Thursday, 8 March 2012

10 things Dad's can do to bond with a new baby (that do not involve feeding...)

Feeding is a big part of bonding between mother and baby but it is not the be all and end all. Fathers can bond with a new baby without participating in feeding.

Breastfeeding mothers can often become very distressed if their baby will not take milk from a bottle. Many mums worry that without expressing milk or giving the odd bottle of formula then Dad will not bond with baby. I appreciate that each situation is different but if it is a case of Dad feeling left out maybe he could try these tips for bonding with baby (and at the same time give Mum an excuse to nap/watch the soaps/have a bath etc etc). 

*It is worth remembering that giving baby a bottle, whether it contains formula or expressed breastmilk can affect breastfeeding, the baby's gut and affect milk supply. For further information see this link regarding one bottle of formula, this link for information on nipple confusion and this link for alternatives to bottles.*

1. Wear baby in a sling
Both my daughters have gone a little longer between booby time when carried in a sling. My youngest (at the time of writing this is just short of 10 weeks) will sleep happily in the sling close to Daddy's heartbeat. Also because it means Dad is hands free you could argue that the white noise from something like the hoover will help her sleep for longer...hehehe

2. Bath baby
This can be a lovely time for Dad & baby. Not all babies like baths but if they do it can be a lovely way to spend 10 minutes a day with baby, joining baby in the bath can also be really relaxing.

3. Skin to skin contact
Skin to skin contact between dad and baby can have numerous benefits including a deeper bond, better sleeping patterns and even increases weight gain, this article explains it well. You can have skin to skin in the bath, or lay down with baby on Dad's chest with a blanket covering baby or even in a sling. The main thing is that baby is warm and Dad feels relaxed.

4. Make eye contact
Such an important yet often overlooked part of bonding. As adults, if we are talking to someone & they are looking elsewhere we can feel as if we are not being listened to, well babies pick up on this too. Babies love staring into Mum and Dad's eyes and lets face it, that beautiful baby stare just melts your heart.

5. Read to your baby
A great opportunity to bond with baby, talk to them, make eye contact and introduce them to books. Babies are very soothed by their fathers low tone of voice so reading can be very good for a 'man of little words'. Very young babies tend to be more engaged by books that are mainly black and white. 

6. Baby massage
Massage can ease colic, constipation and aid sleep. Many mum's massage their babies but why not teach Dad? Or even better get him to teach himself by looking at videos on Youtube or even joining a baby massage class just for fathers.

7. Settle baby to sleep
Some babies fall asleep whilst being fed and this is very normal, if this is the case there will be no need for further settling. However, some babies need to be rocked, swayed, bounced or sang to in order to fall asleep. If you have a baby like this, pass them to dad after the feed. It can be reassuring to know your baby will settle for dad just as for mum.

8. Take baby out for a walk/in the garden
Breastfed babies do not like to be too far from mum but many enjoy being walked outside with daddy, whether in arms, sling or pram it can make good daddy-baby bonding time and a good excuse for him to also take the dog out. As baby gets older they will be able to be away from mum a little longer so a weekly/daily trip to the park can be a great way to bond and get some fresh air.

9. Do basic baby care
Getting baby dressed, changing their nappy, putting them in their car seat can all be done by dad and an excuse to make eye contact, talk to baby, count (such as counting poppers on sleepsuit etc) and bond with baby. Feeding is just one part of the bigger picture that is just basic baby care.

10. Cuddle up with mum when baby is having a feed
Whether baby is newborn or a toddler mum and baby will enjoy a protective cuddle from a loving partner/father during that important task of feeding baby. Breastfeeding does not have to mean Dad cannot bond with baby but it can be a great reason for dads to become more active in becoming bonded with their children and like mum mainly has feeding as her 'thing' with baby, dad can have another 'thing' that is associated, mainly with just him.