Parenthood is different for moms and dads. Mothers carry their child inside them for nine months, while fathers are usually first introduced upon delivery. For some men, this can result in a disconnect between what you expect to feel and what you actually do. It can be frustrating not to feel connected to the new little life you helped create, but don’t be discouraged, it’ll just take a little work to form that bond. Handing the reigns to mom can be tempting, but while it may be easier, it’s not going to do a whole lot for your relationship with your child. Here are four ways to start bonding with your baby.
1. Start skin-to-skin contact immediately.
Many motherhood experts recommend new moms nurse without a shirt while their baby is in a diaper. This allows a complete contact of skin, which gives both of them a chemical boost (particularly oxytocin, the love or cuddle drug) and increases bonding. In turn, this tends to help babies thrive more easily. There’s absolutely no reason the father can’t bond with the baby similarly. In the first few months of life, from the day they make their grand appearance, take your shirt off when you hold them. Even if you’re both napping on the couch, the skin-to-skin contact can be extremely beneficial.
2. Take your turn with the bottles.
Breastfeeding is great for both mom and baby, and most lactation experts recommend solely breastfeeding for about a month to six weeks. Unfortunately, this can make dad feel a little left out. If your partner is comfortable pumping or letting your baby have an occasional bottle of formula, this can be a great chance for you to bond. A full night of sleep will do wonders for a new mommy, and you'll get a few brownie points by taking the night shift every once in awhile. Changing a diaper is also a great way to get a little baby time and give your partner a break.
3. Ditch the baby tub and jump in.
A bath with parental accompaniment can be extremely soothing for an infant. Not only does your baby get the benefit of a big pool of warm water (remember, they’ve been swimming in amniotic fluid for nine months), it’s also a great chance for more skin-to-skin contact. If you’re worried about slippery baby skin and feel a little uneasy about the idea, ask your partner to hang out nearby in case of trouble.
4. Get in some good old fashioned play time.
While nwborn babies can only see about a foot away, they love other people’s faces. Remember, your infant is learning at an insane rate, constantly making new neural connections. Part of what they’re learning is how to react to other humans and how to communicate. Smiling, playing peek-a-boo, sticking out your tongue, and a variety of other easy games are great ways to spend time with your newborn -- babies can also be fascinated by the sensation of a tickly beard on their toes. Talk to your child: tell nonsense stories, read the paper out loud, anything so they can hear your voice and get ready to learn words. The more you interact with your little one, the better their socialization skills will be -- and the closer you’ll feel to them.