When people think about bonding with a newborn, images of a mother and her baby tend to come to mind. While it is essential for mothers and their babies to develop a deep connection, it's also important for fathers to spend quality time bonding with their babies.
"As a new dad, there were quite a few worries that flew around in my head. One of them that stood front and center was how I was going to bond and make a connection with my baby."
As a new dad, there were quite a few worries that flew around in my head. One of them that stood front and center was how I was going to bond and make a connection with my baby. A mother's bond naturally starts right at the beginning of pregnancy and continues to grow and strengthen throughout. But what about dads. How do we establish a bond just as strong?
Research has shown that when dads spend time with their newborns and begin developing a strong relationship with them from the very beginning, they reap a number of benefits.
A child’s physical and mental development is significantly boosted when his dad has played with him from the start, compared to children whose fathers took a more hands-off approach. Fathers experience less stress and increased confidence when they have their own special time with their newborns.
Strong father-child bonds can help counter issues such as depression later on in life.
Men who report that they had a good relationship with their fathers during childhood were found to be better equipped to handle stress. Children who experienced close interactions with their fathers from an early age tend to be more successful academically, have better relationships with their peers and be less likely to get involved with crime or abuse drugs and alcohol.
For me, the answer came easily, and I am going to share a few of the ways other dads can also bond and create special connections with their babies.
Bonding Before Birth
One thing I did even before birth was I attended all of the doctor’s appointments with my wife. Going with her to the doctor not only helped our connection with each other, but it kept me updated on the progress of the pregnancy and built up my confidence that I was contributing something positive as well. Plus, when you get in the habit of going, it becomes natural to continue attending your baby’s checkups at the pediatrician.
Another thing dads can do is to attend a baby-care class. Many local hospitals and early childhood organizations offer classes for both parents.
Talk to the baby. At around 34 weeks of pregnancy, your baby can learn to recognize your voice if you talk or sing close to your partner’s stomach. That is a true bonding with your baby starting already there.
Bonding After Birth
Use physical contact often. Hold your baby as much as you can. Tickles, touches, and snuggles are good too. Not only will it help you feel involved, but it will also help build bonds between you and your child.
Become involved in your child’s routine. With my wife breastfeeding, I had to get involved in different ways. I changed a lot of diapers and did the bathing of the baby. Bath time was our thing and was a great time of interaction.
Sing, talk, and read to your baby. It doesn’t have to be traditional nursery rhymes or lullabies either.
Take lots of pictures or video. How does picture or video taking build bonds? Well, part of securing a good bond with your baby has to do with your attitude. If you feel calm, happy, and confident, most likely you’re baby is feeling that as well. Pictures and videos you share with others will illicit those positive comments and compliments all new dads need to hear.
Make sure you have some alone time with your baby. Babies interact differently with each parent. This time can be an exploratory time for both you and your baby. This is a huge way to build strong bonds with your baby.
Wear your baby. Babywearing has become a trend and it is one of the most satisfying ways of not only bonding and keeping baby really close, but it is also a great way for us dads to be hands-free at the same time. This is a great way to get in some skin on skin bonding.
Get involved in the bedtime ritual. The term nursing implies not only breastfeeding but also comforting. While only mothers can breastfeed, fathers can also nurse. Develop your own list of bedtime rituals such as bathing baby, singing to a baby and reading stories to the toddler.
Although all of this may sound like the common sense ways for bonding with baby, it doesn’t always come naturally to every new dad. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is there are always other dads out there to talk to. Don’t be shy about talking to some of your friends who have had babies of their own. You’ll more than likely find that you both had similar feelings and experiences.