The first few weeks of a baby’s life are an important time for bonding with the newest member of the family, but it’s common for dads and non-breastfeeding partners to feel unsure of how they can best form a close relationship with baby. Some moms feel especially protective of the newborn that they have guarded safely inside themselves for nine months, and are reluctant to allow their partner to take an equally active role in caring for the baby. Some partners are simply unsure of how bonding with baby can happen without being involved in feeding. It’s important to find ways for dads and partners to bond with baby and establish a healthy parental relationship from the very beginning. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Start early: dads can start getting to know their babes while they’re still in the womb. Studies have shown that babies can recognize the voices of their parents right after birth, and are even comforted by their parents’ voices. Spend some time talking to your baby while she’s still in the womb in order to familiarize her with your voice. If you don’t know what to say, try reading aloud or singing.
- Get some skin-to-skin: skin-to-skin contact regulates baby’s body temperature, stabilizes heart rate and breathing, and is calming and soothing for the baby, among a host of other benefits. It also encourages bonding, and can be just as helpful with dads as it is with moms. Regardless of your parenting style — attachment, scheduled, or anything in between — getting skin-to-skin time with baby can help you listen to and read her cues, respond to her needs, and really get to know her. With baby dressed in just a diaper, settle down in a comfortable spot and hold her to your bare chest under a blanket.
- Schedule one-on-one time: even if it’s just for 15 or 20 minutes while mom is taking a nap or running an errand, it’s important for you to establish a one-on-one relationship. Whether it’s through playtime, a walk around the block, or just some quiet skin-to-skin time, this one-on-one time can turn into a routine that your baby can grow up to look forward to.
- Wear that baby: babywearing isn’t just for mamas or parents of twins. It’s also a great way for dads to take an active role in caring for the baby. Strap her onto your chest for a walk around the neighborhood, running errands, doing household chores, or even just sitting on the couch.
- Try a baby massage: research has suggested that infant massage can soothe and quiet babies and promote good sleep habits — and it can also help parents get to know their infants even better. Try this guide to infant massage for some helpful tips to get started.
- Stay present: it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day struggles of parenting a newborn, or focus too heavily on the past or future. When you feel your thoughts racing on autopilot, gently remind yourself to come back to the present. While out for a walk or enjoying skin-to-skin time, focus on your own breath as well as baby’s breathing to ground yourself. Giving your child your full and focused presence will help you get into the routine of staying present in your interactions as a parent and partner.
By finding special ways to spend time with the baby, dads and partners can establish close relationships from the very beginning, laying a foundation for a lifetime of strong, loving parenting.
Dads and partners, what was/is your favorite way to bond with your baby? Leave us a comment below!