Worrying about how to bond with a new baby is common among first-time dads. Many men have not had contact with a newborn before and are nervous about looking after such a tiny person.
It can also be easy to feel sidelined in the new family pecking order as mum takes charge of day-to-day baby care –especially if she is breastfeeding.
But fathers have an important role to play and can have a strong relationship with their child from day one, providing they make the effort.
We asked expert Dean Beaumont, founder of DaddyNatal (daddynatal.co.uk), and reader Michael Payne, 32, from Hampshire, father to 1-year-old Willow, about their tips for successful dad-and-baby bonding – see what they said…
Bond before birth
Dean recommends bonding before baby arrives. The more connected you feel to your unborn child during pregnancy, the more comfortable and at ease you’ll be when she arrives.
Try the following bump-bonding techniques…
- Attend the scans and keep a photo close at hand – this will help you to think of your baby as a real, living person.
Feel the kicks when they start at 20 to 24 weeks – that way, you can feel physically connected.
- Talk to your baby – from 24 weeks she can hear your voice and can also become familiar with you.m
Dean says “The first thing to do is to spend time with your newborn. Get involved in the day-to-day care, from nappy changes and winding to bathing. Bonding isn’t just about lots of cuddles; it’s about supporting your baby with her basic care needs, too.”
Michael says “I totally agree. I do most of the nappy changes and it really helps me feel as though I’m part of her everyday routine, and not just of use when it’s convenient. Plus I don’t mind the smelly nappies as much as my wife, Sophia, does!”
Dean says “Most dads are really just big kids at heart and playtime is a great opportunity to bond. While your newborn is not exactly ready for a game of football, babies are sociable creatures and they will love spending time with you. At first, play will be very simple. Try sticking your tongue out at her – you may be amazed to find that your baby mimics you. Read stories and sing songs, too, but keep it gentle to start with. Babies tire quickly, and you don’t want an over-stimulated, irritable child on your hands.”
Michael says “I think we did this instinctively, and I love how Willow copies tongue-poking and laughing with us. Even though she is only 1, I feel like we share important times together. The fun times also help level out the more stressful times, which in turn helps my relationship with my wife.”
Dean says “Get your little one undressed, take your top off and spend a bit of time having a cuddle. You could also share a bath or even join a baby massage group. Skin-to-skin contact releases the hormone oxytocin in you both,
which is what helps us to bond.”
Michael says “I did this when Willow was a newborn and it seemed to calm her down when she was really colicky. It was more than just cuddles, as it really did comfort her. There are lots of photos of Willow asleep on my chest and they’re lovely. The hardest part is trying to move without waking her!”