If you’re a new dad or you are about to become a dad, you may be wondering what your role in your baby’s life will be. While many moms may feel the bond with their baby before they even arrive, for some dads it may take a little time and that’s okay! Your relationship with your baby is a unique and special one and it needs to be nurtured just as the bond does between mother and child. Here are some great ways you can ensure that you and your baby build a lasting and secure bond.
- Start before birth: Bonding with your baby can begin as early as when he’s still nestled cozily in the womb. Get involved with your partner’s pregnancy by attending her prenatal visits, taking prenatal classes, feeling baby kick and helping to prepare your nest for baby’s arrival. One way you can actually help your baby get to know you is by singing or reading to mom’s tummy. Somewhere between 20 and 24 weeks gestation, babies start to be able to hear outside voices with their little ears. This will help your baby connect with you once he is born as he will recognize the tones and patterns in your voice.
- Practice skin-to-skin care after birth: Kangaroo Care is not only hugely beneficial for mom and baby, but for dad and baby too. Infants who have skin-to-skin contact with their dad following birth and during infancy enjoy benefits such as better thermal regulation, reduced stress and less frequent crying. Also, dads who engage in this practice with their new babes report feeling more closely bonded compared to dads who do not.
- Get involved: Many dads may feel like it’s the mom and baby show those first few weeks of infancy, but really, dads are tremendously needed and can be invaluably helpful too! Help with the feedings by bringing baby to mom if she is breastfeeding and then offer to burp baby afterward. Have mom pump for a midnight bottle and be on night duty for special daddy and baby only bonding time. Use diaper changes as an opportunity to make loving eye contact and silly faces with your little one. There are many ways to help with a newborn that will not only give mom some rest but foster a closer connection between you and your baby.
- Wear your baby: There are a whole host of benefits to the practice of babywearing and they are not just for moms! Find a sling or carrier that you like, snuggle up to your little one and take a walk around the neighborhood or get stuff done around the house. Carriers are a great alternative to strollers as they allow for the benefits of physical closeness between baby and parent. They are also a great way to be hands-free so you can knock out some chores while cuddling with your babe. Check out this article for more tips on how to safely wear your baby.
- Take part in the bedtime routine: Whether it’s being the expert on bath time or choosing a special book that will be just for you and your little one, being part of the bedtime routine is a great way to bond with your baby. If your baby regularly nurses to sleep and needs mom to do the actual putting down at the end of the night, find ways to get involved in the preparation. Your baby will come to know and expect that special time with her dad and it will be a signal that the time to sleep is near.
- Be a soother: Often when babies get upset, a dad’s knee-jerk reaction can be to hand her back to her mother. And if she’s hungry, this is the best solution. However, many times babies will cry for a variety of other reasons where dad can be just as helpful at providing a comforting snuggle as mom. If you’ve ruled out hunger as a possibility, try soothing techniques with your babe like rocking, swaying, swaddling, singing, shushing and bouncing. Often dads can be excellent soothers by just having a comforting voice and a rhythmic bounce.
- Set aside special dad and baby playtime: Whether it’s an evening walk to the park, some silly time on the play mat or a nighttime snuggle with a favorite book, set aside time each day that is just for you and your baby. Not only will this give mom a chance to shower and grab a snack, it will create a predictable routine and special bonding time daily for you and your little one. Use your time together to engage with your baby by making silly faces, allowing him to study your expressions, telling him about your day, playing peekaboo or even giving infant massage a try. These are all fun ways that you and baby can build a lasting and secure bond.
There are many great ways for dads to create their own special bond with their baby that will foster a mutually beneficial relationship. If you have a new infant at home and you are struggling to feel the connection, don’t worry, it will come. Give some of the above ideas a try and allow yourself time to explore the ways your relationship with your child will be special and unique. For questions about pregnancy, natural birth or postnatal care and infant bonding, please contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We’re here for you from conception to postpartum and beyond.