Alright dads, listen up!
The scoop is that you don’t have to wait until your child can kick a ball before you can really bond with them and be an active dad.
Yes, absolutely, your new baby needs mum right now.
They need the early days, weeks and months to bond closely together.
A secure attachment is vital to both the mother’s and baby’s wellbeing, and breastfeeding is often a way that mothers and babies bond with one another.
There’s more to early parenthood than boobs, breastfeeding and bonding!
My perspective on bonding is that it rarely happens in that ‘magical unforgettable moment’ way.
Bonding happens in day-to-day life – constantly – in all of the little moments.
So while mum is bonding in her own important and unique ways, there are plenty of opportunities for you to be involved, share the co-parenting load, and mostly importantly, stay bonded and connected with your baby, as a dad and with your partner.
Here are 8 ways that you as a new dad can bond with your baby. Just like mum has her breastfeeding ritual with your baby, some of these may become your rituals with your bub. Enjoy!
#1: Be a babywearing dad
This is number one because for women it’s just plain sexy to see their man wearing their baby! But back to you and why you should baby wear. 😉
Baby gets to feel you, smell you and hang with you while you walk, talk, adventure, do housework (yes mamas, I went there!) or do things that you enjoy while being a hands-on connected dad with bub on board.
This is dad-life in motion. The real stuff of bonding. Your baby just wants to know you and be with you (just like mum). This is how you can share more of you. It’s a win-win-win for everyone!
#2: Bathe your baby – or even better, get in with them
Most new babies love water and after a day of being in nappies (diapers), they can usually do with a soak and gentle cleanse. For many bubs, bath time can be great playtime or even chill time after a big day in their little growing bodies.
So after your home from work, in the door, have checked in with your partner and connected, scoop bub up, and head for the bath. Close the door and give mum a break. Maybe she’ll crack a wine, sit down and exhale. The gold is that she can because you’ve got this!
So get in if you have a big bath. Share some more skin-to-skin time. Be part of the play. Enjoy the time to soak and relax yourself. Consider making this a daily ritual. Not only are you helping out with the practical parenting load by bathing bub, you’re getting some precious one-on-one time with bub and mum is getting a very well-deserved break. Another win-win-win!
#3: Floorplay (not foreplay!)
That got your attention, didn’t it?! 😉
Babies love being on the floor while they are learning how to move and be in their amazing little bodies. I encourage all parents – dads and mums – to view the world from the floor with baby as much as possible. It’s an incredible view from down there. And so much fun!
Playing with your baby is a great way to bond and connect. Talk, touch, tickle, hold, sing, read, swing…whatever is safe and in flow with baby’s mood, energy, and time of day. So consider if baby has just fed, for instance. And don’t wind baby up just before nap time! Unless you want to get ‘the glare’ from your partner… yes, you know the one.
#4: Be the nappy/diaper superstar in your co-parenting team!
Here’s a perspective that is a game-changer when it comes to your perspective and attitude as a hands-on dad and team parent: changing nappies are not a parenting chore, it is a bonding opportunity.
“What?!” I hear you half ask and half exclaim! Let me break it down for you.
Picture this. You’re on the floor with your baby. It’s nappy change time. Bub is on his back, looking up at you. Maybe with love eyes. Maybe with cheeky eyes. Maybe with ‘let me up and NO we’re not doing this now eyes. Whatever eyes you’re getting, they’re on you.
So talk with your baby. Rub his belly. Tickle. Or maybe you need to soothe and reassure. Hold the mutual gaze. All while you take of the dirty or wet diaper and change it. Congratulations, you just liberated your baby of a diaper mess, bonded with your baby, and contributed as a team parent! Win-win-win!
#5: Get out together while mama has a break
Sometimes as new dads we need to stretch our comfort zones (acknowledging here also that dad-and-baby time outside of the house will often stretch mama’s comfort zones, too!) in our efforts to bond with our baby.
But this is essential to the bonding journey and process. Our babies need to know that we are there for them and can be with them in every situation, no matter where we are or what’s going on.
Usually getting out of the house with baby solo is a stretch. But what this does is help us build confidence. You may feel like a complete hacker at first and be full of self-doubt and self-criticism. But keep doing it. Keep learning. Keep saying yes. You’ll be glad you did.
This one-on-one time with your baby helps you to build your own relationship with baby and helps you to learn what your babies needs are and how to meet them – without a bottle!
#6: Read to your baby
Reading is another great activity for your baby’s healthy brain development. And since bub was growing inside of mama’s belly, he knows your voice and has come to love it! So baby loves any time close where you are talking in YOUR voice. Even reading. This can also be a special ritual. Maybe a story before bedtime. Or on the floor after your bath.
#7: Learn baby massage and rub them lots
Bonding through touch is very powerful way to help baby build a secure attachment with you. As babies are constantly growing, their bodies are always in need of soothing and rubbing. Baby massage is not just a new fad – there is science behind and more parents are signing up to classes to learn how to safely and effectively massage their babies.
The bonding opportunity here is to love your baby up while giving them some relief. This can be down on the floor as well with music. It can be a great way to relax together and perhaps part of your bedtime routine to help baby ease into a soothed state before feeding and sleeping.
#8: Sing to your baby
Babies love music and your voice, so singing is an amazing way to connect and bond with your baby! Bonus points if you can properly sing. 😉 It can be fun or playful singing. Or it can be soft and soothing. If you play an instrument and can create your own music, this is an opportunity for you to do something you love and share it with your baby in a memorable way.
All the best dads! Keep being the dad you want to be!