Since a baby’s biological dependence on his father is far less than on his mother, dad can be forgiven for feeling a little left out of the early stages of his baby’s life. Here’s how to get in on the action.
So much of early parenting centres around feeding and comforting. Dads might wonder if they have the right equipment for the job; rest assured you do!
1. Become acquainted Your first hint of who your little person is going to be is probably the ultrasound pictures your gynae or midwife gives you long before your baby’s actual birth. Save digital copies and post them on social media, pop them in your wallet and on your phone’s wallpaper. Become involved in choosing names, cots and paint colours. Don’t be shy to talk, read and sing to the bump. He will recognize your voice when he pops out.
2. You can do this! “Many fathers-to-be connect with their baby by imagining the adventures they will share as their child grows. Once their child is born, fathers-to-be find the best way to bond is to get out with them on their own,” says Greg Bishop, founder of the international programme Boot Camp for New Dads. Plan to spend some time and take responsibility for certain areas of your baby’s life, whether it be ball skills or bath time.
“Changing your baby’s nappy can seem like a daunting task if you’ve never done this before. Just remember – your baby has no idea if you’re doing it correctly or not! Once you’ve watched a few times, volunteer for the task and have a go… if he ends up with his nappy on back to front, it can be your first “just between you and me” secret!” says occupational therapist Carly Tzanos.
3. Read up Attend every class and pre-natal visit you can. Choose a book or website you trust and get clued up. Knowledge is power and knowing what to expect will bring a range of positive possibilities to look forward to. (You don’t need to read every book, sometimes less is more, but showing up counts for a lot.)
4. Be the milkman If you choose to introduce bottles, dad can take over an evening, late-night or early morning feed. If you choose not to use bottles for a while, try waiting up a bit for your baby’s first night feed and offer to cuddle with him while he falls asleep again, or take the early morning shift when he wakes up at 4:30am and doesn’t want to sleep anymore! If your baby is not a great sleeper and needs some extra help getting to sleep, try taking the weekend night shifts and rock, cuddle, sing to, tell stories to your little night owl to help him feel calm, relaxed and ready for another snooze.
If you’re exhausted the next day take an afternoon nap with him! He will love waking up to find daddy cuddled next to him, suggests OT Lourdes Bruwer.
5. Star-gazing When mom breastfeeds, she cuddles baby close to her chest and baby has a perfect view into her eyes. This is not accidental, but biologically significant. Baby gets comfort from mom’s face, and a brain connection is formed in this manner. When you bottle-feed your baby, do the same, allowing your little one to gaze up and you, forming an imprint of you in his mind.
“You can also help cement the daddy-baby bond by cuddling skin-to-skin when he is really little. Let your baby lie on your chest with just his nappy on so that his skin is on your skin. If it’s a little chilly drop a blanket over both of you and have a good snuggle. This way your baby can hear your heart beat, feel your warmth and even feel the vibrations of your voice as you talk. All these are calming for him. You may even get to watch a bit of the game if he takes a nap there and you happen to be lying on the couch with the remote in reach!” says Carly.
6. Play kangaroo Babies love fresh air, so take your little bundle for a stroll around the block. Try using a carrier instead of your stroller, this frees your hands for raking leaves, throwing a Frisbee for the dog or whatever else you need to do. Baby loves a warm body to be close to; this is a very physical way to bond. Surprise your wife by doing a little research about which type of baby carrier would be most beneficial to baby as well as the adult carrying them, says Lourdes.
7. Make a daddy-time date Set aside time every night to play with your little guy, and keep this routine going as he grows up. Make it part of his and your daily routine, so when you come home from work he expects his daddy time. Soon he’ll be squealing with delight when he sees you at the door, and demanding a game of chasey-chasey immediately!
8. Own bath time The all-important bedtime routine is a perfect opportunity for dad-baby bonding. Bath time is a great activity to do together, add some bubbles, toys and imagination for some serious fun.
Although it may not feel like it in the very beginning of your journey with a new baby, your role as a father is super-important. And the best is yet to come! As your child grows, so will your relationship; and the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out.
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