5 Ways for Dads to Bond with their Baby
The best start any dad can give his children in life is to establish a strong bond with them from the very beginning. But the process of bonding with a child in the early weeks can be harder for a dad than for a mom.
Nine months of carrying her growing child inside her, the hormones that flood her with a sense of love and connectedness and the intimacy of breastfeeding and physical nurture after birth all work together to forge an unshakeable bond between mom and baby.
Not so for dad! His first tangible experience of his child is when a crying, squirming little creature covered in goo is thrust into his arms. And the experience is often more alarming than exciting. When my son Luke was pushed kicking and screaming into the world from the warm embrace of his mother’s womb, I definitely did not feel an instant connection. He looked nothing like the cute, soft, smiling baby boys of diaper-ad fame. He was squashed, blotchy and mottled with a look of utter dismay and disgust on his face and I remember thinking, “this is not what I signed up for”.
Because of this, dads need to be very intentional about bonding with their children during the crucial first years.
Here are just a few of the enormous benefits:
1. It’s great for your baby’s health. On both an emotional and physical level, regular interaction with your baby will make them more robust and resilient.
2. It creates a lasting connection. The deeper your bond when they are babies, the deeper your bond will be when they are older.
3. It builds a happy brain. Early bonding with dad helps build happy, healthy, positive neural pathways.
4. It sets them up for success. Babies who interact more with their fathers get along better with peers later in life, are more law-abiding and more likely to be emotionally secure and confident as they grow older.
5. It gives mom a break. Spending quality time with your child and sharing in the baby-care chores will give mom time out to rest which will give her the energy to be a great mom and wife. Everyone wins.
One of the reasons dads struggle to bond with their babies is that they’re not sure how to.
Babies can’t play golf, drink beer or have a decent conversation about sport; all they do is eat, sleep, cry and emit foul smelling substances from both ends of their tiny bodies. Yet in spite of their obvious limitations there are many ways to bond with your baby.
Here are a five:
1. Start in the womb.
Babies recognize their father’s voice from around 32 weeks. By talking and singing (even if very badly) to your baby in the womb you can start forming a connection before he or she is even born.
2. Get involved in the messy stuff.
The only thing you can’t do as a dad is breastfeed. Become an expert at changing nappies, bathing, feeding, burping, dressing and putting them to sleep.
3. Use a papoose.
I loved the papoose and hated the pram. It made mounting pavements and going on outings so much easier. My kids loved it too.
4. Read to your child.
The sound of your voice will become a source of comfort, fun and entertainment for your child.
5. Dance with your child.
As with singing it doesn’t matter if you are lousy at it, just put on some music, hold your baby in your arms and move (try not to drop him, though).
As they grow older the way you play with your children will change. What’s important is that you never stop. Do whatever it takes to spend quality time with your precious offspring. Use a vacuum cleaner to put your daughter’s hair in a ponytail. Get creative with mud or flour; play games and tell stories.
The one thing you can never spoil a child with is too much of you.
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