Other signs of trash are not figuring out how to prevent sperm from getting into a woman's egg or having too many kids. Do you already have many kids from your first marriage when you were young and stupid and now your new wife wants another? If you don't want to be trash, you now know what to not do. Did you have kids then have triplets? If you actually wanted many kids, congrats on finding a loophole! Other signs of trash are the "my child can do no wrong" attitude or texting your child while they are at school. No! You are messing up your child's future! And you are highly annoying your child's coaches and teachers.

If you lucked out so far by not yet being trash, just wait. At least half of car seats are installed incorrectly, and 90% of car seats are installed incorrectly when new parents are first taking a newborn home from the hospital. So, you're likely at least kinda trash, but that's okay if you have growth mindset and try to overcome the innate stupidity of the human brain. Luckily for women, the strong firemen at the local fire station will likely help them with their (car seat) needs. Lesbians may prefer to ask a firewoman. Luckily for anyone who is smart, manuals, YouTube, and websites exist. A trick a smart guy told me is to use your knee to push down the car-seat base when securing it to the proper tightness. Also, the internet told me about the "pinch test": the baby's straps are tight enough if you can't pinch a fold in the straps.

Intro

Most of my hobbies require a good amount of analytical or physical abilities, so the advice out in the world tends to be directly useful to me because it is written by and for smart and capable people who interested in these hobbies. However, upon having a baby, I learned that so much advice is crap because the advice is for the average person who has a baby: an idiot. So the advice tends to be the general sort of crap that you hear for other common things such as car ownership: "you should check your tire pressure weekly," even though a smart person does it every 6 months. Other bad advice comes with bed ownership: "you should wash your sheets more than once a month even if you wear a T-shirt and boxers to bed," but I wash them every 6 months (because if I do it every year they start to smell), though my pillowcase is done every couple of months. Perhaps the worst one is found by Googling how to not make egg shells stick to hard boiled eggs. Every online genius has their ideas on how to do it, but the only thing that works for me is using old eggs then immediately cooling them with water and peeling them.

This webpage is for smart people, and my standards for the smartness of a person's behavior increase as the person's age and number of children increases. If you discover that I do not consider you smart enough, please stop reading because this webpage will not help you. A therapist could help you address whatever has prevented you from developing into a smart person: the learned helplessness, the fixed mindset, the inability to accept criticism, the open emotional wounds, the lack of attention you were given, a culture and family that does not support curiosity and learning, the victim mentality, etc. Whatever you do, don't let any criticism of you stop you from loving your child, and don't become more extreme and stubborn by joining the war against knowledge. When it comes to parenting, I like to think that, when parenting, your ability to love is more important than your ability to think. It might even be true for certain ages as long as the parent is smart enough to care about and encourage their child's education and mental development.

This webpage is baby wisdom for smart people to counter all the bull crap that we have to say for the rest of people. There is a lot of bull crap because everyone is more cautious around babies than around cars and beds. Teenagers are typically idiots because they kinda are supposed to be, so I will repeat some of the bull crap for any teenage babysitters, but I want the truth for myself!

More importantly, this webpage contains my hard-fought knowledge. It is not intended to be complete advice, so use it as a starting or ending point in your learning. Many books seem to not give important advice for fear of offending someone. I'll talk crap where crap is due, so don't worry that I'm holding back. While I do give stories of my baby, I do research into what is to be expected for any baby.

A few things to know: (1) My wife couldn't breastfeed (even with supplementing) after she got sick, and I am loving the formula situation, but I think using formula greatly changes our experience: formula causes her to have less hormones, stress, and power. (2) Newborn generally means then first two months, and fourth trimester refers to the first three months. This webpage is about the first 2 or 3 months, not about infants (the first year) in general.

Sources of information besides this crappy webpage

Who do we listen to? Obviously, .org and .gov websites are better than .com. What about people? TL;DR: doctors and scientists.

Do you have a newborn but haven't read any books or taken any classes on how to care for it? You and your child are screwed! Start Googling now! If you have read some good books, keep Googling! You can discover if a book is horrible by Googling. If you Google deeper questions to really try to understand an issue, you can really start figuring out whether advice is good or bad. A good question for Google is, "What would happen if I did not do _____?" Here are some good books...

To prepare me for the birth, I got good and bad advice from people...

The hospital and others will tell you a bunch of bull crap or just half truths...

Speculation that may go against common advice...

More tips...

If you haven't been offended too much and made it here to the end, congrats!

If you want kids and can raise them to be smart and healthy, then do whatever you can to have them. If you have money, ability, and wisdom to raise a kid but little time, get a nanny. If you have the wisdom and smarts but not the money, figure out how to live cheaply! Overpopulation is a concern, but a world overpopulated with only stupid people is a much larger concern. For example, populism (stupid people blaming others for their stupidity) is an ever growing threat. People closing down the economy by not masking or getting vaccines during the COVID pandemic is another example. Another example is there being a shortage of skilled workers preventing the US from leading the world. Sadly, educated people often do not want kids because they have many other ways of living a fulfilling life, so, if you are educated and do want kids, have them.

As a teacher, I can say that up to half of public-school students have parents who should not be parents (due to the number of kids that some parents have, this does not mean that up to half of parents should not be parents). I certainly do not expect all or even most people to graduate a four-year college program one day, but I do expect everyone to graduate high school (or equivalent), and I expect some motivation to develop one's mind. I have met amazing janitors and secretaries who people respect and want to be around, and we should all try to be the best at whatever we end up being, but many people do not care. Up to half of students are clearly neglected in that they do not even know how to have fun outside of scrolling through their phones. I feel bad for the students, and I feel something else towards the parents. If a kid misses more than 10% of school, why do the courts still support the biological parent? Is it the parent's fault? Probably, since elementary teachers often see that a change in home environment, especially at the younger ages, can turn a kid from not even knowing their letters to reading books and doing meaningful math in a year or two.

Of course, some high school students are leagues above the others in their ability to use creativity, self teaching, and analysis to create amazing things. The most inspiring among them are those who want to go into a trade as a career, and are curious for the sake of curiosity. Other highly inspiring students come from broken families yet greatly excel at school even when homeless. When I was in high school, even though I never thought that I would do manual labor as my career, I still enjoyed PE (except when we played soccer or basketball and the kids that actually played these sports obviously just took over) because I enjoyed getting stronger and more coordinated and just being an interesting person, and I now greatly appreciate being a coordinated, active, capable person. The top 1/3 of the students do their best to avoid the bottom 1/3 even if it means taking an AP class in a subject that they do not enjoy, which reveals another reason we need more smart people in this world: to not have an excess of kids that waste so much of their classmate's time. I have heard horror stories in public elementary schools where one student cannot be expelled and ruins the year for everyone else in the class.

How do we have our kids turn out well? I don't quite know yet, but I plan on doing research and reading books about it as my child get approaches each new age (Nurture Shock is a good book!). Being a teacher and seeing how various kids turn out, I am certain of one thing: be a warm demander. If you aren't warm, the kid will eventually rebel (maybe in college). If you aren't demanding, the kid will have no structure to form a strong sense of morality. And you should demand that they do less social media and touchscreen time! If your child needs special support, do not stop the school's special education department from giving them the supports they need!