The birth of a child is a momentous occasion in the lives of parents. First-time parents may be especially moved upon seeing the birth of their child, having never before witnessed something so profound.
When the time comes for parents to leave the hospital and take their newborns home, new moms and dads take on different roles. Moms who are nursing or handling the bulk of the bottle-feeding while spending a few months on maternity leave may appear to have more opportunities than fathers to bond with their new babies. But there are many ways for new dads to bond with newborns as well.
• Hold your baby as often as possible. Pediatrician David Hill, author of the book “Between Us Dads: A Father’s Guide to Child Health,” says bonding between father and newborn has as much to do with contact as involvement. Many first-time parents are understandably nervous about holding their newborns, who seem so fragile. But newborns benefit from being held, and Hill notes that a bond will develop between father and baby if there is physical contact.
• Find ways to spend time together. Fathers might not be able to pitch in at feeding time if mothers are nursing. Because newborns spend so much time being nursed and sleeping, fathers may feel as though they don’t have much time to spend with their babies each day. But any time spent with a newborn can be a time for fathers to develop bonds with their children. Time spent changing diapers can prove to be a great time for fathers to bond with their newborns. Make eye contact with babies while changing their diapers, as Psych Central, an independent mental health social network run by mental health professionals, notes that babies have a preference for eye contact.
• Spend alone time with your newborn. Fathers of newborns who are being nursed may feel like there is no ideal time to spend alone with their children. But mothers, especially those who work and intend to keep breastfeeding after their maternity leave ends, can learn to use a breast milk pump so dads can bottle-feed. Learning to eat from a bottle will help babies in the long run, and dads can get some quality alone time with their newborns while bottle feeding. Fathers of babies who are bottle-fed can spend more time alone with their children, and give moms a much-needed break, without the fear of having nothing to feed them should they get hungry while mom is away.
• Help your baby fall back asleep. Nursing mothers may feel inclined to wake up with their newborns in the middle of the night and let dad keep sleeping. But babies are not necessarily waking up in the middle of the night due to hunger. Some might simply need to be comforted, and dads can comfort their children just like moms can, all the while strengthening their developing bond.
New fathers can strengthen the bonds they have with their newborns in various ways.