Four Ways for Dad to Bond with Baby

Four Ways for Dad to Bond with Baby

Congratulations, Dad! You and your partner have made it past pregnancy and now have a new bundle of joy in the family. But the parenting journey has just begun.

In the first days of life, some dads find it challenging to connect with their babies. And let’s be honest: Newborns don’t do much! They sleep, eat, cry, poop—and the cycle continues. If you struggle to connect with your new son or daughter, you are not alone. Fatherly instincts don’t always come naturally, and that doesn’t make you a bad dad.

There is a plethora of research explaining the benefits of Mom and Baby interacting during infancy, but there are far fewer studies on the same subject for fathers. However, experts largely agree that it is vital for both parents to be actively involved in their infant’s life from day one.

Here are four Good Dads tips for first-time dads.

 

Tip 1: Try Skin-to-Skin Contact.

Skin-to-skin contact is vital for making meaningful bonds with your new baby. Research shows various benefits from making skin-to-skin contact, especially right after your baby is born. These benefits include:

  • Fewer stress hormones in the bloodstream and lower blood pressure for Dad. Dads who had skin-to-skin contact with their newborns immediately after delivery reported being more caring and involved in their children’s lives, researchers at Curtin University in Australia found.
  • A better understanding of your role as a father. Society often sees mothers as the “primary parent,” but Good Dads knows that fathers are equally important in an infant’s development. By practicing skin-to-skin contact, you may find that you feel more connected with your infant.
  • Calms baby down. Skin-to-skin contact doesn’t just lower your stress hormones. It also lowers your child’s stress hormones. Researchers have found your child will feel happier, and so will you!

Pro tip: Hold your baby right after birth. Holding your baby right after they are born is the most effective way to do skin-to-skin contact, but this practice continues to be an important way to bond through infancy and into childhood.

 

Tip 2: Spend Time with your Newborn.

Although this is the simplest tip on the list, it may also be the most important. Bonding with your infant requires a time investment that can be difficult in today’s busy world—but it is worth the effort. Research shows that simply investing time into your baby will strengthen their bond with you.

  • A couple hours goes a long way. Simply spending an hour or two with your infant a day will improve the bond between father and baby. For instance, this 2021 study found that spending more time with a baby directly strengthens the bond between father and child.
  • Attention matters. Babies aren’t the most entertaining things in the world, but they know when you aren’t paying attention to them. Remember your child is a human who wants attention from other humans, especially from you. When you are with your baby, be sure to show interest in them instead of your phone or TV.
  • Bonding is for life. Remember that when you establish your bond with your infant, you are laying the groundwork for the bond you will share for your whole life. Investing early is a good way to ensure that you share a healthy bond for the entire lifespan.

 

LEARN MORE: E271 | How to be a Good Dad to Your Newborn

Tip 3: Increase Your Ability to Bond.

We’ve already discussed some ways to bond with your infant, but sometimes, babies can really be frustrating. It is completely normal to get frustrated with your baby. However, how you respond to your frustration will dictate your lifelong bond with your child. An important exercise when you’re frustrated is practicing empathy. Researchers found that perspective-taking and “mentalizing” with your child strengthens your bond.

  • Adjust your perspective. At one point in your life, you, too, were a baby. Take a second to put yourself in the perspective of a baby. You have no language or ability for emotional regulation, and you need something. What else would you even do other than scream and cry?
  • Empathize with Baby. Realizing your baby is literally helpless is only part of the battle. Understanding that they rely on you to meet their needs is vital. Even if it is frustrating in the moment, take a second to empathize: How would you want to be treated if you were your child?

  

Tip 4: Don’t Ignore Your Baby!

A common myth floating around is that it is beneficial for parents to ignore a baby’s crying because they are manipulative. Some folks say leaving a crying baby alone teaches them to be independent. This simply could not be further from the truth. Research indicates that ignoring baby only harms them.

  • Dispelling the Myth. Have you ever been told to leave your baby alone when they cry? Take a second to empathize (remember tip 3) with your child. Babies do not cry because they are manipulative—they cry because they need something.
  • Preventing unhealthy habits later on. Let’s briefly dive into the consequences of leaving your infant alone. Research shows that, when a caregiver fails to appropriately respond to a youngster’s needs, the child is more likely to develop an unhealthy attachment style as they grow up. In other words, ignoring your baby might result in lifelong negative effects.

 

Simple strategies go a long way. Being a dad can be challenging, especially during infancy, when the baby doesn’t do much more than sleep, cry and eat. However, bonding with your child is one of the most meaningful things in your life and theirs. It is imperative that you bond with your child during their infancy for a fulfilling healthy relationship.

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