Dad Bonding With Baby, Months 0-3

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bonding with baby 0-3 months

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Bonding means responding to your newborn with love, care, and affection.
  2. Bonding is vital for a baby's social, physical, and intellectual development.
  3. Newborns will let you know when they're ready to connect with you through their body language.
  4. The first three months are primarily about the baby learning to feel safe and secure.

What Is Bonding?

Bonding means consistently responding to your baby's needs with love, care, and affection. 

This assumes flexibility in feeding, playing, and sleeping to their schedule. By doing so, you become attached to your baby and form a special trusted bond together.

The bond says, "I will always be there for you, even when you're crying, even if I can't seem to help you." Think of the first three months primarily as helping your newborn feel safe and secure in the world. You may also want to look ahead to Dad Bonding With Baby, Months 4-6.

This includes essential caretaker skills such as providing good head and neck support when holding your child or wrapping your baby up snugly to re-create the secure feeling of being in the womb.

Yes, Parenting Can Be Exhausting

Who thought that taking care of a little person who sleeps 14-19 hours a day could be so exhausting? Usually, it is. There's forever changing his diapers, feeding your screaming bundle of joy every 2-3 hours, getting him to sleep, and keeping up with bonding and developmental routines. 

Sometimes you may feel that you are just surviving. But the positive news is that most parents find the first three months the most challenging part of a baby's first year.

Most newborns reach a crying peak at about six weeks, and then it begins to diminish. He may only be crying for an hour a day by three months in! So hang in there.

Why Is It so Important to Bond with Newborns?

Dad bonding with baby

There are a thousand reasons. Please see these two previous posts, The Importance Of An Involved Father In A Child's Life and Dad Bonding With Baby At Birth. The first three months lays the foundation for your child's well-being through childhood and beyond.

Gazing into your baby's eyes makes her release hormones that help her brain grow and begin to develop memory, language, and thought! It gives infants their start in social well-being and physical and intellectual development.

Proper bonding has even been shown to allow infants to handle setbacks later on in life. In one study, infants attached to a parent at 12 months were more likely to come out of an argument as a young adult still feeling love and trust for their partner.

Attentive, well-bonded parents also help shield children from chronic stress, sleep disorders, depression, obesity, memory impairment, and digestive problems.

Just hearing mom's voice for a few hours a day during the first month of life improved the auditory cortex in infants. This is why it's so important to talk to your baby throughout the day.

The more words children hear from parents and caregivers before the age of 3, the higher their IQ runs, and the better they do in school. I could go on and on with the advantages.

Understand When Your Baby Wants To Bond

Your newborn will give you cues. Body language tells you when she's ready to connect with you. She may:

  • look interested and relaxed
  • make happy little murmuring noises
  • make eye contact with you
  • cry for attention

By responding, you're giving her positive feedback for her overtures. And then when your baby is ready for a break or perhaps just wants a different approach from you, she might:

  • shut her eyes, yawn, or look away
  • pull away from you or begin to struggle
  • appear unsettled, tense, or fussy.

The major takeaway is to begin recognizing your baby's cues that tell you when she's hungry, content, or wants attention. And between 6-8 weeks, you'll probably get your first smile from her, a very intentional non-verbal meant just for you.

How Dads Can Bond Best With A New Baby

father bonding to baby skin-on-skin

Of course, one of the best ways is if you can take some paternity leave or even be a stay-at-home dad. In many cases, this is a lot easier said than done.

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides that employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without getting sacked. Still, this may be something that you can't afford to do anyway. However, any time you can take off will give you lots of quality time with your baby and cement a solid foundation.

If you cannot take paternity leave, you can still build daily quality time with your baby.

You might be the one who sings or reads to baby or who plays with her before dinner. You might comfort or feed her in the middle of the night, get her ready for bedtime, and read or tell her a bedtime story.

It doesn't matter that she won't understand what you're saying. She'll still be interested in hearing your voice and snuggling close.

20 Ways of Bonding With Baby And Promoting Development

Children develop through bonding activities. The secret is that all the ways you can bond with baby are also the same activities that promote optimal growth in your child in terms of social, physical, and intellectual development!

So let's consider the following top 20 list. Now, of course, you won't get a chance to do all 20 of these bonding methods daily, but try to see that you at least take care of these key takeaways on a daily basis and alternate on the others.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Make meaningful daily eye contact with your baby.
  2. Talk to your baby every day and during everyday tasks such as feeding, diaper changes, and bath time.
  3. Make sure that baby has some skin-to-skin contact time for bonding.
  4. See that baby gets daily tummy time for physical and mental development.
  5. Make reading a daily activity with your baby.

Here's Our Top 20 Bonding List

1. Look Into Her Eyes

Research has shown that, above all, babies prefer to look into the faces of their parents or caregivers (at a distance of about 12 inches). This is the most pleasurable form of entertainment for your newborn. 

They prefer to look at faces that are smiling, looking at them directly in the eye, and are responsive to them. This eye contact engenders attachment and is the foundation of a baby learning the nuances of verbal and nonverbal communication.

2. Keep Talking 

Talk to your baby in soothing and reassuring tones during face time and during everyday tasks. Talk about what you're doing. Make commentary, tell her stories, or tell her about your day.

Give her a tour around the house, pointing out objects.

Even as you go about your day, talk to her, so she knows that you're close. Talking is teaching. Lots of talking helps her to develop language skills.

3. Hold Your Baby Skin-To-Skin 

It's easy and fun. Just sit in a chair, lay your diapered baby against your bare chest, cover him with a light blanket and enjoy the cuddle for as long as it lasts. Or rock in a chair with him.

You can also lay in a bathtub with your baby against your chest in shallow, lukewarm water. Have fun singing, talking, laughing, and tickling him. Just be sure another adult is close by to hand off the baby to avoid a slip and fall accident.

Skin-to-skin contact helps regulate baby's heart rate and body temperature, stabilize blood sugar, promote good digestion and release oxytocin, the love hormone.

4. It's Time For Tummy Time!

Unless your pediatrician advises otherwise, baby is ready for tummy time straight from the hospital. This takes place best after a diaper change and 30 minutes after feeding, during playtime on the floor.

Gradually transition from her back to placing baby on her stomach on a blanket or mat on the floor. This is good exercise and helps foster neck muscle strength, torso control, stability, and visual-motor development.

For a newborn, try three sessions a day, 3-5 minutes at a time, and work your way up to at least 60 total minutes a day by the third month.

tummy time for 3 month old

Tummy time can include face-to-face time, talking, and playing with toys and objects, such as an unbreakable mirror. Move her hands around and put or shake a favorite toy just within reach.

Tummy playtime will contribute to every motor skill your baby will develop during the first year, such as rolling, pushing her chest off the ground, crawling, sitting, and walking.

5. Read Aloud

 A newborn infant can only discern highly contrasting colors such as black and white, so start with these kinds of books that have simple, high contrast pictures or cloth colors.

Reading aloud exposes him to new language, sentence structure, and word rhythms. You can even read your own book or magazine to him, but be expressive and let him see that words have meaning.

6. Give Her Things To look At 

Babies enjoy looking at high contrast patterns such as black and white stripes and targets. These can be used during tummy time or at the changing table. Point to these pictures and talk about them.

Mobiles with decorative objects hung over a bassinet or changing table will also fascinate the baby.

baby looking at mobile

So will baby play gyms, which are perfect for this purpose. Lay your baby underneath the play gym, giving him something to kick or swing his arms at. Or hang a series of black-and-white contrast cards on the gym.

You can also hold a favorite toy about a foot away from his face as you talk, sing or encourage him to reach out and touch it. Keep the images that he looks at changing to keep his attention up. For instance, you may want to change your mobile every now and then to keep the baby interested.

Baby can also practice his visual tracking skills as you slowly move a toy or your smiling face back and forth or side to side before his eyes.

7. Sing And Play Music 

If you haven't been singing to baby before birth, now's a good time to start. Find a few songs that baby particularly likes. Babies like repetition. Familiar music will stimulate his mind.

You can also play gentle, soothing music to calm him down or just for fun. Try singing songs while you gently move his little hands through the air in time to the music.

Many children's songs naturally have gestures that go along with them which are perfect.

8. Dance With Baby 

Play some music and turn it into a fun way to bond with your baby.

Babies naturally enjoy swaying back and forth while being held. You can sneak in a bit of tummy time as she flies through the air

9. Imitate Baby

Imitating your baby's sounds and facial expressions teaches her that she's important and you're taking notice. It also helps build the basics of back-and-forth communication.

10. Give Her Things To Feel

From birth, babies can feel even the lightest touch.

Feeling different textures is an excellent way for her to explore her world. You can run your baby's hands over various textures and talk to her about each one of them. "Isn't that smooth? What about this one? It's a little bit scratchier, huh?

Baby learns the most about her environment through the sense of touch. The natural development of a baby's tactile sensory system depends on being exposed to a wide variety of textures. Many baby toys do just that with rattles, balls, blankets, and other fabric.

And remember that babies love to taste everything that they touch. So use safe baby materials and encourage her to explore her world with all her senses.

11. Wear Your Baby Proudly

dad and mom baby wearing

Babies love to be worn in carriers. It allows them to be mobile, to feel the rhythm of your steps, your heartbeat, and your breath. Plus babywearing lets you get chores done during your bonding with your baby. That's a bonus!

Babies soothe to gentle rocking movements and love to be close against you. A wrap allows for skin-to-skin bonding while you're on the go. 

12. Give Your Baby an Airplane Ride. 

You could hold your baby face down using your arms to support her across her tummy. Gently sway your baby side to side while singing or providing airplane sound effects.

13. Swinging with Baby

You and your baby will have a good time swinging on a hammock, playground swing, or just in a rocking chair. This is something easily done with your baby held in a body carrier.

14. Mirror Play

This is a wonderfully stimulating activity for babies. Use an unbreakable mirror during tummy time or hold your baby up in front of a mirror. She will find her image and yours to be mesmerizing.

15. Massage 

Everyone loves a good massage, and babies are no exception. It's a beautiful way to bond with him and helps a baby's circulatory and digestive systems to develop. Use unscented edible oils such as almond, olive, coconut, or avocado. 

16. Play Games

Play simple games with your baby, such as peekaboo or clapping hands. This helps her movement and learning skills.

17. Flashlight Play

Babies love high contrast moving objects like the light in a darkened room. So, shine a light on various objects and watch her marvel. You can even let her hold the flashlight with you. Or make shadows on the wall and really give her a show. 

18. Play Cause-And-Effect Games

Show your baby how shaking a rattle makes noise, and then let her grasp the rattle and do it herself. She'll get a big kick out of it.

Also, hold your baby near a mobile and let her move the pieces around. She will feel empowered.

Hand and foot rattles are a terrific way to entertain baby as she waves her arms and kicks her legs around in glee.

19. Stretching and Yoga Time

 As long as your baby tolerates it, gently stretch out her arms and legs one at a time. You can also try baby yoga if you're so inclined. Many parents swear by it. Here's a sweet video that is appropriate for babies approximately 10 weeks old or older. 

20. Bicycling Time

You can strengthen your baby's abs and help him better understand his body by gently moving his legs in bicycling motion. This also introduces him to the alternating leg motion he'll use to crawl and walk.

And that's 20! I very much hope you've enjoyed this post. If you have any comments, I would love to hear them. I respond to all. Happy parenting! 

About the author 

Dan Sperling

I'm the proud father of two great children. They are grown up now, and although I would have preferred to be a stay-at-home dad, I had to work. Luckily, I could work out of my home so I was around a lot. I ran a video production company, had a couple of great guys working with me and it allowed me to be around the children a lot. I was the "fun guy" for my kids and fathering was something I just took to.
When my daughter became pregnant, I was glad to see my son-in-law was doing everything right--or as good as it gets--we're always winging it, right? It got me thinking that so many dads would like to be more emotionally involved and knowledgeable when it comes to their wives' pregnancy and the first year of their children's lives.

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