5 Ways for Dads and Babies to Bond Without Feeding
When your newborn arrives, there are many innate opportunities for mothers and babies to initiate bonding. Between around-the-clock feedings and constant soothing sometimes it seems like new moms are the only ones who get to bond with the baby. While the first few days and weeks are an enormous transition, it can feel isolating for new fathers, especially if their partner is exclusively breastfeeding. It is essential that dads find ways to create opportunities for bonding and build confidence as a parent. Here are some suggested options:
All infants crave contact! The benefits of skin-to-skin are important and it's not just for moms. We’ve all seen the photos of baby sleeping directing on dad’s chest as he catches the game on TV. There is a good reason for this! Direct connection with your baby lowers infant stress hormones, regulates temperature, stabilizes breathing, and achieves a drowsy, contented state sooner than being left alone in a crib or bassinet. Who doesn’t want to be known as the baby whisperer in the family? Dad, you can make that happen—all it requires is you.
Let’s face it, dads have bigger hands, stronger arms and if they’ve ever fished; they’re better at containing wiggly, wet things. What a better way to develop confidence in bonding with your baby through bath time activities! Sharing this special chore in the care-giving process can be fun for all parties involved, as it gives mom a much-needed break and allows dad some great “slippery when wet” quality time. Just be prepared for lots of splashing and laughing eventually!
While it may seem incredibly odd to read to a newborn, it does have many proven benefits. Reading out loud to your baby stimulates developing senses, increases vocabulary and memory skills, and exposes them to visuals. Reading can be a quiet activity before feeding and may help in establishing a bed time routine later as well. Dads often have the best character voices, cadence, and sounds to make reading enjoyable for all too. Even fathers who work away from home, or do shift work can read to their children through previously recorded sessions. Mom can flip the pages while dad still can read the story!
Babies love to move! Your newborn was comforted for nine months in the womb by constant motion. And we’ve all heard the stories of the baby who wouldn’t settle unless walked across the floor for hours on end. Babywearing allots the freedom of your hands, while carrying your baby safely and securely. There are many types of wraps, slings, and carriers that can be adjusted between both mother and father. Holding your baby close allows dads to become much more attuned to their baby’s movements, gestures, and facial expressions, which can reinforce your confidence. And what a better way to allow mom some time for a nap!
CLEAN UP CREW
Babies do two things effectively—spit up and poop. While body fluid cleanup may not seem like a great way to bond with your baby, it is, as it shows immediate reaction to your newborn’s distress. When your baby cries from discomfort, fathers can respond with care and concern. Plus, diaper-changing or swapping out a sleeper can give new dads the added benefit of a quick infant massage or tickle session. And there's simply nothing more satisfying to a guy than getting out that much needed burp!
New parenthood can be challenging for anyone, but the early days and weeks can be particularly intense. Be gentle on yourself and your partner. If you want further knowledge, there are all kinds of great books for first-time dads. A postpartum doula can also be beneficial to both parents in defining their roles in parenting, and helping work out the kinks with hands-on experience, tips and tricks, and unbiased support. Just remember, you’ll make an awesome dad!
Loree Siermachesky works as a multi-certified labour and postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years. She is well-known and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. She cares deeply for this profession and even more for her clientele, honoring them in whatever method of birth they choose, or helping them transition to new parenthood as they wish.