Many first-time parents have lamented the fact that babies (unlike TVs, toasters and washer driers) come without a manual. Dutch father of two Henk Hanssen has sought to rectify this with his bookBaby Management for Men (imagine Ikea assembly instructions crossed with a “management for dummies” pocket book.) Here, the baby is the “product” and there’s advice on planning, cleaning, maintenance, input and output. An instant hit in Holland, where it has sold 40,000 copies, the guide has been translated into German, sold on to China and Brazil, and from this month is available here too. Men seem to like it.
Hanssen, who lives near Amsterdam with his partner and children, wrote the book shortly after becoming a dad himself. A journalist for magazines such as Playboy and Men’s Health, he had been unimpressed by the information available for expectant fathers. “I remember one baby book for dads, written by a British author, which included advice like ‘Never leave your baby outside the supermarket’,” Hanssen recalls. “I didn’t have to be told that. The alternatives were the parenting books and magazines which were really written for mothers, not fathers. Men don’t experience ‘baby blues’ and ‘pelvic floor changes’. What I really wanted was need-to-know information on how to be an involved dad.”
Following the birth of his daughter Rosa, Hanssen decided to launch a website, IkVader (which translates as IDad), which offers news, games and a popular forum, all aimed at fathers.
“I used the management metaphor — ‘product’, ‘input’ and ‘output’ — to attract men to the subject,” he says. “When you use the word ‘care’ — the exact Dutch translation for ‘care’ has something to do with ‘worry’ — a lot of men think, ‘That’s my wife’s business.’ Maybe men need a different vocabulary. Maybe it’s easier for them to think, ‘I’m busy with ‘output’ instead of ‘I’m changing a nappy’ — but my real aim is to give fathers a boost by saying, ‘The way you do it is good enough. Maybe it won’t be the way your partner would do it — but don’t wait for your baby to walk and talk. Get involved from the beginning’.”
The website’s success prompted Hanssen to write the book. One of the first promotions took place at the biggest parenting fair in Holland. Pastel pink and blue balloons floated above stalls sponsored by Pampers and Huggies. Hanssen’s little stand was set up as a boot camp. Rock music pounded. Men dressed in camouflage gear enlisted expectant dads to complete five tasks, such as setting up a travel cot and putting a nappy on a silicone baby.
“Some women were appalled by the practical focus and said, ‘The book doesn’t talk about emotions! Men have emotions too’,” Hanssen says. “But there are other books covering that already. My book is what men need to know to get started. That’s it.”
In fact, hidden among the diagrams and the management speak is a wealth of information as well as exercises designed to engage fathers in personal development. Consider various factors such as your “partner’s attitude” and the “example set by your own father”, score them, multiply them by 1.43 and you apparently find your likely effectiveness as a father. Write down your “Fatherhood Ambition” and how you plan to realise it.
Clearly Dutch dads appreciated the advice. In Holland, parenting in the early years has been very much the mother’s domain — and most men are still only entitled to a couple of days paternity leave. “Women don’t work as much here,” Hanssen says. “About 20 per cent stop working to raise the children and 60 per cent work part-time.
“At the same time, there has been a bit of a silent revolution and this generation of dads has become much more involved with their children,” he continues. “Two years ago, the Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos left politics as he wanted to spend more time with his family. The fact that he made this choice and had the guts to say it into the microphone shows how far dads have come. Even if you work 60 hours a week, the children are the main project in Holland. They’re number one.” Perhaps this begins to explain why a recent Unicef study found Dutch children to be the happiest in the world.
Hanssen, whose daughter is now 12 and his son 6, has followed his success with Pregnancy Management for Men and is now busy withToddler Management. He has found support in unlikely places. The popular Dutch feminist magazine Opzij (which translates as “Get out my way”) has voted him the “Example Man” of the Netherlands — an honour he describes as “questionable”.
“My aim is to parent in a manly way,” he says. “There are dads out there who say they are jealous of their partners because she can breastfeed their baby. Forget about it. You’re a man. Be a man. Remain a man while you are a father. That’s what this book is about.”
How to carry a baby
Your baby can’t get anywhere without your help. Here’s how to activate his mobile mode.
Vertically Put one hand under his neck and head (neck muscles are barely developed at first, so make sure the head doesn’t loll). Place your other hand so that it supports his back and buttocks. Lift the baby to your chest.
Horizontally Turn your baby on to his belly. Place your hand on his chest after reaching your arm between his legs. Your other hand goes firmly on his back. Lift.
Rocking Always hold the baby in your left arm: he’ll be soothed by your heartbeat. Place your right hand under his head and neck, and your left under his buttocks and back. Move your right hand toward your left arm, cradle his head in the crook of your elbow, and let his body rest on your underarm.
No throwing It’s a common thing for new parents, an expression of exuberance: playfully toss and catch the baby, launching him straight up into the air. Don’t. There have been cases of au pairs being convicted for manslaughter after they shook babies in their care. Since then, several studies have been done to determine the effects of tumbling and shaking on a baby’s brain. The verdict: even innocent-looking behaviour such as playfully throwing the baby up in the air can lead to accidental brain damage. The phenomenon is known as Shaken baby syndrome, something that occurs after the brain hits the inside of the skull, possibly triggering nerve damage in the neck. The consequences can be very serious, including paralysis, speech abnormalities and cognitive problems.
Material and provisions Whenever you take the baby out of the house, have the following ready:
• Food (if needed)
• Bottle of sterilised drinking water
• Nappies and wipes
• A change of clothes
How to bottle-feed a baby
You’ll need some practical and social skills, and patience with demanding customers. Practical necessities: bottle, teat, measuring spoon, fresh milk powder, bottle warmer.
• Wash your hands.
• Boil the kettle and allow the water to cool for no more than 30 minutes. You want the water at about 70C to kill any bacteria in the powder.
• Pour the water into the sterilised bottle.
• Add the powder. How much powder to how much water is indicated on the packaging.
• Fasten the teat on to the bottle, pinch the end of the teat and shake the bottle. Continue until the powder is completely dissolved.
• Check the temperature. Dab a few drops on to your wrist. The milk can be a tad above body temperature. If it’s too hot, hold the bottle briefly under cold running water.
• Sterilise the bottle and the teat after each use.
• Warm the teat under hot water until it’s approximately at body temperature.
• Position the baby in your lap so that his head rests comfortably in the crook of your elbow. Hold up his head a bit, making sure it’s in line with his body.
• Place the nipple in his mouth, aiming at the soft palate. Make sure that he closes his lips around the entire perimeter of the teat.
• Stop the feeding after 5 to 10 minutes. Lift the baby toward your chest, and gently stroke and pat his back in a circular motion. Keep at it for a couple of minutes; this allows him to burp out the air he took in during feeding. A breastfed baby may also burp.
• Resume feeding until the baby stops drinking. Don’t pressure him to finish the bottle. Allow him to suck on the nipple even if he takes in no additional food. Burp the baby again.
• Because the valve that closes the stomach is not fully functional yet, some milk may come back out. Milk flows quickly from a bottle, so many infants drink more than they can handle.
• The bottle’s milk stream can be too limited, depending on the size and number of holes in the teat. The holes are too small/few if the baby sucks in his cheeks; if the baby spits out the milk or is having a hard time swallowing mouthfuls, that points to the opposite problem. Check to see if the teat is working properly by holding the bottle upside down. The milk is supposed to leak out at a rate of a few drops per second.
• Always discard any formula that the baby doesn’t drink.
How to change a nappy
Workspace Choose a work surface (also known as a changing table) that’s at least 30in wide and 22in deep, and that’s between 36in and 42in high. Make sure that it extends an inch or so towards the front, so that you’ll have a place for your toes.
Safety A safe work station has smooth edges and doesn’t tilt or wobble, not even when its doors or drawers are open. The back and sides should have an elevated edge. Keep it away from radiators, and make sure that there are no furnishings around for the baby to grab on to, such as knobs, handles, hooks, or curtain cords. Never leave the child alone on the work surface.
Materials Cover most of the work surface with a thick pad, preferably the kind with raised edges. Hang a mobile over it to distract the baby. Keep the following materials within reach: moist baby wipes (use only after the baby is at least four weeks old: these wipes tend to contain alcohol that could dry out a newborn’s skin); cotton wool; baby wipes or wash cloths; baby oil or cream; and a generous supply of nappies. You’ll go through about 4,500 nappies in your child’s early years. Sorry about that. Use a nappy bin to temporarily dispose of used nappies. The odour of nappy bins can be somewhat neutralised by a deodorant; some fancy models automatically wrap the nappy in a germ-killing plastic bag.
Changing the nappy Your baby’s tangible output should be guided into a soft, flexible shell that you secure around his or her nether regions. You can choose between cloth nappies and disposable ones.
Removing your baby’s output
1 Wash your hands.
2 Prepare the necessary materials. Take a wash cloth moistened in warm water that’s been allowed to cool to approximate body temperature. Or go for special pre-moistened baby wipes. Do not use soap.
3 Put the baby on the work station surface, on his or her back, and pull back the nappy.
4 If the nappy is only wet, move on to step 7.
5 Gently grab the baby’s feet and pull them up.
6 Wipe upwards for a boy, downwards for a girl as this will reduce the chance of vaginal infection. Do not open the labia.
7 Dispose of the nappy.
8 Clean the area with a soft washcloth soaked in warm water. Use a clean one for every nappy change.
9 Make sure the skin folds, the insides of the thighs, and the buttocks are dry before continuing.
10 Open the new nappy completely and place it under your baby with the closure tabs facing up at you.
11 Centre the baby on the nappy.
12 Fold the front of the nappy over the baby’s genitals. Let a boy’s penis fall forwards.
13 Fasten the side flaps.
14 Ensure that you can slide one or two fingers between the nappy and the baby’s belly. Don’t let the nappy cover a newborn baby’s navel stump.
Why is your baby crying?
In the field of baby management, effective communication is the absolute key to successful product development. Communicative skills such as play, speaking parentese and offering consolation are all part of the baby manager’s skill set.
Communication tools Your baby comes with a limited but effective way of communicating: making a terrible racket. The average baby cries for about an hour each day. There’s almost always a cause for these crying spells. Here are the most common ones.
Discomfort Change nappy, check if he is too cold or too hot, make sure that clothing is comfortable and not too tight.
Hunger Give milk.
Irritation Remove the source of irritation, such as excessive light or sound.
Stomach cramps Burp the baby, or put him on his back and move his legs as if he’s cycling.
Loneliness Physical contact should help.
Fatigue/exhaustion Relax the baby; feed him, bathe him, talk to him, rock him.
Illness Consult a doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary.