Dads and babies: Tips for nurturing a bond with your baby

Babies need relationships with their dads, too!

Moms have a strong bond when they are the primary caretakers of a new baby and especially when they are breastfeeding. Research shows that babies who also have a strong bond with their dads, enjoy life-long benefits. These babies gain a stronger sense of security when both mom and dad are responsive to and are accurately meeting their baby’s basic needs. This sense of security is carried throughout life: these children tend to be more confident, have a stronger sense of self and perform better in school. Children will benefit the most from dads who are involved from the start and stay involved.

Both new moms and dads may feel a little overwhelmed and nervous about caring for a newborn, especially if they have never been around infants. Dads, just like moms, need to give themselves time to get to know their baby and to learn about how to take care of them.

Here are some hints on bonding with your baby:

Listen and respond
It is not news that babies can't talk yet. Babies cry to communicate their needs, so listen and respond to their cries. Even if you guess what they want and don’t get it right the first couple of times, the important thing is to respond quickly and kindly. Contrary to a lot of people’s beliefs, research indicates you cannot spoil your baby by responding too fast. Rather than spoiling them, a quick response sends your baby the message that you are there for them and they can trust you.

Cuddle and snuggle your baby often
Babies love to be held close. They can only see things that are about 8-12 inches away, and their favorite thing to see is a human face, specifically your face. Remember, they have wobbly necks, so it is important to support their neck and delicate heads when holding them. The good news is most babies fit quite well in the crook of your arm.

Talk early and often
Babies prefer a soft, higher pitched voice, often called “parentese.” Whenever you are diapering, bathing, feeding or rocking them to sleep, talk to them about what you are doing. It helps them recognize you, feel comfortable with you, and begins to lay the ground-work for language development.

Talking to babies when you are caring for their daily needs helps them feel safe and helps them to understand and begin to predict the daily routines in the world around them. In addition, the more babies are talked to, the better vocabulary they will develop, which eventually leads to better reading skills.

Support your partner
Happier moms, mean happier babies and, in turn, happier families. Be prepared - dads may feel a little left out at first. Understand that mom is dealing not only with new responsibilities, but with the physical recovery of labor and delivery. Even something as simple as helping out with the laundry, dinner and dishes can be a tremendous form of support.

Being a dad can be one of the most emotionally rewarding relationships in your life. Enjoy these early opportunities to create a loving bond with your baby. Get involved right from the beginning and stay involved. The quality time you invest now will benefit your relationship with your child for the rest of both your lives.

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