Fathers often feel left out when it comes to bonding with their babies. Here are a few ideas to ensure the strongest of bonds!
Fathers and prospective fathers often feel like they’ve been “left out in the cold” when it comes to connecting with their babies. A father can’t feel his baby growing inside him, (possibly the most important bond between mother and child), nor can he experience the same bonding mothers experience when they breastfeed. But, this doesn’t mean that Dad can’t bond with Baby!
Talk to Baby In Utero
Barbara Kisilevsky, a nursing professor at Queens University in Ontario, conducted ground-breaking research with a team of psychologists from Queens, and obstetricians in Hangzhou, China, that proves babies can distinguish between their parents’ and strangers’ voices from 30 weeks in the womb. Male voices are lower in tone and are easier for babies pick up than women’s higher-pitched voices. The same study found that if dads speak to a baby before birth, the newborn will recognize his father’s voice. Charlie Case, mother of 16-week-old India, says, “Ted used to speak to my tummy every night towards the end of the pregnancy, and I’m sure that is why India knows his voice.”
Singing to your baby is also an effective tool for bonding, so this is your chance to exercise your vocal chords! It doesn’t really matter what you sing—your child will not understand the words, but will respond to the melody.
Participate in the Birth
Be present at the birth of your baby. Nadine Lahana, mother of three-year-old son Luka, with a second baby on the way soon, says, “Brendan felt he really bonded with Luka when he decided to take part in the whole delivery. He cut the umbilical cord, and he made sure he was the first to hold Luka in his arms and to make eye contact. Doing all that bonded him to Luka forever.”
Try Baby Massage
Baby massage stimulates the baby and can help a father bond with his child. Massage also helps babies with digestion, relieves colic, eases tension, helps with breathing, and spurs growth. An attending midwife or licensed massage therapist can give parents some helpful hints regarding infant massage, and which oils and lotions are safe to use on a baby’s delicate skin.
Get into the tub with your baby! This is a fantastic way for Dad and Baby to bond. Many infants are startled when put into a bath and may not like it, so Dad getting in the tub with Baby can become a very soothing experience. “Quite often Bren will jump into the bath with Luka and they will chat for ages. This is their time and I know Luka thrives on it,” says Nadine.
Wear Your Baby
Another good idea is for Dad to put Baby in a sling or carrier and go on with his duties for the day. This may sound obvious, but may be overlooked as an effective way for Dad to both get some work done and comfort Baby while maintaining close contact.
Get up and Dance!
Babies love dancing with their daddies, either strapped to their chests or held in their arms. Little ones enjoy being gently jiggled about, and this not only helps a dad and baby to bond, it can also soothe and quiet a fussy baby. With a bit of luck, it may even put her to sleep!
Empathize with Baby’s Needs
Although many new mothers and fathers feel a little out of their comfort zone with a new baby, a new father is just as adept at learning what to do as a new mother—even if he may feel that for Mom “it comes naturally.” If Dad is aware of Baby’s routine, he’ll be able to help out with feedings, diaper changes, and other everyday baby chores, including baths and going for walks.
If you are a keep-fit kind of guy, there is no excuse not pack up a stroller and go for a brisk walk or jog. This will put a cranky baby to sleep and help clear your head, while you both benefit from the fresh air.
Cuddle up and Co-Sleep
There are differing views on co-sleeping, although this practice is becoming increasingly common with parents today. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that shared sleeping surfaces in the United States are unsafe for infants, and that cribs are the safest places for babies to sleep. The RCM (Royal College of Midwives) in the UK, on the other hand, says that bed-sharing facilitates bonding and successful breastfeeding, but that parents should be aware of certain instances when bed-sharing is not advised. These include:
- If either parent has epilepsy or diabetes with unstable blood sugars.
- If a parent has an infection.
- If either parent smokes, has had alcohol, or takes recreational drugs.
The RCM goes on to say that as long as parents are aware of these issues and are careful when bed-sharing, there is no reason why they should not do so. The organization further advises parents to speak to their midwives and local maternity wards for more information on bed-sharing.
Mick Bell, father of eight-month-old Jack, says, “I think it is a really good idea to let the baby sleep with the parents sometimes. Jack gets into bed with us about three nights a week, and has done so since birth. We love it and so does he. I’m not scared of rolling onto him during the night because although I am asleep, there is still part of me that is totally aware that he is beside me.”
If co-sleeping is something both mom and dad are comfortable with, it may be worth a try!
Making silly faces and noises with your child will probably be the only time such behavior is acceptable in public! Nadine says, “When Bren comes home … he goes straight upstairs to Luka, takes him into the garden and plays with him for at least an hour. Dads keep it fun and exciting.”