Babies are many things. They are at once incredible, beautiful and entertaining, and intense, scary and overwhelming. But as the parents of a new baby, you probably want to bond. For a natural-born baby, bonding with the primary caregiver — usually the mom — is done through feeding, soothing, and long hours of cuddling. But if you’re the other parent, the one who isn’t there all day, on hand for all the ups and downs of the day, it can be hard to know how to get involved and bond.
Newsflash: babywearing isn’t just for moms. In fact, this is a wonderful one for anyone who wants to bond with a baby. Wearing a baby in a carrier — safely and properly supported — keeps baby close to the warmth and security of a person. It helps to build trust, bonding and takes the pressure off the primary caregiver who might need a nap. It’s a great way of offering comfort to a baby who often falls asleep really easily in a carrier.
Yes, this is great for breastfeeding moms, but newborn babies are calmest when on the skin of the chest and anyone can do that. Skin-to-skin time is important for both parents, as it helps to release a load of important bonding hormones in both moms and dads. When your baby is fed and happy, place them on dad’s chest skin-to-skin to nap or just hang out.
Here in South Africa, we have just 10 days paternity leave offered for working dads. This is more than is offered in some countries and a lot less than others. If you are eligible for paternity leave, take it. These early days are prime bonding time that you don’t want to miss out (and your partner will probably really need you around).
It might not be the most delightful of tasks — no-one really wants to deal with all that poop — but it’s a great way to be involved intimately with your baby. Nappy changing gives you a chance to have prolonged eye contact, offer supportive comments and be really hands-on in a really important way. The daily, sometimes hourly, acts of personal care are part and parcel of caring for a baby, that’s completely gender-less.
Babies cry for a few reasons, among them is just a need to be soothed. They are born unable to soothe themselves, and rely on their parents to help them calm down, regulate their emotions and fall asleep. That can be a lot of pressure, especially on new moms who usually have as little idea of what to do as new dads. If mom is breastfeeding, she’s probably up at all hours of the night. This is a prime opportunity for dads to step in and, after the feed, take the baby to burp and soothe them back to sleep. Babies love to be shushed, rocked and sung to using a deep, low voice, and dads are perfect for that.
There’s no better time to get involved. Especially from about 6 months, a daily bath can be a great, useful part of the bedtime routine and a chance for the non-primary caregiver to get involved. There’s warm water, maybe bubbles and loads of chances to interact with your baby. Babies thrive with lots of eye contact and mirroring, so if they pull a funny face, you pull it too.
Yes, to newborns and all the way up to double digits. There have been so many studies that show that reading to kids is incredibly beneficial for them, but it’s also a chance to just hang out and spend time together. With newborns, it’s board books, simple rhymes and high contrast pictures. But in just a couple of months, you can graduate to longer stories.
The early weeks and months are a really important time for parents and babies to create a strong bond. Dads are often a little disconcerted by their baby’s fragility and neediness, but moms are just as confused. They just have little to no option for whether or not to jump right in. So if you’re a dad looking ahead to the newborn weeks, remember that there are many ways for you to get involved and bond with your baby. You just have to take them and make the best of them.
- Let Dad Be Dad: 6 Ways to Encourage New Fathers: https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/let-dad-be-dad#1
- Afro Daddy’s Shares His Story & Advice On Being a Dad: https://www.mamamagic.co.za/milestones/article/afro-daddys-shares-his-story-advice-on-being-a-dad/
- Building a bond with your baby: http://www.tums2totsonline.co.za/building-bond-baby/
- Want to Raise Smart, Kind Kids? Science Says Do This Every Day: https://happyyouhappyfamily.com/raising-smart-kids/
- Working dads can now take paternity leave for 10 days: https://mg.co.za/article/2018-11-27-working-dads-can-now-take-paternity-leave-for-10-days