We probably don't say it enough, but a father-and-child bond is just as important as the bond between a mom and her baby. And the earlier it’s established, the stronger it gets. Sometimes, though, dad will need a little nudge and a bit of time and practice before he’s entirely comfortable in his new role.
“Almost every dad I've met wants to feel close to his child, but it's not always easy for a father to carve out a role in his baby's life,” said renowned pediatrician Dr. William Sears in an article for Parenting. Here are ways mom can help dad and baby find their special connection.
1. Assign dad to the nightshift
Most newborns will not be ready for a regular sleep-wake cycle until they’re around 3 to 6 months old. So there will be lot of waking up in the middle of the night to soothe, feed, and change diapers! Moms, take charge. Tell your husband you need to take turns with him at night so you both don't end up sleep-deprived. And when you feed, he can burp the baby when you're both at home.
2. Teach dad how to massage your baby
“Bonding and attachment is an ongoing process. It can start anytime, and it must be nurtured,” said Dr. Roselyne M. Balita, a pediatrician and founder of the Little Lamb’s Pediatric Wellness Place. “One of the easiest and fastest ways to nurture and show our love to our babies is through infant massage.”
Infant massage may just be the thing dad can do to show his love for your little one. It can also be dad and baby’s special bonding activity. Got a dad who’s game to try it out? Here’s a baby massage quick guide to show him how.
3. Try not to criticize or hover
Dad may not get everything right the first few times, but he will get the hang of it soon. Trust him. Bonding and caring for a baby takes time and practice, so avoid swooping in to rescue even if you think he’s not doing a particularly good job.
With too much criticism and hovering, “you're likely to erode his self-confidence, and your baby won't get used to being comforted by him–which will leave you without a moment's peace,” said Dr. Sears. “Let them work things out on their own.”
4. Encourage cuddle sessions
“Bonding has as much to do with contact as involvement,” pediatrician David Hill, author of Between Us Dads: A Father's Guide to Child Health, told WebMD. “If you're in contact with your baby, the bond will occur.”
Being physically close to each other is a natural way for parent and child to bond. Encourage dad to carry and rock your little one when he’s crying, hold him close during feedings if your baby is bottle-fed, or simply let your baby lay on his chest. Dr. Sears also recommends babywearing for dads!
5. Take a parenting class together
Dad will be less hesitant to step in if he knows what to do and what is expected of him. Attending parenting classes together will help a lot with this and will make him feel more confident with his parenting You wouldn’t want dad to feel left out as well if you go without him, right? (Quick tip: Smart Parenting regularly hosts workshops for first-time parents! Check our Facebook page for updates on events.)
6. Spend some well-deserved me-time
The best chance that dad will spend quality bonding time with baby? Get mom out of the house! Put away the “mommy guilt” and don’t feel bad about allotting time to pamper yourself, mom. You deserve it! Hang out with friends, go shopping, and get a manicure. Trust that dad can handle things.