What Fathers Can Do to Strengthen Their Bond with Their New Baby

Plenty of research carried out in recent years has shown what for many of us has always been obvious: paternal involvement is of paramount importance to a baby’s mental and physical development. But dads have no womb; they haven’t carried the newborn 9 months in their bodies, nor do they have breast, so they cannot breastfeed. So how can a strong father-baby bonding be built?

We have to remember that unlike a mother whose bond with her baby comes naturally, fathers, in most cases, have to devote time and put some effort into building an attachment with their new sons or daughters. Here are some tips that will help you, as a father, build this attachment:

1)  You should fill an active role in raising your baby. This means changing diapers, bathing and burping her. In other words, it’s not enough to kiss your baby goodbye before going to work or playing with her for a couple of minutes from time to time. Real bonding requires more.

2) Don’t pass your baby to her mother the moment she starts crying. It is an easy solution and many fathers tend to do so, especially in the beginning when they don’t feel confident enough with their new baby. Going to the mother in time of crisis conveys the wrong message to the baby that it’s not safe to be with her father and only her mother can comfort her in times of trouble.

That doesn’t mean that you need to let your baby cry her eyes out. Your wife can assist in calming her down. But you should try to keep holding her at least until she relaxes.

3) Have some quality time with your baby – no smartphones, no TV and no calls from work. It’s important to talk to your baby and touch her. Physical contact is very important at the early stages of life when you are building your bond with your new child.

4) The mother shouldn’t be present. It will do you good to be alone with your baby when your wife is not around. From the baby’s point of view, she will learn that she can depend on you and not only on her mother. From your point of view, you will have a chance to do things you wouldn’t do if your wife were present, such as changing a diaper or feeding (in case your baby is bottle-fed). From the mother’s point of view, it will be a great opportunity to rest and have some time for herself.

5) Create a routine of interacting with your baby, for example, frequent evening strolls, a morning hug and/or a bedtime story. This routine will make you an inseparable part of your baby’s life and will provide you and your baby with significant points of attachment.

6) Don’t let your career ruin the chances a strong father-baby bonding. Many fathers are fully devoted to their careers and cannot find the time to be with their children. Yet, a career cannot be an excuse not to function as a father. It’s still possible, despite the difficulties involved, to combine a demanding career with good parenting. You can, for instance, decide to leave work early one day a week to be with your baby. You can devote most of the weekend to your family. If there is a will, there’s always a way.

How much time does it take fathers to feel attached to a new baby?

There is no clear-cut answer to this question. It depends on each father individually. There are fathers who feel attached to their new child right from the start. For others, it might take as long as 8 to 10 months. Most fathers tell that a turning point occurred when the baby started smiling and communicating in a more developed way. It’s important to remember that no matter how much time it will take you, you will eventually love your child, so there is no need to be concerned.

Paternal postpartum depression

In recent years, researchers have found that, to a great extent, the relationship between a father and his baby has a biological basis, just like the relationship between the baby and the mother. A low level of the hormone oxytocin in the father’s body may negatively affect the process of connecting with the baby. This and other biochemical factors may cause postpartum depression (PPD) among fathers. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, around 10% of the fathers in the United States experience PPD to a certain degree in the 3-6 months following the birth of a new baby. If you suspect you suffer from depression, it will be wise to seek professional help.

Article was contributed by Daniel Griffin, a husband, a father and a real estate agent from Richmond, Virginia