How dads can bond with their babies
Here are some easy and meaningful ways a father can bond with his baby.
In the past, I thought that being a dad was solely about ensuring the financial wellbeing of my wife and baby. As long as I could put food on the table and bring the whole family out on weekends or on the occasional trip to a park or resort, I thought that all was well with the world.
Because of this line of thinking, whenever I'd get home early from work, I’d just tickle my baby on the chin for a couple of minutes, then slump on the couch with a beer in 1 hand and the TV remote control in the other. (Thinking back now, I know that was quite 'unfatherly' of me!)
Unfortunately, it is so easy for us men to let the 'task' of bonding with the baby fall squarely on the mother's shoulders. I mean, if you ask the typical Joe on the street what bonding is, chances are he might say teambuilding activities for employees, or a weekend getaway with male friends — which is certainly not what bonding is all about.
So what is it really about anyway? What does bonding with one's baby mean? More specifically, how can dads bond with their babies?
This is my attempt to answer those questions and, hopefully, help those clueless dads out there. But first, let's look at why most fathers don't attempt to bond with their babies.
The media portrayal of a father
The media, especially movies, mostly portray a lopsided view of fatherhood. Typically, Daddy brings home the bacon while Mommy plays nurturer.
Sometimes though, there are sitcoms or movies that show a man taking care of a baby. However, the characters are usually portrayed as awkward, bumbling idiots!
It goes without saying that these things just amplify the popular notion that there's no such thing as a father who can do the 'parenting thing' expertly — it's just not 'natural.' But we all know that's wrong... right?
Dealing with breastfeeding and the 'yucky' part of parenting
Most fathers usually leave the mother alone when she is intimately breastfeeding their baby. Sometimes we mistakenly think that is all the bonding the baby needs.
However, we all know that the latter is not true. Babies need more than just to be breastfed — they need to be burped, their diapers need to be changed, etc. Above all, they need to know that they are important and loved.
So when it's time to change that diaper, go ahead, Dad! Bond with your baby while you're going about the 'yucky' business that is part and parcel of parenting!
The wife is the expert
To be honest, I'm simply amazed by my wife's dexterity in changing diapers — I don't know how she makes it seem so easy! When it's my turn, I always succeed in soiling the surface on which our baby is lying, my hands, and everything else!
Plus, don’t even get me started on how difficult bathing our small and fragile little angel is for me! It just defies logic how my wife could manage to bathe a totally slippery and wriggly little baby without drowning it or (gasp!) breaking its arm or leg.
Still, I try to bond with my baby during bath time by just standing behind my wife and making funny faces to entertain our baby. Occasionally, I reach out to do my token “kootchie-coo” on the baby’s chin.
The key here is just to make the most out of every opportunity — this way, we dads can still bond with our babies, even in simple ways.
Bonding with baby: Things you might not already know
When it comes to dads bonding with their babies, there may be some things that you may not know (or you may already know them but have forgotten about them!). Things like:
• The first encounter, i.e. the first time a father bonds with his baby is usually when he talks to his precious little one while it's still inside Mommy's womb. Supposedly, the baby learns to recognize your voice through this exercise.
Whether this is true or not, it's still important to do this because it helps to prepare and condition you to communicate with your baby. You form a bond this way long before you see your baby.
• Bonding with your baby is a process that happens over time so take advantage of those simple 'magical' moments. Like when're alone with your baby and you look into his eyes, and he looks right back into yours... or when you touch his cheeks and he clasps your fingers with his teeny-weeny little fingers. Feels 'magical,' right?
Admittedly, we dads can have more of such bonding moments by sharing in the tasks associated with caring for the baby.
For example, volunteer to be the one to burp the baby after feeding (if you are around, of course). While you're at it, talk or sing to the baby, even if you can’t carry a note.
This exposure to your touch, the way you gently hold him and try to soothe him with your voice when he cries, etc. are all appreciated by your baby, and will help foster a warm, strong connection between the both of you.
• Rough-housing playtime – At a certain age when the baby can already support himself with his legs, you can start engaging the baby more during playtime.
Mommy usually tends to do more of gentle talking and quiet interactions, so baby would most probably welcome Daddy’s 'strength' and 'manliness.' Be the 'playful' parent too — the one who gives the piggyback rides, makes the baby 'fly,' and other physical 'rough-housing.' (Of course, you shouldn't be too rough and be cautious when handling your baby.)
• Schedule 'baby duty time' i.e. time that you spend alone with the baby. This way, you will be obliged to learn tasks that you would ordinarily avoid doing.
Your 'baby duty time' can be on certain times of the day or night (whenever you are around), or it could be a couple of hours during weekends. Not only will your wife love and appreciate you more for giving her a respite and time for herself, but you'll also get to understand your baby’s personality more by spending more time with him.
You are important, dads!
Trust me, all the things moms can do (except breastfeeding of course), we dads can do as well. Researchers even suggest that a strong father-baby bond leads to better academic performance, social skills and self esteem.
So what are you waiting for, fellow dad? Go and bond with your baby today! Both he and you will benefit from it, I'm sure!
Do you have any tips for how dads can bond with their babies? Leave a comment and share them with us!