Dads can and do form very strong bonds with their babies. This really sets us apart from many of our mammal relations such as polar bears, where the fathers don’t help their cubs at all.
Nowadays dads have lots of opportunity to bond with their baby. They are often very involved in antenatal classes and often present at the birth of their baby. This means that bonding starts even before the baby comes along.
Dads with babies in special baby care
Dads can really help care for their baby after a difficult birth or if the baby is transferred to special baby care. While the baby’s mum is recovering from the birth dads can stay with their baby and ask to have skin-to-skin contact. This will help a baby to cope with the outside world. There is such a lot for parents to do in special baby care and dads can help with tube feeding, nappy changing and lots of cuddles to help their baby in those early days.
New parents have heard so often about mums and dads instantly bonding with their new baby. However, bonding is a process and is a bit different for everyone. Try not to worry if bonding doesn’t feel instant. Spending lots of time cuddling and chatting to your baby will make them bond with you and you will feel closer and closer to them over time.
How can dads bond?
Skin-to-skin contact is great for babies and dads. Babies will love to lie on their dad’s warm chest, this will regulate their breathing and body temperature and make them feel safe. Like mums, new dads will also produce oxytocin when they cuddle their baby. Oxytocin (called the love hormone) helps parents to bond, feel calm and be a great carer to their new baby.
Opportunities for dads to bond
Babywearing is a great way for dads to bond with their baby. There are lots of lovely soft slings around that fit both mums and dads. Babies carried in slings are often very calm and content as they love to be rocked and carried and hear their parent’s heart. Dads will feel very close to their baby in a sling and it’s a great chance for a tired new mum to have a nap or a shower while your baby is cosy in a sling with their dad.
Some mums and dads worry that the dad will not get the opportunity to bond with their baby if they don’t have the chance to feed them. However, dads have been bonding with their babies for thousands of years without bottle-feeding their baby.
Dads can bond during any time they spend with their baby; cuddling, changing nappies, bathtime, story time – all great opportunities for bonding!
Talking to your baby
Dads should start talking to their baby from the moment they’re born. It’s very important since they recognise their dad’s voice from having heard it in the womb so it’s a very, very reassuring and familiar sound to them. They can tune into it straight away and turn towards voices they recognise. Spend lots of time chatting and singing to your baby – try teaching them lullabies and nursery rhymes that you heard as a child.
Bonding and playtime with dads
Recent research has identified the vital importance of dads. The study showed that dads who played well with their three-month-old babies were more likely to have happy, well-behaved children when they turned one.
Dr Paul Ramchandi, who ran the University of Oxford study, said: ‘Focusing on a child’s first few months is important as this is a crucial period for development and a child is very susceptible to environmental influences, such as the quality of parental care and interaction. Our research adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests that intervening early to help parents can make a positive impact on how their child develops.’