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A Look at Issues Facing First-Time Dads

Aired June 18, 2005 - 08:30   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And that's going to be all for us right now. HOUSECALL is ahead. But first, we want to give you a look at stories in the news.
You are seeing exclusive pictures of U.S. troops in action. They've launched two operations in two days in western Iraq. The military says 50 insurgents have been killed in "Operation Spear," which was launched yesterday. This morning, U.S. troops began a new search for insurgent weapons and hideouts under the name "Operation Dagger."

Condoleezza Rice is in the Mideast trying to jumpstart peace efforts. She arrived this morning in Israel, where she'll meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tomorrow. Today, she's visiting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Rice's trip also takes her to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

I'm Betty Nguyen. CNN SATURDAY MORNING is back at the top of the hour. HOUSECALL begins right now.

SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Good morning, and welcome to a very special HOUSECALL.

Well, it's Father's Day weekend. And I am becoming a first-time dad. Still sinking in. So today, we're going to be focusing on the ins and outs of 21st century fatherhood.

Let's start with pregnancy. The mom is supposed to gain weight. She's pregnant. But for lots of dads out there, it can mean packing on the pounds as well.



GUPTA (voice-over): Even though it was his wife who gave birth to these twin boys, it was David Feldman's weight that went up and down, like a swing.

DAVID FELDMAN, NEW DAD: Before my wife got pregnant, I weighed is 190 pounds. Then during the pregnancy, peaked to about 235. Now I'm down to 209. You know, and I plan to, you know, get back down under 200.

We eat everything. You know, lots of carbs, lots of pizza, lots of Chinese food, a lot of ice cream, bacon cheeseburgers. One of my biggest cravings was bacon cheeseburgers.

GUPTA: While she grew out in front, he grew a little on the sides. Yes, love handles. Diagnosis, sympathy weight gain.

FELDMAN: She was very queasy. So I was -- kept encouraging her to eat. And while she was eating, while I was encouraging her to eat, I ate with her.

GUPTA: Another common reason for the extra baggage, stress about providing financially, getting the house ready, and taking on a new daunting role. Putting on the pounds is part of a greater condition known as Kuvad Syndrome. That's a French word for hatching. Studies on this Kuvad Syndrome show about 90 percent of men experience at least one pregnancy-like symptom. Anything from nausea, to vomiting, food cravings, and most commonly, yes, weight gain.

David's wife, Sloan, actually welcomed the weight gain.

FELDMAN: One of the running jokes we had throughout the pregnancy is that even with twins, she did not want to weigh more than I did. And throughout the pregnancy, she never did. So she was ecstatic.

GUPTA: David's post pregnancy diet helped him lose more than half the weight that he gained. No longer worried about the ups and downs of becoming a dad, David can now concentrate on the ups and downs of being a dad.


GUPTA: Experts say these symptoms can be caused by fluctuating hormones in the soon-to--be-dads. Now Prolactin or hormone link to parental behavior rises in men in the three weeks before their baby is born. The stress hormone Cortisol also surges during that time.

Researchers think this has to do more with bonding than with actual stress. Also, helping with bonding, men's testosterone levels plummet more than 30 percent in the three weeks following the birth of their child. Experts believe this increases the dad's nurturing capabilities.

And talking with us this morning about being a dad is Dr. Bob Sears. He's a dad three times over. He's also a pediatrician and co- author of several parenting books like "The Baby Book" with his famous father, Dr. Bill Sears.

First of all, welcome very much, doctor.

DR. BOB SEARS, PEDIATRICIAN: Thanks, Sanjay, hello.

GUPTA: Hello. Many dads get their fathering tips from other dads, as you may know. We're going to get some from you. Some of my colleagues here at CNN had some advice for me. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Congratulations on the baby. The one piece of advice I can give you, the best piece I think, is that this is going to completely, completely change your life. Only you have no idea what that really means until after the wonderful event. But I can tell you this. It is the best thing that will ever happen to you.


GUPTA: That certainly means a lot coming from Nic Robertson, one of our war correspondents. Doctor, you've been through this already three times over. What's the biggest change a new father should expect?

SEARS: Well, Sanjay, the biggest change I experienced is really a whole reshaping of how I spent my time every day. I used to have a lot of downtime. I liked to read, do a lot of things to myself, spend a lot of time with my wife. And it's really, you know, a new baby coming along just really reshapes your entire day, your entire existence.

GUPTA: Right.

SEARS: And so fathers should be prepared to set aside a lot of their own personal ideas of, you know, what they want to do each day and really devote a lot of time to getting to know their new baby.

GUPTA: Right. A lot of that personal time maybe going to go away. Listen, lots of e-mails coming in on this topic. Let's start with one from Martin in California who asks this.

"I've gone through the sympathetic weight gain with my wife. Now six months after our baby is born, she's svelte and beautiful. I, on the other hand, have experienced no sympathetic weight loss to match my wife's. When does my body catch up?"

You may be a little tongue and cheek here, doctor, but what sort of advice would you give Martin?

SEARS: Well, Sanjay, I think as we all get older, we tend to put on a little more weight. And it takes a lot more work to maintain a healthy body weight. And I encourage new dads to form a regular exercise routine every day to keep yourself in shape. Eat healthy. Start creating healthy eating habits for yourself and your wife, so that you can get ready to pass those healthy habits on to your child.

GUPTA: Yes. Maybe the -- a jogging stroller, something like that would be a good idea, huh?


GUPTA: We've got another question now coming from Ben in California. He writes this.

"Besides being understanding and sympathetic, what can I do to help my wife with her pregnancy? Are there physical things that I can do to help alleviate some of her discomfort?"

And doctor, again, you've been through this three times, three boys. How did you help your wife?

SEARS: Well, I asked my wife towards the end of the pregnancy, when she couldn't really get around so easily and do all the usual household chores, is I asked her what are the five things you'd like me to do every day around the house that would make your day so much easier?

I wrote those down. I taped them on the kitchen cabinet. And every day when I walked by, I'd notice, you know, what was it on list that I hadn't done yet. You know, simple tidying chores, doing the dishes, things like that.

GUPTA: Listen, we're talking to Dr. Bob Sears. We've got to take a quick break. More HOUSECALL, coming up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The joys of parenthood, sometimes tempered by the realities of your new life. How to cut down the stress and enjoy fatherhood after the break.

First, take today's "daily dose" quiz. What is the average cost of raising a child today? Is it $120,000. $230,000, or $500,000? That answer, when HOUSECALL returns.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Checking the "daily dose" quiz, we asked what is the average cost of raising a child today? The answer is B, $230,000. And that doesn't include the cost of a college education.

GUPTA: Hmm, that's a pretty big number. Hearing figures like that and reading about all the things that can go wrong make for anxious and sometimes depressed dads.


JONATHAN ABRAMOWITZ, PSYCHOLOGIST, MAYO CLINIC: Some dads develop postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.

GUPTA (voice-over): And it's starting to be recognized as I learned when I attending a new boot camp for new dads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm more worried about, you know, what's going to happen between me and my wife.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The relationship with my wife and the postpartum depression is my most biggest concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, I'm a little selfish right now. How do I keep my sanity?

ABRAMOWITZ: One day you don't have a baby. The next day, you're responsible for this helpless little thing. And that can, you know, throw fathers for a loop sometimes. GUPTA: Dr. Jonathan Abramowitz is a clinical psychologist at the Mayo Clinic. He's also the father of 4-year-old Emily and 1-year-old Miriam.

ABRAMOWITZ: I would get bad thoughts. So for example, my oldest daughter, after she was born, my first, I can recall, you know, burping her, giving her a bottle in the middle of the night. You know, my wife's asleep and I'm burping her after giving her the bottle. And I just got this intrusive thought. What if I just reared back and whacked her? You know, it would be terrible. I could really hurt this tiny 3 week old thing. And you know, no one's stopping me from doing it.

GUPTA: He stopped himself and decided instead to study the problem. His study found that 60 percent to 70 percent of new parents reported having unwanted thoughts, a finding other experts would agree with.

ZACHARY STOWE, DR., EMORY UNIVERSITY: Ask anyone with a child if they've ever had aggressive thoughts about their children. And anyone that tells you no is lying.

GUPTA: And those unwanted thoughts could lead to depression.

ABRAMOWITZ: So if I'm having lots of problems with intrusive, bad thoughts, and I start to convince myself oh, my goodness, I'm a terrible dad, I'm going to do something awful, why do these thoughts keep coming back, I think that would make a person depressed.

GUPTA: Symptoms to look out for include mood swings, fatigue, loss of appetite, sadness, diminished interest in activities that dad used to enjoy.

But there are things you can do about it. Ease the pressure on yourself. Don't forget to talk to the mom. She may understand it better than you think. Also, take time to be a couple.

While a lot of these symptoms are common in new parents, if they last longer than two weeks and prevent you from functioning normally, dads may want to consider therapy or anti-anxiety medications.


GUPTA: We're talking with Dr. Bob Sears, a pediatrician and father of three boys.

Listen, doctor, lots of questions on stress and depression. A good one now coming from John in South Dakota who wrote this.

"I have two daughters. And in their infancy, their crying would cause anxiety and was almost physically painful. Is there a medical term for this or is that just common stress?"

Doctor, is there a medical term for that? And how stressful are those first few months? SEARS: Well, Sanjay, a baby's cry is not really stressful when it's -- when it only goes on for a short time and it's responded to by the parents. The baby's cry is really the baby's language. It's the only way a baby knows how to make his needs known.

So when a parent is very responsive and nurturing to the baby's cry, the baby learns how to communicate with the parents. And you can avoid a lot of stress.

On the other hand, excessive crying, prolonged periods of crying on a repeated basis really causes a lot of stress to the baby. It raises Cortisol levels in the brain. It raises adrenaline levels in the body. It suppresses your growth hormones, your immune system. It can actually, you know, research at Yale and Harvard and UCLA and Johns Hopkins has shown how chronic stress hormones in a baby's brain actually inhibits the development of the neurons and the nerve connections in the brain.

GUPTA: Wow, that's very interesting. Lots of things going on, hormonal changes. Lots of stress and anxiety as well for sure. So how long will that last? Well, CNN's own Wolf Blitzer filled me in on his experience.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Sanjay, here's some good advice. Rest. Make sure you're ready, because you're not going to be getting much sleep at least at the beginning. And you know what? You might not be getting a whole lot of sleep in the years to come, because the little problems very often become bigger problems as they get bigger.

So just get ready for the long haul. It's worth it in the long run. It's worth it every day, because this is the best, best experience, the most productive, the most wonderful experience that you're about to have in your life.


GUPTA: Wolf, thanks a lot.

You know, he brings up an interesting point. I am a bit worried about the sleep aspect of being a new dad. And so is Mark in Ohio. He wrote us with a question. He says this.

"I will become a first-time father sometime in the next month. How much sleep can I expect to get per night? And how can I best manage my new schedule to not negatively impact my work schedule?"

GUPTA: And Dr. Sears, you kept an online journal with your last. And we looked at some of that. You wrote specifically about the lack of sleep. And you're a busy guy. How do you balance that with the work schedule?

SEARS: Babies tend to be awake all night and sleep all day early on. But I found the secret to getting a full night's sleep at least for myself. I encouraged my wife to breast feed. And we had our babies sleep close to us in the same room.

So when the babies stirred during the night and started to cry and was hungry, my wife responded by breast feeding. And Sanjay, actually, I ended up sleeping through almost every night. I...

GUPTA: Sounds like a good plan. Your wife's up and you're sleeping.

SEARS: Yes, but I - you know, sometimes when my wife was overwhelmed, like any good dad, you got to be there for her. You got to take over some of the nighttime duties. Get up with the baby, walk around, console him. So you have to expect some of that, too.

GUPTA: Yes. No. That's good advice, obviously a lot of people paying attention to that.

Coming up on HOUSECALL, how safe are your kids in your own home? Find out when we come back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We get down to the business of child proofing your house when HOUSECALL returns.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sort of trailing along behind, trying to keep up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A new way to stay fit and have fun as a family.

First, this week's medical headlines in "The Pulse."


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The drug company Nitromed is seeking FDA approval to sell the first race-based medicine. If approved Bidil, a pill used to treat heart failure, will be specifically marketed to African-Americans.

A recent study funded by Nitromed showed Bidil reduced deaths and hospitalizations amongst African-Americans, but critics question the use of racial distinction in medicine.

Christy Feig, CNN.


TIME STAMP: 0850:00


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Sanjay, congratulations. Really happy for you. It's the greatest experience you'll have in your life.

Three pieces of advice. Never turn down a diaper. Never diminish the value of the mom of your household. And whatever you do, spend some time each day being a dad with your Blackberry off.


GUPTA: Oh, turn off the Blackberry you said? Good advice, Miles. Thank you very much.

Listen, we've talked about when your baby first comes home, everything from sleep to stress. But what do you need to know once they get moving? Well, I wanted to find that out as well, touring the home of one of my producers, who just became a mom 11 months ago. What I learned, your house can be one of the most dangerous places of all for your kids.


GUPTA: If you had to say - pick one room in the house that was the most dangerous, what would it be?

MISTY CROFT, SAFETY EXPERT: Really either the kitchen or the bathroom. Those two places really have lots of things that kids can harm themselves with.

GUPTA: Let's go over to the stove, because that's always a concern. There are kids pulling stuff down. Is that right?

CROFT: Absolutely. And that's why we suggest to put some type of guard on your stove.

GUPTA: Now I'm going down to child level here for a second, because immediately, I'm down here. And I'm - you know, everything is exciting.

CROFT: My best suggestion is really to get rid of all the stuff that's underneath the cabinet that could be dangerous to your child.

GUPTA: So I'm cruising around the kitchen still. And immediately as a child, my attention's focused on the socket over here.

CROFT: And these are actually not recommended, because children usually, by the time they're 2, can figure out how to get those out. And then they can become choking hazards.

GUPTA: Straight to the mouth.

CROFT: Absolutely.


Plants are lovely -- but maybe not such a good idea?

CROFT: No, because plants, most of them are poisonous. And if the plant isn't poisonous, the top soil likely is.

GUPTA: Well, stairs seem like a real obvious concern. Kids can go tumbling down them. So how do you prevent that from happening?

CROFT: Well, we do recommend for there to be a gate at the top and the bottom of the stairs. The other concern about the stairs are the banisters. These banisters, if you can fit a Coke can through, then your child can get through.

GUPTA: One of the rooms that the child's going to spend a lot of time in is the nursery.


GUPTA: What comes to your mind as you enter here?

CROFT: One thing about the crib is bumper pads are not recommended.

GUPTA: Not recommended?


GUPTA: Why is that? Seems like it'd be a good idea.

CROFT: At first, it's a SIDS issue. They could actually suffocate on the bumper pads. And then after they start to pull up, then they could step on it and use it to get out of the crib.

GUPTA: Do a little Houdini.

CROFT: Right. This whole area is a no-no. We have lots of things down here that your child could poison themselves with.

GUPTA: Yes, and again.

CROFT: There's medication down there. There's creams.

GUPTA: Average-size house. How much is this going to cost somebody?

CROFT: It can range you anywhere between $200, all the way up to thousands.


GUPTA: Of course, you are the best safety device. No plug or lock can substitute for your own supervision.

We're talking with Dr. Bob Sears. He's a pediatrician. He's also a father of three boys and co-author of the bestselling book "The Baby Book."

Doctor, your youngest is 3-years old now, well into the toddler years.


GUPTA: What advice do you give to parents worried about child- proofing their house?

SEARS: Well, Sanjay, child-proofing can be overwhelming for any parent, especially if you live in a large house. What we did is we created what we called a safety room. We picked one room in the house. We installed baby gates to close it off. And we made sure that one room was completely 100 percent baby proofed.

GUPTA: Dr. Bob Sears, nobody knows more about the stuff than you do. Thanks so much for being with us this morning and answering all of our questions.

SEARS: Thanks, Sanjay, for having me.

GUPTA: Sure. HOUSECALL's not over yet.

Coming up, a mom's perspective on what to expect from fatherhood. But first, our bod squad checks in with how you can have fun with your kids and get some exercise while you're at it.


HOLLY FIRFIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to activities for the kids, most parents are on the sidelines. But things are completely different in this karate class. Family fitness is the focus here. Family karate has helped Sydney Archer and her dad earn black belts together.

DAVID ARCHER, FAMILY KARATE STUDENT: It's really nice to see her go up through the grades and get better and better. And I'm sort of trailing along behind, trying to keep up.

FIRFIR: For families like the Sanders, exercising together provides an important balance.

JOSEPH SANDERS, FAMILY KARATE STUDENT: We're a family who likes to cook and eat. And so it's important for us to exercise. But I think even more so than the physical part, it's really fascinating to see the kids get into it and grow.

FIRFIR: With childhood obesity on rise in the U.S., fun-filled family exercise is a trend that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hopes to continue.

Holly Firfir, CNN.


TIME STAMP: 0858:58

GUPTA: We're back with HOUSECALL. Well, we're getting lots of good advice this morning on becoming a dad. And CNN left no stone unturned when it came down to tracking the best people to dispense parenting knowledge. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAMYANTI GUPTA, MRS., SANJAY'S MOM: Love the child as much as you can. Spend time and - but don't spoil the child. That's our job.


GUPTA: I have no doubt that my mom will spoil my child very, very much. Thanks, mom.

Listen, the bestselling author of the parenting series, "What to Expect" had some words of wisdom on what I should expect from fatherhood. I can't wait to hear what Heidi had to say.


HEIDI MURKOFF, AUTHOR, "WHAT TO EXPECT" SERIES: There's absolutely nothing that a mother can do that a father can't do equally well, if not better. And also remember to expect the unexpected because babies are predictable only in being unpredictable. And that could be said twice for pregnant women and new moms.

And most of all, remember, that parenting isn't brain surgery. It's a lot harder than brain surgery. But fortunately, it's also more fun. And I think you'll find it more rewarding.


GUPTA: Not brain surgery, good advice, Heidi Murkoff. Thank you very much.

Listen, unfortunately, we're out of time. I had a great time today. I want to thank all the CNN correspondents for their great advice. And Happy Father's Day weekend to all the dads out there. Happy Dad's Day, dad.

Make sure to tune in every weekend for another edition of HOUSECALL. That's 8:30 Eastern on Saturday and Sunday.


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