When it comes to parental bonding, mothers have a nine-month advantage over fathers to develop that intimate connection, but that doesn’t mean dad should feel left out. In the past, experts thought bonding had to happen soon after giving birth, but this is now considered a misconception. Fathers must remember that bonding takes time. The best way a dad can bond with baby is through one-on-one time and caregiving. Here are some of the ways to strengthen that fatherhood bond.
Get Dad Involved During Your Pregnancy
Dad will never know what it’s like to carry a child or give birth, but that doesn’t mean his time to bond starts after her arrival. Invite him to your medical appointments and give him the opportunity to view the baby's ultrasound so he can have a first-hand look at his daughter. For parents-to-be, the visual can be quite emotional and moving.
He might not be able to hold her in his arms yet, but encourage him to connect with your growing belly. Have him place his hands or gently rub your stomach as she’s actively kicking to start developing that bond. Because she’s already developing her sense of hearing inside the womb, have him talk to her. Research shows babies are able to recognize familiar voices.
Encourage Skin-to-Skin Contact and Cuddle Time
Once she is born, human touch and contact is ideal in establishing a deeper bond. Have dad hold her whenever possible and set aside some time for skin-to-skin contact. Often referred to as kangaroo care, this is when baby is placed against your bare chest wearing nothing but a diaper, and it benefits moms and dads alike. As she lies on dad’s chest, she’ll take comfort in learning his breathing pattern, becoming familiar with his scent and the sound of his heartbeat, much like she was doing with you in the womb. Remember new mamas, when you need a break, it’s a perfect time for father-baby cuddle time.
Be a Routine Caregiver
Fathers shouldn’t be hesitant to jump right into parental duties. Caregiving only strengthens bonding. Mothers have the advantage of bonding during feeding time. Although dad isn’t able to breastfeed, you can bottle some of your pumped breast milk or formula so he can get in on feeding time too. Have him hold her in the same position you feed her in so she continues to receive that close contact she’s used to during cuddle time.
Dad duties extend beyond feedings. Get him involved in changing diapers, giving baths, bedtime and encourage play time. If you’ve decided to use a baby carrier, give him the opportunity to try out babywearing as he helps out with household chores.