Trina’s husband Cole here back for another “guest post” on the topic of fatherhood and how dads can bond with their baby. The worst thing that can happen is that after baby is born, dad doesn’t know how to care for and bond with baby. Dads can wait until they are older when they become more playful but then they are late to the game. Becoming a dad is a really exciting thing and most dads I know couldn’t wait until the baby was finally born. For nine months the mom “hogs” the baby (even though she’d gladly share if it was possible) and gets to feel every turn, punch, and kick. When Trina was pregnant with L I absolutely could not wait for her to be born so that I could hold her and begin to form a bond with her. After delivery though, and once Trina started breastfeeding, I realized that I’d really have to capitalize on any opportunities for bonding because babies nurse and sleep a lot, which means limited chances for dad to hold and bond with the baby. These are the best ways I found that dads can bond with their new baby.
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1. It’s not smart for mom to pump just so dad can feed the baby
Some couples that we know have the mom pump a bottle so the dad can have an opportunity to feed the baby. While this would give mom a much needed breather. Actual breastfeeding is way more effective at stimulating the mother’s milk supply than pumping and bottle feeding. Trina goes into way more detail about this in her complete guide to breastfeeding. Also, you really want to avoid bottles and pacifiers for at least 3 to 6 so you don’t cause nipple confusion. Instead, dad can have an instrumental role after nursing, which brings me to point two…
2. Burping is a great dad activity
We underestimated just how much baby’s need to be burped and looking back a lot of L’s crying early on was probably caused by having to burp. Burping is a great activity for dads when they are around because it gives a chance for the mom to clean up a bit, grab some water, and prepare to keep nursing if the baby is still hungry. When burping you can gently talk to the baby so they become more familiar with the sound of your voice.
3. Do (Almost) Every Diaper Change You Can
Diaper changes are a great time for the dad to give mom a break and get some really nice face to face time with the baby. I jumped at the opportunity to change L’s diapers as it became one of the first ways we played. I came up with a diaper change song that I would sing to her every time. It’s sung to the tune of Frère Jacques:
Little feetsies, little handsies, button nose, button nose, tickle tickle tummy, tickle tickle tummy, raspberries, raspberries.
Tiny kneesies, tiny shoulders, chubby cheeks, chubby cheeks, tickle tickle tummy, tickle tickle tummy, raspberries, raspberries.
With each verse I would touch the accompanying body part. At 6 weeks it was this song that elicited some of her first smiles as she had grown familiar with the song and enjoyed the tickles. I put (Almost) in this title because if baby is only giving smiles during diaper changes (which was our experience), then dad needs to let the mom enjoy some of those as they are necessary motivation to continue the exhaustive grind of parenting. (Sorry for the blurry picture, but it was too perfect not to use)
4. Read to Baby
Trina has a great post on the importance of reading to babies and this is a great dad activity as well. Obviously your reading opportunities will be limited in the newborn phase as the awake times are very, very short. As baby gets older, and is awake for a longer duration, seize every opportunity to read to them as it will spur their development and help build your bond.
5. Wear baby on hikes or walks or just around the house
At first I was a bit self-conscious about wearing L in public with a Boba Wrap, but after receiving a lot of positive reactions from people, I came to a realization. Even though wearing a baby wrap doesn’t look “manly”, you are being involved and caring for your baby and sadly that isn’t the case with every dad. The Boba Wrap was great because it allowed for skin-to-skin contact and was a great way to cuddle and bond. After L was nursed, burped, and had a clean diaper, I would put her in the wrap and just resume normal activities like going on the computer or cleaning.
6. When baby is big enough, take tubs with them
Once L reached about 3 or 4 months she had outgrown her baby tub so I started taking tubs with her. This became one of my favorite activities that we did together. While in the tub I would hold her so we were making eye contact and sing her songs. The go to tub song was “I Want it That Way” by Backstreet Boys (yes, I’m a millennial). Now that L is still a toddler she can definitely take supervised tubs on her own, but she has more fun and feels more secure when I’m in there with her. Note to dads: if you feel weirded out about bathing with baby, just wear a swimsuit!
7. Wake up early with baby, let mom sleep in
Babies like to wake up SOOO early. Our routine when L was 3 to 6 months would be that when L woke, she would nurse in bed and then I would wake up with her and play while Trina slept in. I would wake up early with her 5 or 6 days a week and Trina would let me sleep in 1 or 2 days. This sounds unfair from the dad’s perspective but if the baby is not sleeping through the night yet, there will be a lot of overnight nursing and mom will be extremely sleep deprived. I found this half hour or hour with L to be a great bonding time. Often times she would go under her jungle gym and I would lay next to her or I would lay next to her while she did tummy time. This is a routine we still practice, except instead of L being stationary she is cruising around playing and bringing me books to read to her.
What did you do to bond with baby? Moms, what did your partner do? Let me know in the comments.
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