(reading time ~7 minutes)
This blog will tell everything you want to know about dad bonding with baby at birth and the first few days of life.
The All-Important Paternal Bond with Baby
Previously, we discussed the benefits of fathers bonding with their children. There are so many great ones and each is a reason to begin your bonding journey as early as possible:
- a higher IQ score in children
- increased readiness for schooling
- increased academic success
- better relationships with friends
- better verbal skills
- better emotional adjustment
- medical benefits
- better physical development
That's quite a list of positive attributes!
Strong bonds with the father also correlated with less stress all around, an increased self-confidence in dad, and greater overall happiness in the family. So it makes sense to get started right away.
It's been shown that if the father plays with his baby in the first few hours following birth and makes good eye-to-eye contact with the baby, Dad tends to spend much greater time with his child during the first three months of life. Sound good?.
Not only that but fathers who held their babies shortly after birth had very similar bonding feelings as mothers did during the first few weeks of baby's life.
True, fathers' nurturing responses were often slower to develop than mom's, but many fathers are just as capable of the same solid attachment to their babies.
The slower bonding may be due to the nature of oxytocin levels (the love hormone), which lowers anxiety and helps stave off postpartum depression.
You see, women's oxytocin levels tend to naturally surge during birth.
But a study suggests that dad's oxytocin levels only surge after spending time caring for their babies.
That may be why dads who take an active role in their baby's care immediately following birth find it much easier to get attached. So let's get stared.
Bonding With Baby at Birth
This means to remain with mom at every step of labor and if you both agree, attend the delivery. It's also a good idea for the two of you to have a solid plan about how you'd like to spend the first few hours after birth.
Decide when to contact family members and friends, when to have visitors and how and when you'll both get some rest. You may also ask the staff to take photos of you and your new family.
Nurses usually apply eye ointment to babies immediately after birth and then present the baby to mom and dad. But the ointment can be delayed for an hour until the baby has had time for initial bonding.
This may be preferable. You want him to see you.
The eye ointment temporally causes baby's eyes to remain closed or blurs their vision. Better to have a clear first impression of exactly who mom and dad are.
It is highly recommended that mom and baby bond together for the first hour after birth, skin-to-skin.
Parents are often amazed to find out how alert a newborn is.
For instance, babies may spend a lot of time looking into their parents' faces studying them.
After mom has had a chance to hold her newborn skin-on-skin for a while, she may need a much-deserved rest. This is an excellent opportunity for dad to start bonding with the baby.
Baby will actually recognize dad's voice because she has been hearing it all along in the womb. Dad can hold the baby, rock her, sing, talk soothingly, and stroke the baby.
In fact, research has shown that babies breathe better when talking to them and stroking them.
The Absolute Magic of Skin-to-Skin Contact
Skin-to-skin contact involves holding an infant against mom or dad's bare chest.
Fathers should also have skin-to-skin time with their newborns as soon as practically possible. Doing so will increase dopamine and oxytocin and lower testosterone, giving dad an immediate emotional boost and a positive experience.
Simply get comfortable in a chair and hold your naked baby next to your chest with the two of you covered by a cozy blanket.
If you hold your baby toward your left side, he can even hear your heart beating. Very comforting.
Note that it may be essential for dad to do skin-on-skin bonding if his partner had a Cesarean. This bonding can happen while waiting for your partner to return from the recovery room.
While skin-to-skin contact was originally discovered to aid in breastfeeding, studies over the past 50 years have shown that skin-to-skin contact also:
- regulates a baby's temperature, breathing, and heart rate
- reduces stress in both baby and father
- helps baby gain weight
- stabilizes baby's blood sugar, which helps with energy production
- releases oxytocin
- colonizes baby's skin with flora from mom's and dad's skin, which strengthens the baby's immune system
- lowers cortisol levels in dad, which reduces anxiety significantly
If your partner has decided upon breastfeeding, your encouragement and support can be crucial as she finds her way.
When dads have a positive attitude about the breastfeeding experience, it helps their partners get started with breastfeeding and stick with it.
If there is difficulty breastfeeding, reassure your partner that there is help available- the OB-GYN healthcare providers or midwives at the hospital, a lactation consultant, your family nurse, or GP.
Daily Activities with Your New Baby
Babies come ready to bond with their parents from birth. When awake, your baby will like to be held a lot and have periods of eye contact with you. This stimulates a baby's brain and makes him feel safe and calm.
Then, it's time to get on with everyday challenges of changing, dressing, and bathing your baby,
One-on-one time is the key to a strong positive relationship. It also gives your partner a break.
Whatever you may be doing with baby, it's essential to vocalize as much as possible.
Of course, this will feel like a monologue, but it stimulates her communication synapses.
When changing your baby, you might say, "Let's get you out of those wet diapers; what do you say? I'll bet that doesn't feel the best. Let's get a nice dry diaper on you. There, now doesn't that feel better? And it was pretty easy, right, at least I think so." And on and on.
Banter and especially sing to your baby as much as possible. Do these activities often with your eyes looking into her face close up, about 8 to 15 inches away, so she can focus her best on you. Still, you'll be blurry to her at this time, but that's the best you can do.
Whether or not you have a voice, sing away! Your infant will remember songs you sang to him in the womb and be comforted by them. He'll probably have favorite ones.
And It's not too soon to start reading to your baby, which should be an everyday event.
Of course, he won't understand what you're saying yet, so you can read your favorite newspaper or magazine to him if you like.
As a baby gets older, you can read picture books that infants find attractive and stimulating.
Research has shown that talking, reading, and singing to baby is critical for their social development. It also improves overall health and creates greater language fluency.
If your partner has chosen to pump breast milk, you can take over some feedings. That way, you get some quality bonding time, and your partner gets some rest!
Expect that your baby will be feeding about every 2 or 3 hours around the clock.
You can also take a bath at body temperature with the baby on your chest. It's a wonderful way to bond. The baby feels secure, loved, and comforted.
And make it a point to play with your baby every day, even as a newborn. Don't worry about being silly. Nearly every baby will be amused if you play peekaboo or blow on his tummy.
Your style of play is likely to be different than your partner's, and that's perfectly fine. It's good for children to get used to two different techniques.
You can also carry your baby in a sling or front carrier as you go about your daily routine or cleaning the house.
Most babies love to be worn. And don't forget about taking the baby for a walk in the stroller. You can get a little exercise at the same time..
Repeat any vocalizations she may make and mirror her movements. These are the first steps towards communication.
Massaging Your Baby
What about a baby massage? Just like us, babies love massage, and some massages are appropriate for both preemie and full-term babies. Look at the following videos to help you get started. The first is for preemies and the second for full term babies.
And after all that, don't forget to share baby with mom. She wants to be with the baby just as much as you do.
Self Care in Parenting
Also, keep in mind to care of yourself.
Over-commitment leads to burnout, so be sure to exercise, eat right, and, if possible, include your infant in your hobbies.
The essential thing is you need to make time to recharge your batteries.
A Word About Maternal Gatekeeping
The maternal gatekeeping habit can cause a lack of involvement of new fathers. Some mothers have a natural inclination to control the access and handling of a baby.
They may feel the need or societal responsibility to supervise childrearing entirely.
Some fathers who felt that the children's mothers criticized their skills too often, or took over for them too quickly, were less engaged fathers six months later.
"Fathers show lower-quality parenting as indicated by decreased sensitivity, positive regard, and engagement when they perceived maternal gate closing earlier on," Lauren Altenburger found in her research at Ohio State University.
So if gatekeeping is a problem, talk about it early and try to get on the right track from the start.
What If I Don't Immediately Bond With My Baby?
Don't worry. Some fathers feel bonded to the baby from the get-go, but for many others, it takes longer, and that's perfectly all right.
Their minds may be on work and their new financial and emotional responsibilities. Perhaps, they feel insecure about parenting. They may feel like a stranger just fell into their lap. Who is this person?
A study showed that 20% of new parents do not feel an immediate emotional attachment to their baby. It may take some weeks, even months, to develop this emotional bond, but it will happen. It comes with time and practice.
As long as you take care of baby's basic needs, cuddle regularly, and keep up the banter, she won't suffer if you don't feel a strong bond right away, so don't feel guilty.
A structured support group may prove very useful in understanding your emotions about it. You aren't the only one.
So keep up the great work, and in time you'll feel wholly bonded with your baby. Happy parenting!
If you have any comments you care to share about this blog, I would love to hear them. I respond to all.