Recent research has made it clear that fathers can play a unique role in supporting their babies’ development, especially when they establish a connection from the get-go. Of course, moms have a head start when it comes to bonding with baby! For dads, the bonding process isn’t always easy. It’s normal for some fathers to feel out-of-the-loop during the first few weeks of their child’s life. The good news is, it is possible for newborns to become equally as attached to fathers as to mothers.
Here are some ways for dad to connect with baby, right from the start.
Skin to Skin Contact
Skin to skin contact with both mom and dad is important for newborns. It makes them feel secure, regulates temperature, promotes digestion, stabilizes blood sugar, and promotes oxytocin release (a hormone that contributes to bonding). Skin to skin with dad is especially important when mom can’t do it right after birth (if she had a C-section, for example). To hold baby skin to skin, get comfortable in a chair, lay your diapered baby on your bare chest, cover them with a light blanket, and enjoy this cuddle for as long as you can!
Bathe with Your Baby
To really load up on the skin to skin benefits, you can also bathe with your newborn. Taking time to enjoy a bath together offers all the benefits of skin to skin, plus baby gets to experience the feeling of water on their body. Just as you did in the chair, lay in the bathtub with shallow, body temperature water, and hold baby safely in your arms. Safety tip: Make sure another adult is close-by for the post-bath handoff to avoid any slippery accidents.
Be a Baby-Wearing Dad
Baby-wearing, with a sling or other type of carrier, is another terrific way for newborns to bond with their dads. Babies enjoy being worn because they love being close and mobile! They can take in the rhythm of your walk, your heartbeat, your breath, and your smell. Plus, since baby-wearing allows your arms to be free, it’s a pretty convenient way to get some chores done around the house and bond at the same time!
Take Advantage of Paternity Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act ensures that all employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without losing their jobs. Still, taking paternity leave isn’t always easy. It might be a financial risk, or simply something your employer isn’t used to. But if you can do it, it’s one of the best ways to spend quality time with your baby.
Create a Special Ritual
Even if you can’t take paternity leave, you can still build quality time into each day. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create bonding rituals that are just for you and baby. It could be cuddling and singing a special song every morning or evening, or dedicated daddy playtime before dinner. The idea is to do something similar at a similar time each day.
Talk to Your Newborn
Not only is hearing your voice (a lot of it) great for bonding with baby, it’s also a pillar of language development. Read books, sing, respond to baby’s sounds, or narrate what you’re doing. Baby won’t care if you’re simply reading them the grocery list; at this stage is’s all about hearing your voice.
Finally, keep in mind that research also shows that when it comes to father-baby bonding, quality beats quantity. Even brief periods of meaningful interaction go a long way.