Having a baby is a major adjustment for any family, especially when welcoming a first-born child. We tend to focus a lot on the mom and her health and wellbeing after childbirth, ensuring she is happy, healthy, and bonding with her baby. However, new dads need to bond with their baby, too!
It can often seem easier for moms to bond with their babies, especially if they’re breastfeeding, but new dads also want and need to forge that close connection with their babies. Fathers often struggle with how to bond with their children, but there are lots of ways that dads can ensure they’re getting their quality time with the baby as well. We’re sharing the best tips for baby and dad bonding.
Baby and dad bonding: a how-to
In the days and weeks after a new baby is born, it can seem like they are spending most of their time with mom, sometimes leaving dad to feel a bit left out of the whole bonding process. While dad might be overwhelmed trying to ensure mom has all her needs taken care of, he may feel left out when it comes to spending quality time with the baby. A new dad might not be able to breastfeed his newborn, but there are many other ways to get the baby to bond. Here are five different ideas that can help a new father create that amazing bond with his baby.
Skin-to-skin contact between dad and baby doesn’t have to end when you head home from the hospital. It’s been found that skin-to-skin contact between a newborn and parent helps to release hormones like oxytocin, prolactin, and endorphins as well as helping to regulate body temperature which all help forge an emotional bond between dad and baby. Skin-to-skin time also helps regulate a baby’s heart rate and blood sugar levels, as well as encourages that feeling of protectiveness for a father. A dad can continue to share skin-to-skin contact at home with his baby to further strengthen their bond, especially when mom is resting or sleeping.
Take the night shift
Even if their partners are breastfeeding, dads can still help out during nighttime wake-ups and feedings to maximize their baby bonding time. Dads can help a breastfeeding mom by bringing her the baby and putting the baby back to sleep after a feed, as well as ensuring that mom has anything she may need during the feeding. If your baby can take a bottle, taking the night shift is a wonderful way to bond with your baby without any distractions while also helping to alleviate a lot of the stress your partner may be feeling by sharing the responsibilities. Feeding your baby is one of the ways that you can truly take some time to simply share a few quiet and content moments with your child and nighttime feeds are great since no one else tends to be around. It’s the perfect time for a nervous dad to begin to feel more relaxed while sharing some uninterrupted time with the baby.
New fathers should never pass up the opportunity to cuddle with their babies, according to James di Properzio, a father of four and co-author of The Baby Bonding Book for Dads. He explains to Today’s Parent why cuddle time is so important. “That face-to-face contact is so crucial,” he says. “Their mirror neurons are going like crazy, trying to pick up cues and learning to mimic you and understand your reactions.”
Babywearing is a great way for dads to truly forge a bond with their babies. Whether you prefer a sling, a wrap, or a baby carrier, babywearing not only lets dads maximize the time spent with their children, but it can also give the other parent a much-needed break during the day. Instead of using a stroller to take a walk around the block or a quick trip to the store, new dads can help bond with their babies by wearing them. This is also a great way to soothe a fussy baby who simply wants to be held while allowing dad to be hands-free around the house.
Sarah Stampflee, the assistant nurse manager at the Randall Children’s Hospital NICU in Portland, Oregon explains to Fatherly that many things can forge a bonding experience between a father and child but what’s important is that the dad recognizes his child’s signals. “If your baby is looking at you and wants to interact, that’s time to pause your day and take 5 or 10 minutes to read a book or show them pictures,” Stampflee says. “Focus on picking up cues from your baby.”
New fathers can sometimes struggle to bond with their babies, especially if they feel that they’re intruding on those special mother and baby moments, but it’s just as important for dad to feel that connection too. Making the effort to spend time with the baby, even if it’s changing a diaper or handling feeding duty, can help forge that bond that will only strengthen over time.
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