Dads and Babies - Bonding
How to Bond with your Baby
Life has completely changed with the birth of our first child. A wondeful bundle of joy! We have tried to make as much of our new life fun, family-centred and fulfilling...something that parent education did not really prepare us for
So much of parent education focusses (rightly so) around the mother; most of this education is also centred on the labour and birth of the child. There is surprisingly little information for dads, at least incomparison to that available for mums. There is even less information on what to do with the baby once you get it home. What you don't know about parenting can't kill you (or the baby...people have been having babies long before the invention of the printing press or the doula) but it can make you more nervous and fearful than you need to be. This should be one of the happiest times of your life and you need to make the most of it - your child will be out the door to college before you can blink...
Below is a selection of the best advice gained from midwives, parents, parenting magazines and textbooks on how to be a super dad from day one. It is not an exhaustive list, but has certainly helped me feel more confident in the lead up to the big arrival.
How to Pick Up a Newborn
Bonding with a Newborn
Most men hold a newborn baby quite nervously: after all, it could scream at the slightest thing, or at the very least, explode. You need to get over these fragility fears very quickly. If you are afraid of holding your newborn, then you probably aren't going to provide the solid and sturdy base for him. The baby will cry until you get it right, or until you give up and somebody who is confident takes over.
Repeat after me: "I am not going to break my baby."
Babies are designed to survive first-time parents. They will let you know (loudly) if you are not doing something correctly, and will sit quite happily when you get it right. Motivation to keep trying until you find something that works. The best advice I read came from Dads Guide to Pregnancy for Dummies:
"Take deep, steady breaths and hold your baby in the same casual-yet-protective way you grasp your iPad. Don't fumble with the baby...use firm, fluid movements. The more you act like you know what you're doing, the more the baby will like what you're doing."
Simple, really. Just trust your instincts.You wil know what to do to care for your child. You will get to know them quickly and soon nobody will know your bay better than you (regardless of what your mother-in-law says about how warmly you dress him...)
Funny Baby Video
Is parent education too focussed on Mum?
Skin-to-Skin Bonding for Dads
Breastfeeding gives mums an amazing opportunity to bond with baby. This time spent skin-to-skin is proven to increase the bond between mother and child. It also soothes baby and regulates their breathing in the early hours after birth.
Skin-to-skin contact is just as important for dads. When baby is only in her nappy, take off your shirt and place her on your chest. This is also the perfect distance from your face for baby to get to know you. (A newborn's eyesight is just powerful to see the distance from the breast to mum's eyes.)
Tips for Dad: Bonding with a Newborn
How to Bond with Baby
Embrace your Silly Side: There is no way around it, but babies and young children love the silliness. Silly faces, funny voices, terrible dancing, dressing up, and baby talk should all be key elements of your bonding arsenal. You may feel self conscious, but this will evaporate when your baby laughs at your latest silly face, or you blowing raspberries into his tummy. Be prepared to leave your masculinity at the door - HAVE FUN!
Go Out: Take your baby outside. This is a whole new world they have yet to experience. Explore it with them! Attend father-and-baby classes, go to playgroups, sit out on the grass, or just go for a walk together. Keep talking to baby and babble back with them. After all, they want to tell you what they just saw!
Rough and Tumble: As baby gets older and stronger, you will be able to be more physical with your newborn. Hold him above your head, swing him gently in your arms, tickle him, rub your face in his belly. As long as you are being safe, it is ok...regardless of what mum may think. If baby is laughing and having a good time, you are doing the right thing.
Read Aloud: Every day. Not only will this help language development, but baby will love the sound of your voice. The more baby is exposed to reading-aloud, the faster they will learn to speak. And don't be put off thinking you have to read 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' every day for 2 years. Read anything: read the paper, read out a website, read from a novel. Baby is too young to appreciate children's books anyway!
Daddy-Time: Have some time every day where it is just you and baby. This could be the early morning nappy change (which will give mum some time to sleep) - a great way to spend some close time together before you go off to work. Just remember to change that nappy before putting on your shirt and tie. Whatever activity you choose, be it a walk, reading time or bathtime, make sure you do it every day. This will give your partner a break, show you can take care of your child, and develops a routine with your baby.
Teach Baby New Tricks: 0-6months
Slowly move a colourful object back and forth and up and down in front of a baby's eyes.
Helps the brain begin to follow movement. Sound tracking can also be done in the same way.
Repeat your baby's gurgles and noises back to her.
Babies have their own language that you don't understand. The more they hear it the more they'll talk, which aids language development.
Reaching and Grabbing
Dangle colourful toys and baby-safe objects in front of your child and wait for him to reach for them.
Muscle tone and co-ordination. Encourage gripping by wrapping a baby's hand around an object and letting go.
...you know this. Don't be too macho now. Babies will laugh as you disappear and reappear over and over (and over) again.
Understanding of cause and effect. Expand this by showing baby a mirror.
Lay baby on her back on a play mat and encourage her to roll over. Try placing a toy just out of reach to give an added incentive!
Muscle tone. When baby can support her head, give her plenty of 'tummy time' to develop stomach muscles and neck muscles.
Put a favourite toy just out of reach and call encouragement.
Not only does this develop co-ordination and muscle tone, but also aids in overall brain development and co-ordination between brain hemispheres.
My wife and I decided on this bouncer. It has a soothing vibration setting and musical toys, so baby can be occupied in a safe environment when you just need a few minutes to yourself. It also grows with baby, saving money in the long run. This really is brilliant! Tested, approved and recommended by Mums.
How to Manage Frustrations
Repeat after me: "It is ok, normal, and healthy to feel frustrated." Particularly with your first child, you will not know all the answers and you may feel like you are being bad parents. This is not the case. Babies cry. Along with eating, pooing and looking cute, it is what they are good at. You will get frustrated, but it is important that this frustration is managed sensibly:
- Blow off Steam: You need a non-baby-related activity to recharge your batteries. This could be running, going to the gym, playing Xbox, listening to music, anything you enjoy doing that will relax you. Both mum and dad need to have a hobby to help them relax and recharge. This is not time avoiding baby, it is time spent rejuvenating yourself so you can be the best parent you can.
- Control the controllable: Babies don't sleep, they spit up, and they cry for no reason. Do not waste emotional energy trying to fix these, or by thinking you are a failure. If your baby is crying, go through the checklist (nappy, feed, winded, not too warm/cold, dark room to sleep) If you have checked all these off, put the baby down in their cot and let him cry. Put on noise-cancelling headphones if you need to. If nothing is wrong (check for rashes, temperatures etc) don't worry.
- Keep a log: When does baby sleep, wake, poo, pee, eat? This can take a lot of the guesswork out of what baby needs. If you know that baby gets fussy after being awake for an hour and a half, you will know how to structure your day.
- Sleep in shifts: This does not necessarily mean that mum and partner take it in turns to get up for baby. If one parent is going to work at 6 am, it is not fair to ask them to get up for the 3am feed (although the 12am is fine) during the week. Remember, mums can catch up on this sleep when baby sleeps during the day. Partners should take their fair share of the workload when on leave or during the weekend, however.
- Take time off: You may feel that leaving your baby is the last thing you will (or should) do. That is ridiculous. It is important from time-to-time to get some time alone with your partner, away from baby. Call a babysitter, or a family member to look after baby and then get out of the house. Get the food shopping done or go for a walk. You need to hit the reset button to dissipate your frustrations healthily.
- Go on a date: Spend alone time with your partner. Try not to talk about baby. Try not to check your phone every 4 minutes.You need time to connect with each other as adults, not just as parents.
- Work as a Team: Take it in turns. If mum is at the end of her tether when you get in from work, take baby off her hands. Take baby out for a walk or send mum out to the spa or gym (remember those all-important hobbies?) It is ok to want to spend time off away from your baby. This does not make you a bad parent.