When it comes to preparing to parent a newborn, there is often a great focus on tips for new moms on how to bond with baby right after birth. However, new parents should not forget that parenting is a partnership between mom and dad. Dads form a unique type of relationship with their children, and it is equally important for new dads to form a strong, loving bond with their babies and to stay connected with their children as they grow.
DAD BONDING STARTS BEFORE YOUR BABY IS BORN
Studies show infants with involved dads benefit developmentally and that new dads who bond with their newborns are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression. (Yes, a study published in 2017 shows that men can experience postpartum depression also). Moms often feel bonded to baby months before baby’s birth, and it is not surprising there is a tendency for mom to ‘take charge’ right after baby’s arrival, causing dad to feel a bit sidelined and disconnected. If you are an expectant dad, get a start on the bonding process by attending as many OB appointments as possible and start discussing with your wife or partner ways you can participate in baby’s daily routine. The pressure to be “perfect parents” may scare some dads away from certain tasks, but with the support of Mom, you should be able to find a part of baby’s care routine you are interested in helping with. Together, create a “Dad’s bonding plan” to help you start bonding with your infant in the first few weeks.
HOW TO BOND
- Assist with diaper duty. This is a perfect time to talk or sing to your baby, or to try to make him laugh by playing peek-a-boo.
- Wear baby in a sling while taking a walk. This is especially helpful when baby is in the mood to be held but Mom needs a break.
- Taking on bath duty is a good way to spend time in the evening with your baby.
- Read your baby a story every evening. If your baby takes a bottle, offer to take over an evening feeding. For breastfed babies, try spending time holding baby after he has finished the evening feeding but is not yet asleep.
STAYING AN INVOLVED DAD IS A LIFELONG PROCESS
As your child grows and his routine changes, look for new opportunities to stay connected. Studies show that children who have involved fathers do better academically and socially when they reach the school-age years.
Physical play is a favorite way for dad to spend time bonding with kids. Give your child a horsey back ride or get down on the floor and play with him for a few minutes each evening, letting your child take the lead on deciding what to play.
Spend time each evening with your child at bedtime reading him a story or having him read to you. Ask your child about his day and be ready to listen to anything he wants to share.
Schedule a fun afternoon away each month alone with your child to do something he enjoys or is interested in learning.
The time you spend bonding with your child is an investment in his future. The skills and experiences that you share with him and the examples you set as a role model helps shape who he will become.