Baby Bonding Tips For Dads
In last week’s Triple P blog post, we discussed Parental Postnatal Depression (PPND), a mood disorder that affects anywhere between 4 and 25 percent of Dads after the birth of their baby. In some cases, PPND is caused from feeling excluded from the mother/baby relationship and bond. The good news is that by being mindful of how you engage with your baby and support your partner, it’s possible to have your own special bond and enhance your relationship with your partner as you figure out how to integrate this new little one into your life.
In the first few days…
In the first days or even weeks after birth, you might notice that your partner is all-consumed with your new baby. There’s a lot to learn and a lot to adjust to: feeding, diapering, putting clothes on a tiny, wiggly newborn, learning what your baby is telling you they need…
As a Dad, you and your spouse can learn together about this new little one by:
- Learning how to take care of your baby’s needs, such as diapering, preparing bottles, or learning how to make the perfect swaddle.
- If your partner is your baby’s primary caregiver, make sure she feels taken care of. For example, if she is breastfeeding, bring her something to eat and drink whenever she sits down to feed the baby. Better yet, get up in the night and bring baby to your spouse for a feeding.
- Renegotiate household duties that might otherwise have been done by your partner, such as groceries, laundry, cooking. If you can do a bit more, it helps her relax so she can focus on the baby.
- Attend well-baby checkups and ask questions of your doctor.
- Your partner may not feel like she can ask to put baby down to take a few moments to herself. Offer to care for baby while she takes a few minutes to shower, read a chapter of a book, or eat a snack. You can learn to soothe your baby as you and she develop your own communication with each other.
- Give “nesting” a try. Many moms feel the urge to nest before baby is born. It’s fun and gives them a sense of connection to their unborn child. Take a trip to the store and pick out a couple outfits or blankets for your baby, and make decisions together about preparing a space for the baby.
In the first weeks and months…
As your family adjusts to the routine and demands of its newest family member, it’s a good time to step in more with baby care. Your partner may be ready at this point to have some time to herself—even if it’s just running to the store while you care for baby. Start offering to stay with your child while mom runs errands or meets up with a friend. You could also:
- Become a “diaper master.” Babies need their diaper changed—a lot. Jump in when it’s time for changing. These small tasks can give your partner a few minutes to grab a snack, or go to the bathroom.
- Take on bath time. Some babies love baths, some are slow to warm up to them. Either way, it’s gotta be done. If your partner usually bathes baby, ask her for a quick rundown of the current routine, or do it together once before you take it on.
- Try skin-to-skin contact. Many babies are soothed by being held skin-to-skin on your chest. This method also helps with baby/Dad bonding. Both your brain and baby’s brain release oxytocin, the “love” hormone. By sharing closeness, you cement your bond with each other.
- During long cries, share in soothing baby. There are going to be times when your baby cries for a long time and none of your typical soothing strategies seem to be working. Between the two of you, take turns holding baby while the other person steps out of the house for a few minutes for fresh air and to regroup.
- Crying typically peaks in intensity and duration at about six weeks, and then tapers off. Remember, it is your job as a parent to be there for your baby. Even if baby doesn’t stop crying, by staying calm and grounded yourself, and doing your best to soothe them, you are telling your baby you are there for them when things are hard.
- Try baby wearing. Many baby carriers and slings are adjustable and fit all body types. Find one that you are comfortable in and give it a go. Being able to wear baby while your hands are free to do other things is a lifesaver for parents. Put baby in a front pack and take a walk. Most babies love being outside, and the change of scenery will be good for both of you. Baby might even fall asleep!
- Talk to baby as much as possible. Some Dads feel silly talking to a tiny human who can’t communicate back, but babies absorb everything around them. Talk to your baby about what you see around your house or outside; what you are doing throughout the day; or you could read or sing a song to them.
Dads are important!
You play an important role in your baby’s life and you have an equal role in sharing the responsibilities of child rearing. Remember, you are not the “babysitter.” You are an “Awesome Dad” spending quality time with your child.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).