Recently I was travelling with my baby, and my three year old Lili was home with dad. I expected her to cry a lot, and be mad at me for leaving, but she really surprised me with :”I missed you mom, and I’m happy that you are back” phrase. And than she turned away and started to play.
You see, I’m both presently surprised that she took it so well, and slightly disappointed that she didn’t miss me more ;). But above all I think that we managed to do something well here. I think that even though she missed me, she was still feeling safe and happy. And I think it’s thanks to the connection that she’s having with her dad, the relation that they grew since she was a baby.
I believe that anyone can learn how to care for a baby, and you don’t need to be a woman to have a great connection with your child. There are some great dads out there who knew exactly what to do with that baby from the very beginning, and moms who where completely clueless. Of course sometimes both of new parents are clueless ;). And sometimes it’s dad who feels left behind.
Somehow mother-baby bonding is easier. Of course not always, and not for everyone. I can imagine many scenarios in which it’s not, like a difficult birth or a postpartum depression. But in most cases, mothers bond fast with their babies.
Many theories say that it’s all thanks to oxytocine hormone, that not only facilitates birth and lactation, but also is a key ingredient of falling in love. Yes, this is the hormone responsible for both sexual love and maternal one. It’s being released in woman bodies during both romantic ( or sexual ) tête-à-tête, natural childbirth and breastfeeding. It’s a feel good hormone. And it leaves you feeling attached, bonded and happy.
So while we are being privileged by nature, dads are not. They bond and love and care, just like we do, but they don’t have oxytocine to help them out. So for some dads it might be more difficult or slower to bond with their baby. But there are some simple things that might help them grow the love and attachment.
What’s important in bonding is the repetition, so it’s all about the little actions that dad can take every day. Basically, baby and dad bonding happens through care and play, step by step, and day by day. So here is what worked for us :
It may sound as if I’m delegating the dirty work ( I am a bit) but babies feel that you care about them when you care for them. And diaper changing is a great opportunity for dad to make funny faces, tickle and laugh while a baby is awake.
The best moment for a working dad to play and care for a baby at the same time is bath time. Most babies like bathing, and it gives dad the one on one quality time. Leave them alone in a bathroom, they’ll manage!
3. Playing the peek-a-boo.
Babies love it, and it usually makes them laugh, which triggers the love and attachment in dad, and motivates him to take more time to care for the baby.
If your baby is being bottle feed, then dad can participate in feeding from the very beginning, if not, dad can be responsible for helping the tiny baby to burp after nursing.
And as soon as you start feeding with cereals and purees let dad feed the baby as much as possible. It will make him feel involved.
5. Leave them alone.
It may seem intimidating for some dads to be alone with a newborn, but leaving them alone just for a half an hour at a time may help your partner fell more adequate. He’ll be able to find his own way to take care of a baby.
Additionally, if ever anyone asks why is it so important for dads to be connected and bonded with their kids, than they should have a look at this meta research, proving that kids who have a good relationship with their dads succeed more at school, have better grades, feel better, have higher self esteem, are more social and deal better with stress.
On top of it, when dad will bond with a baby, than their relation will be close enough when the baby will become a toddler, and you’ll be able to leave them together for a couple of days, like I did :).
And you, do you have any other tips to help dads bond with babies? I’d love to hear about them!
And here are some of my favorite books that are great for new dads: