By Charlie Owens
Right from the start mom and baby have a primal connection. How can we as dads nurture our own special connection with our baby?
There are many ways to bond with your newborn and each of us will have to figure out what works best. Here are a few ideas to get you started…
Sooner Is Better: Obviously everyone’s birth experience is different, but the sooner you can begin bonding with your baby the better. The perfect opportunity usually presents itself after mom has breast-fed successfully and things have begun to settle down. Just some simple skin to skin time and gentle daddy-speak is a great ice-breaker. Remember that your baby is hearing sounds removed from the insulation of the womb for the first time. They may know your voice but only through plenty of protection. The same goes for those little eyes. The light of the world can be bright the first few times you open them. So make sure the lights are dim. Shirt off, or open, with baby nuzzled on your chest. You don’t need to lay down, but if there is room and you are comfortable with that then do it. Also, keep a blanket over baby to maximize the benefit of your body’s natural warmth.
Bath Time: One of the things I suggest in my “Dad’s Hour” at Blooma is to own a task with baby. Something that is reserved for just you and baby; an area where you can become the expert. Bath time is my top pick. Giving the baths helps by taking the responsibility off of mom, and it also allows time for father and child to connect. Take great pride in bathing your newborn! You are providing a basic need. Within no time, you will look forward to the bathing ritual and will find new ways to make it fun.
Play: Playing with your baby can be a really great time for bonding. At 0-2 months old play monkey see monkey do. Get close to their face and make facial gestures: open mouth, smile, eyes wide, stick out your tongue. They will begin to copy at about six weeks. (Careful! They may want your nose!) At 2-4 months you can play bicycle: lay them on their back and place your palms on the soles of their feet, make a pedaling motion. At first you will be doing all the work, but soon you won’t have to do anything! Remember when engaging in play to be patient and make sure your baby is not feeling anxious or nervous. This will build trust between you and baby. Their reward is your response so be sure to show your joy at their attempts and successes.
Show and Tell: While holding your baby, walk around and check things out. The pictures on the walls, the water faucets, the light fixtures, and the different textures around the house. When you go to a new place do this with your baby, and talk about the things you see, feel, and hear. Be sure to be extra expressive. When you go grocery shopping, or to run other errands, explore with them and help them to understand the world around them.
Sing and Talk: Read stories to your baby. Use board books that they can touch and grab. My favorite memories include reading “Goodnight Moon” to my babies. Sing to your baby! You can sing songs you know or make them up as you go—have fun with it! Help your baby sing. Wait until they are cooing or making sounds and take the back of their hand and interrupt their sound repeatedly with it “bah-bah-bah-bah.” Then you do it, and you will be harmonizing! You can move on to emptying the kitchen cupboards and banging on pots and pans with wooden spoons. Sorry mom! Talk with your baby, be sure they know how amazing and wonderful you think they are. Later in life when they need someone to talk to they will know they can talk with you.
When you are trying to bond with your baby remember to be patient, and choose times that will encourage positive results. As my own dad taught me there are very few people who are born experts at anything, and even those people need to learn and practice. Don’t get discouraged, keep it up, and before you know it you will have regular times and activities that will deepen the bond between you and baby.
Charlie Owens is the husband of a doula and father to 1 son and 3 daughters. 2 of his children are step children, and 2 are biological. Charlie facilitates a “Dad’s Hour”at Blooma, and is a self employed remodeling contractor. Charlie also volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, is a Deacon, and the housing ministries chair at Westminster Presbyterian church, helping to provide affordable housing in the downtown area.