Gone are the days where dads were expected to go to work, come home, play with their child for 10 minutes and that’s it. Today dads are expected, and wanting, to be more of an active participant in raising their children. The positive effect is that dads are creating much stronger bonds with their children than ever before. The big question is how does a new dad connect with their newborn? There are many who find it difficult to bond with their child until they are old enough to play together.
Here are some tips to build a bond with your baby early:
- Learn about your unborn baby. It is great to read books or websites that explain the development of your baby. Comparing the size of fruit to the size of your baby will help you to visualize what is happening in your partner’s body. It is also really exciting to learn when the heart starts beating, when the fingers and toes are developed and all the other systems along the way.
- Go to an ultrasound and/or Doctor’s appointment. Seeing your baby on the screen, even when it is blurry and hard to read, gives many dads-to-be a real sense of connection to what is developing in their partner’s body. Makes the experience more ‘real’ for them. Hearing the heartbeat can also make even the toughest of men tear up a bit.
- Participate in the labour process. Educate yourself during the pregnancy to learn more about how to be supportive and helpful in labour is really important. Hiring a doula will ensure that you play an active role in meeting your baby. It is sometimes hard to remember everything from class so having someone to remind you of the positions and techniques will help you be more ‘hands-on’ for your partner.
- Skin to skin contact with baby. Lots and lots of this will help to create a bond with your baby early on. Physical touch releases oxytocin which is our ‘love-hormone’. Makes sense that the more skin to skin a new dad has with his baby, the more connected he feels to his child and vise versa. Skin to skin also helps baby with breastfeeding instincts and usually soothes fussy behaviour.
- Spend time alone with baby. It is difficult to find your own groove with your new baby if you always have someone hovering over you ready to take baby at the first sign of fussiness. All parents, both moms and dads, learn about their babies by trial and error. You will try something that doesn’t work and know that technique is not something your baby likes. You need to give yourself the opportunity to learn about your new little human. Get up early in the morning after baby has fed and let mom sleep. Go into a completely different part of the house and have some alone time. Head outside on the porch and talk about the birds you see or just narrate the world for your child. They will love to hear the sound of your voice. Another opportunity to get some dad and baby bonding is during the evening. Send mom to bed early (she will be exhausted) and watch some TV with baby. Narrate the big game, explain a TV show, read your baby the newspaper or article from the paper. It is also okay to just have some quiet time doing absolutely nothing but looking at each other.
- Take an active role in baby care. This means having someone teach you the hands on things you can do to take care of your baby. Burping, diaper changes, bathing, swaddling etc., are all hugely helpful to a nursing mom. Taking care of a feeding or two later on is also great. Hiring a postpartum doula is a wonderful way to help you with this on-the-job training and guarantee you build your confidence as a new parent early on.
- Learn infant massage. Infant massage has many benefits just like having a massage does for us adults. It helps to relax the body, increase circulation, aids in digestions and helps with body awareness. Have a Certified Infant Massage Instructor come to your house and show you what to do – it’s a great way to connect to your baby. There is nothing more powerful than seeing your baby totally relaxed to your touch. Talk about a confidence booster!
Being a father is not an easy job. There are going to be times where you feel inadequate, frustrated, overwhelmed and challenged. Remember that being a parent is always evolving and there are lots of ways to accomplish the same goal. Don’t be afraid to try different things with your baby since the only real mistake you can make is not to try. Your baby won’t remember the mistakes you’ve made. They will only remember that you were there. So just be there…and good luck 🙂