Both during the pregnancy and after the baby’s arrival, a lot of attention is paid to the mother. It makes sense since she’s carrying this child around in her womb for nine months – and then when the baby arrives, he relies on her for sustenance. But the unfortunate side effect is that fathers sometimes get forgotten. This is to the detriment of everyone involved – mother, father, and newborn!
Recent studies have shown that children with actively involved fathers receive a number of benefits:
- more likely to be emotionally secure
- more confident in exploring their surroundings
- better social connections with peers
- less likely to get into trouble at home and school
- less likely to use alcohol and drugs
- higher IQs
- better linguistic and cognitive capacities
Since fathers tend to engage in more playful and physical activities when bonding with the baby, it may also help children to learn to better regulate their emotions, resist aggressive impulses, and encourage independence, achievement, and higher self-esteem. And when fathers aren’t as involved in their baby’s life, they are more likely to withdraw, causing a decrease in relationship satisfaction for both partners.
So what are some ways that you can encourage father-baby bonding? Here are some father-to-be tips.
Talk to the tummy – As a first-time dad-to-be, you can start the bonding process when the baby is still in the womb! You may feel a little strange talking to your wife’s baby bump at first, but as early as 30 weeks, the baby is able to distinguish between the voices of his parents and strangers. Tell a story, say hello, or even sing a song!
Be involved in the birth – Attend a class or pick up a book to learn more about the birthing process, so you can be more valuable to your wife during labour. It will allow you to feel more comfortable about your participation in this big day, and make bonding with the baby easier when he has arrived.
Learn infant massage. It provides a number of benefits to your baby – helping with digestion, relieving tension, helping with breathing, and even encouraging growth! You don’t need to get certified, just ask your midwife for a few tips.
Help with feeding. If your wife uses a breast pump or you decide to supplement with formula, you can assist with feeding – something mum will appreciate when it’s the middle of the night!
Climb in the tub. Help your baby to get more comfortable with the bathing experience by joining him! It can be a soothing bonding experience for you both.
Read to your baby. It doesn’t even have to be a children’s book! Read the newspaper or a report from work out loud. Your baby will eat up the attention.
Have fun. Above all, enjoy your baby. Make silly faces and noises. Get up and dance. Create your own games. Just be creative and enjoy this special time with your child.
Moms can help by giving their husbands space. You may feel overly protective of your baby, but hovering around while dad is trying to find his own way of parenting can put more pressure on the situation. Instead, work on giving him alone time to bond with the baby, and focus on being supportive rather than critical.
Remember, your husband may do things differently than you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong. If it makes you nervous, remind yourself of all the countless benefits that father-baby bonding brings to your family.