New moms, in most cases, almost instantly become immersed in the day-to-day, minute-to-minute interactions. Diaper changes, feedings and even just soothing a crying baby can all help create a strong bond with a newborn. But often new dads who haven’t had a great deal of hands-on experience with tiny infants may feel unsure what to do at first when the new arrival comes home.
David Miller, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo, says “It doesn’t matter who you are — you can forge a personal bond with your baby from the start if you make structured efforts to connect.”
If you’re looking for ways to facilitate baby bonding, these tips can help build a strong connection with the newest member of your family.
Be an active part of all the parenting tasks — bathing, dressing and changing diapers. Try bringing a hungry baby to mom for feedings and then taking the baby back for burping.
During the first few weeks of life, the sensation of touch can bring you and your baby close. Place your baby against your chest, so he or she can feel the rhythm of your heartbeat. Stroke your baby's back or rock your little one gently in your arms.
Set aside time for just the two of you. “Little ones love the sound of deep voices,” says Dr. Miller, “so talk away. It doesn’t matter what you say — talk about last night’s sport scores or read the paper. Just use a soothing tone.” A little quality time can also give mom a break from infant care so she can rest.
Babies love to look at faces. Chances are the baby will probably outlast you.
Let your inner silliness come out and play. Scrunch up your face, stick out your tongue or raise your eyebrows. Don’t be surprised when your tiny infant tries to do the same thing. As your baby gets older, these games will make a good platform for playing peekaboo.
“Don’t worry if you can’t always soothe your baby,” says Dr. Miller. “Nurturing and calming a fussy baby, even if they continue to cry, can help strengthen the bond between you.” Your baby may even find you more comforting at times because your larger hands can specialize in making a tight swaddle, and your knees can make a great place to gently vibrate or jiggle your little one. Singing, humming and walking around are other good tactics.
It’s never too early to start teaching your baby how to dance. “Babies love music, and they love to rock out,” Dr. Miller says. Sway around the room to your own special music. Introduce your baby to the sounds you love, whether that is classical, swing, folk, alternative or pop.
Finish the day by being just as involved as you have been all day long. Sing harmony with mom, read “Goodnight Moon,” lower the lights, rock your baby before settling her in her crib. Whatever your bedtime ritual, include structured one-on-one moments with the new addition to your family.
As long as you spend time with your baby, a parent-child bond will develop. Dr. Miller’s final advice is, “Be yourself and let it happen. Dads need to relax, be themselves and enjoy this special time.”