5 Ways for Dad to Bond with Baby
Eat. Sleep. Poop. It seems like that’s all babies do. If mum is breastfeeding, it may seem like baby is always in mum’s arms. And if baby’s asleep, you may be too. And you’re open to some nappy changing, but is that the only way to get some time for Dad to bond with baby?
You don’t need to be the mother-substitute – only caring for baby when she can’t. You can be an active and equal participant in parenting together. Your relationship with your child won’t be exactly like mum’s, but it will be just as important. Here are 5 ways you can create your own bond with your baby:
Take some responsibility
‘What do you mean – I’m completely responsible for this new human …’ you might be saying. But what I mean is take some responsibility for specific day-to-day care.
Take feedings, for instance. If your baby is bottle-fed, you can definitely share the task. Learn to make bottles, feed baby, and clean up afterwards. Take responsibility for feedings day and night. But, this may seem impossible if your baby is breastfed. You can, however, do plenty to support mum. Bring her water or a snack, change baby’s nappy before or during the feeding, burp baby afterwards. If it’s nighttime, bring baby to her so she doesn’t need to get out of bed, at least some of the time.
It’s never too late to make a ‘baby plan.’ As a couple, discuss who is going to do what after the baby is born (or now that the baby is here). Who will do the feeding, nappy changes, comforting, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.? Discussing expectations can help those early weeks go more smoothly, and can help you see ways in which you can bond with your baby.
Whether you’re skin-to-skin with baby or just cuddling together clothed, your baby will love your warmth and comfort. Touch is soothing and snuggling together releases hormones (especially endorphins and oxytocin) that will relax the both of you. Your deep voice will resonate through your chest and soothe your baby – so don’t be afraid to talk, sing or hum. In fact, your newborn likely already recognizes your voice!
Learning to comfort a crying baby is sometimes challenging – for mums and dads. Don’t expect to be an expert at it from the start, and don’t assume mum will instantly know how, either. You may comfort baby differently from mum, and that’s fine. What works for her may not work for you. Find your own ways of helping baby settle.
Some dads think, “I’ll take over when Junior can throw a ball” or “Once he’s old enough, I can be more involved.” But you’re not only denying yourself the pleasure of learning about your baby, but you’re keeping your baby from knowing and trusting you, an essential way to bond with baby.
I know it doesn’t seem like newborns can’t do much, but find ways to play with your baby as often as you can. Give your baby a bath. Lay on the floor with him during tummy time. Hold him and talk to him during his quiet alert time. Have fun making faces at him and seeing if you can get him to imitate you. It won’t be long before your baby is old enough to sit up, then crawl, then walk and run. By then, you’ll be comfortable playing together and will find all sorts of new ways to interact.
Give mum a break
Whether you’ve heard the expression ‘if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy’ or not, there’s nothing more true. Mum’s feelings tend to lead the mood of the whole family. If you can do anything to help her feel good, do it.
Take walks with baby in a stroller or even in a soft carrier on your body. Care for the baby and let mum catch up on her rest. Take baby so she can shower. These times will allow mum to regroup, but will also help you to bond with your baby.
If you notice that mum doesn’t seem like herself – if she isn’t finding happiness at all in mothering, if her mood seems down all the time, if she seems especially sad – she could be suffering from postpartum depression. Dads often notice the changes before mum recognizes them herself. Help her get the helps she needs. Occasionally, dads suffer from postpartum mood issues, too, so don’t discount some self-care if you feel that way.
Cultivate your relationship
You had so much fun making this baby together, but the magic may seem to have disappeared with the arrival of this demanding little human between the two of you. It may not seem like this has anything to do with developing a bond with your child, but a strong relationship between parents leads to a feeling of safety in which children can thrive. Seeing communication skills, empathy, conflict resolution and trust between his primary caregivers will help a baby grow up to be a confident child with the relational skills he needs in the world.
To bond with baby takes time – it’s not always an instantaneous thing. Did you bond immediately with your partner, or did it take some time to learn more about each other letting the connection develop over time? It’s the same with your baby. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel an intense attachment right away. Spend time getting to know your baby. Teach him through your actions that you’re someone he can count on to be there, to protect him, to keep him safe. Don’t be afraid to show your affection, even as he moves into childhood and even adolescence. The everyday care you provide will serve as a strong foundation for that father-child bond.