In many ways a baby thinks that her mum and dad do the same job, from changing and cuddles to playtime and pushing the buggy. But dads can often feel like their partner has the stronger bond with the newborn as mums are traditionally the parent spending the most time with the baby and usually doing a lot of the feeding. However, no matter how strong the relationship is between a mother and her baby, it’s important for fathers to know they still have a very distinctive role to play in bringing up their baby and that she needs him to nurture that as much as possible.
It’s crucial to the father/child bond and the baby’s development.
Small person, big demands
It might not feel like such a small person has so many needs, but a baby looks to her dad for everything from feeling loved and valued to stimulation and structure in her life. When she gazes into his face she wants to see a warm, caring expression in return just like she does with her mum. She needs to know that he thinks everything she does is marvellous and that he appreciates every new achievement she makes. All babies expect their dad to keep them safe from harm, both psychologically and physically, as well as encouraging and sometimes challenging them.
Find the balance
This long list of needs is why it’s very important for a dad to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in. It can be easy after a day at work to come home and feel left out when he sees his partner and their baby together as a little twosome. But that’s not what the baby needs or expects, and it won’t help her and her dad get close to each other. Some fathers find it hard to see their one-on-one time with their baby as anything other than mum’s time off. But cherishing each moment as a valuable opportunity to build a long-term relationship will reward him and his little one immeasurably.
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Setting up regular quality time can help dads make sure they share enough bonding moments with their little one. Set a night of the week when he knows he can get home from work early to take part in bathtime. Sit together while you breastfeed or pass on responsibility for some of the bottle feeds to him.
5 steps to getting dad involved
1. Recognition. Both parents should acknowledge dad’s special importance to their baby, and realise that each of them has a valuable part to play in her upbringing.
2. Encouragement. Not all fathers have the confidence to get involved with baby care tasks because they’re seen as things mums do.
3. Forget stereotypes. Some dads think singing lullabies is a bit girly, but it’s important for dads to take a soft approach sometimes too.
4. Update him. During the day, dads can miss out on little achievements like a first smile. Taking a quick picture or writing a note when it happens can help him feel involved.
5. Do it his way. There isn’t one particular way for a father to interact with his baby; a lot depends on his – and the baby’s – personality.