When it comes to pregnancy and delivery, we can’t deny that most of the focus goes to mom and baby. But at Welcome Baby Care, we recognize that dad isn’t just a bit part in the new drama that is unfolding in your lives. This week we are celebrating fathers—giving our tips and stories and all-around appreciation for these marvelous men.
Let’s start by talking about bonding.
Why Is Dad-Baby Bonding So Vital?
As mom and dad are preparing for the birth of the baby, their hormone levels are changing—yes, even dad’s levels of oxytocin are on the rise. We call this the ‘love and bonding’ hormone and it is at its highest level for men within 24 hours of the birth of the baby. This is the magic moment to start bonding.
Cementing this essential bond starts immediately. Dads might be a little reluctant to get in and get their feet wet, but that first week, when oxytocin levels are highest, is the time to start nurturing, cuddling, touching, holding, and kissing that little one as much as possible. Our doulas recommend that dad always have on a button-down shirt. Anytime the baby isn’t on mom’s chest, she should be on dad’s. With the button-down shirt, dad can easily slide the little bundle up to his chest to promote that healthy hormonal flow. This also helps to lower cortisol levels (stress hormone).
Bonding techniques geared towards fathers help them to start bonding with their babies in the newborn stage, and ensures a closeness that will continue throughout the childhood, and adulthood of the child. Successful bonding not only promotes healthy familial connections, but infuses the child with a sense of security and trust that will transfer to their other relationships as well.
How Can I Start Bonding With My Baby?
- Talk to the tummy. Ideally bonding should start in utero. Dad should talk and sing to the little guy even before he makes his debut. Quiet evening times are perfect for mom and dad to sit and have some reading or singing time with baby. Yes, your baby will hear you and recognize your voices, even in the womb.
- Skin-on-skin. This helps baby and dad to feel each other’s heartbeats, get used to smells and sounds, and to begin to feel comfortable with each other. We start this bonding technique immediately and continue as the baby grows.
- Division of labor. While night feedings and diaper changes might not seem like fun times, they are a part of the parenting experience in all its glory. Dad can and should help with feeding (if you are bottle feeding), diaper changing, dressing, and bathing. Take advantage of this “touch time”. Sing, chat, and dance with the baby. Touch and massage while changing the diaper or burping. If dad’s work schedule makes night duty a significant challenge, work out some weekend time. That quiet, nighttime closeness is vital bonding time.
- Alone time. Dads need some room to develop their own ways of interacting with their babies and might not feel comfortable letting their dad-personality emerge when mom is hovering nearby. Dad’s need time and space to experiment with what makes the baby laugh or cry, how to soothe her, how to make him fall asleep. This also gives mom some alone time and a chance to rejuvenate. Enjoy your baby together, but also take some time to enjoy one-on-one.
- Strap on that baby and bond! Baby wearing gets baby and dad up close and personal. This gives the opportunity to bond as dad goes through his daily activities. Baby can come on the morning dog walk, to the hardware store, out into the garden, etc.
- Learn baby massage Ask a doula to give a little tutorial on how to massage your baby. Loving, intentional touch is money in the bonding bank, increasing oxytocin and decreasing cortisol.
I Didn’t Recognize The Importance of Bonding When My Child Was A Baby. Is It Too Late?
It’s never too late to start bonding with your children! But the techniques are a little different as the child grows. Foster that physical connection by hugging, patting on the back, carrying, applying lotion, and even brushing her hair. When watching a movie or reading a book, put him on your chest.
And create some little rituals. Kids love special dad time, even from their youngest toddler stage. Maybe Saturday morning is Daddy Time and you head out for pancakes, or after work becomes designated as Park Time. Carve out special times for the two of you to enjoy each other without pressure and then get serious about keeping your dates. Mom will love it too!