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Daddy-Baby Bonding: How to Strengthen the Connection
After nine months of carrying a child to term and then being the main source of nutrition for the newborn baby, mothers generally have no difficulty bonding with their babies. Plus, there’s that whole maternal instinct thing that makes many new mothers reluctant to leave their babies’ side for the first few weeks. But while the mother-baby bond is extremely important, the bond between father and child should not be overlooked, and forming a bond during these early stages of a child’s life can be crucial.
Encouraging the dad-baby bond begins during pregnancy. Carrying a child, a mother feels every kick and knows that everything she does to her body will also directly affect the child. Because the father does not have the same closeness, the coming baby may not feel as real. That is why it is important to ensure that the father is closely involved in the pregnancy and birth process. He may never feel that intimate, physical connection with the baby, but being active in the pregnancy will at least keep it front and center in his mind.
Then, after the baby is born, the father can feel like a third wheel while the mother nurses the baby. In many cases, this can cause the dad to withdraw and leave many of the other parenting tasks to the mother. One way to help foster the dad-child bond is to make sure you leave a lot of the non-nursing stuff to the dad. For example, let him do the burping, the diaper changing, the baby massage and lots of holding. Even if the bond isn’t strong at first, allowing him to do these things will help it grow.
In many cases, fathers simply need some time. As much as we cherish our newborn babies, the fact is that they don’t do much for the first few months. In the lead up to a new baby, while most mothers look forward to simply being mothers, fathers tend to think more about things like talking to their children, raising their children, and eventually throwing the ball around. In other words, fathers tend to look forward to the exciting things that will come next, and these very early stages of being a parent can feel more like work.
One way to get around this is to encourage the dad to master the skills involved with being a new parent. Many men enjoy being the best at what they do, and even if things like changing diapers aren’t exactly fun, dad can still enjoy becoming good at and excelling at these things.
Plus, there are some dad skills that actually have tangible rewards—for example, getting the baby to stop crying or making her smile. Once the dad realizes that he can be not only a good father but a great one, he will feel much more motivated to be involved, and a strong bond can grow from this.
Finally, new dads too often feel that they are not responsible for deciding how the baby should be cared for, which causes them to keep their distance and take on a lesser role. This “mom knows best” syndrome is deeply rooted in our culture, and even young, forward-thinking parents often fall into it. The key to reversing this problem is for both parents to keep the lines of communication open and remain conscious of how they approach their parenting. You don’t have to discuss every little thing, but it’s important for the dad to feel that his opinions have equal weight.
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