Find out how to help a new Dad develop a bond with his baby.
After your baby has been born and the three of you arrive home as a new family, there's a lot to adjust to. Sometimes it may seem that Dad takes longer to develop a bond with your new baby than you do, but this is nothing to worry about. By following a few simple steps you can help to encourage a natural bond between father and baby.
Give them space
Let him be himself
- It's important to allow Dad and his new baby to spend time alone together, so that baby understands she can be comforted by him as much as by you. This means not hovering nearby ready to 'correct' him if he does something differently to you - rather you should leave them to develop their own habits and games together.
- Encourage Dad to carry baby in a sling or carrier while he is going about day-to-day things, whether that is watching TV, taking a walk or checking his emails. Both will enjoy the physical closeness this offers. Also, it has been proven that early tactile interaction is very valuable in helping to establish a bond between father and baby.
- Ask Dad to read to baby. It doesn't matter what he's reading - whether it's 'The Hungry Caterpillar' or the sports pages of the newspaper, baby will feel closer to Dad by getting used to the soothing sound of his voice.
- Suggest that Dad helps to bathe baby, as the tactile interaction this offers will encourage bonding.
- While Dad and baby are spending time together, go and spend some quality time by yourself. Why not take a relaxing bath or read a book? You'll benefit from the moment of peace, and if you aren't nearby, Dad won't be so tempted to hand baby back to you as soon as she starts to cry - rather he will learn to comfort her himself.
Get him to muck in
- Encourage Dad to be as silly as he likes. More often than not he will develop his own games and jokes with baby, and will relish entertaining her with silly faces and noises.
- Encourage him to sing songs and make up nonsense rhymes to entertain baby.
- At first Dad might not be as keen to cuddle baby as you are, but allow him to physically interact with her in his own way. Gently bouncing baby on his knee, or rocking her while dancing around the living room, will help to establish a bond between them.
- Encourage him to mimic baby's vocalisations - this is an early form of communication between the two and can really help to establish a bond.
- Breast-feeding is the only thing you can do for your baby that Dad can't. Everything else you do for your baby, such as comforting, nappy-changing, burping and bathing, can also be done by Dad. Encourage him to help out and get more involved with baby.
- Let Dad hold baby when she is falling asleep. Although it may take some time to get used to him at first, she will soon understand that Dad's arms are just as safe as yours.
- Get him to share in the nappy-changing. You might be worried that he'll get this feat wrong, but he may surprise you - otherwise try to leave him to make his own mistakes and learn from them.
- If baby is feeding from a bottle, there's no reason why Dad can't share in this, too. Encourage him to make eye contact with baby while he is doing so, as this can be a very important factor in their bonding.
- If you have been reading up on the trials and tribulations of bringing up baby since the moment you discovered you were pregnant, why not share your newfound knowledge with Dad? Encourage him to read the books you've read and share in the things you've learnt. If he's more informed, he's more likely to take an interest in your baby's early days.
It's important to be patient with the developing bond between Dad and baby, as it may seem very different to the way in which you relate to your little one. However you should try your best to allow the bond between Dad and baby to develop in its own way, without forcing it.
One of the most helpful things you can do at this stage is make sure Dad knows how much he is valued and needed during the early days of baby's development. Try not to be disheartened if Dad and baby don't fall in love with each other upon first meeting, as it can often take time for a bond to form - but with patience and perseverance, the bond between them will develop naturally.