Tag Archives: father

Baby Bonding Basics: How New Dads Can Jumpstart Their Baby Bond

baby-dadIt’s not unusual for new fathers to feel nervous that they aren’t bonding with their baby. Moms generally have biology on their side for the process of bonding and feeling attached to their newborns—first, they’ve had nine months of pregnancy to begin that process as they share one body. Then through birth, skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, and the sensitive dance of learning to respond to baby’s cues, mom and baby nurture that bond outside the womb. Dads may also have different messages from society or their own experiences that make their early involvement feel less important or less skilled than new moms, and this frame of mind is kind of self-fulfilling.

If a dad is having a hard time feeling the love for a tiny stranger, there are a couple of things that are likely to help. The first is, don’t beat yourself up about it and remember there isn’t just one way to be a great dad; bonds will form and grow and strain many times over the course of your child’s development. Be patient.

The second is, get to know your baby and put in the time you would to grow any new relationship. Here are some helpful tips on how to do that:

•Spend skin to skin time, what is referred to as “kangaroo care,” with your infant. There are numerous positive benefits to your infant’s health and biological regulation, and the tender moments with that little one on your chest will make sweet memories for you too.
•Start having those heart to hearts with the baby, even when he can’t talk back. Talking to infants stimulates their language development; the more infants hear and connect to the world around them, the better off their vocabulary, social skills, and cognitive development will be. Do this with face to face chats, and narrative play by plays as you go about your day with baby.
•Be proactive in asking your partner how you can divide up baby care responsibilities. There is a lot of attention right now on mothers feeling the weight of “mental load” in the family. New parents can try to avoid some of this uneven burden by working out a system for communicating needs and day to day responsibilities. Give yourself room to make your own approach to feeding or playing instead of feeling (or getting the message) that you have to do it just like mom.
•Do something you enjoy and find a way to incorporate your baby. For many dads, quality time can be taking a walk with baby in the carrier and telling him or her about your favorite spots. Maybe you can introduce baby to your love of cooking, or music. Sharing experiences and finding alone time to bond are helpful even when infants cannot yet respond as interactively.
•If it can be done in your family, take on some of the feedings to give your partner a break and let you in on the close contact as your baby eats. If not, try sitting with your partner during some feedings and provide moral support, a neck rub, or extra set of hands.

Bonding sets the stage for a secure attachment, one that is warm and responsive. For both moms and dads (and caregivers in any arrangement), a secure attachment that is formed in the first year or two of development helps promote a worldview for the infant that people can be trusted, the world is a place to explore and enjoy, gives them more confidence, and a host of benefits for social and cognitive development.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Lauren Knickerbocker, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. Dr. Knickerbocker specializes in treating selective mutism and anxiety in young children, ADHD and difficulties with organization and time management, disruptive behaviors, and parent management training. She is also the co-director of Early Childhood Service at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center, a part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.

3 (Baby) Steps to Help Expectant Fathers Become Confident Dads

The adjustment to parenthood can be a stressful period of transition for new parents, especially for dads. Fostering a sense of readiness for fatherhood can be challenging in the maternal-centric world of visits to healthcare providers, online advertising, and marketing. While a woman’s changes in physical appearance during pregnancy signals a transition to motherhood, a man’s transition to fatherhood is not as visible. A woman’s body allows her to physically and emotionally bond with her baby from the onset of pregnancy. But, although dads cannot physically experience pregnancy, the expectant father experiences profound changes nevertheless. It’s very easy for an expectant father to feel sidelined when he enters the realm of pregnancy and birth. Connecting with his baby requires him to take steps to feel close to the baby before birth. Unlike generations long ago, fathers today are eager to take part in pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing. Research reinforces the benefits of a father’s early involvement in fostering happy and healthy children. As expectant fathers take their first steps along the unique journey of attaining fatherhood, expectant mothers should affirm their emerging roles, encourage them to participate, and praise them for their involvement.

Affirmation.  An expectant father’s needs are unique and equally important as an expectant mother’s. Talk to him. Ask him his thoughts and feelings on becoming a father. Help him to manage his emotions by making him feel valued and heard. Having open and honest conversations will facilitate his ability to find balance in his emerging nurturer-provider role and lead to greater confidence as a father. Knowing he can talk to you about being a dad is a great stress reliever and reduces anxiety and/or fears. Conversations will also help an expectant mother and father find balance as new parents.

Encouragement. Expectant fathers may struggle with finding stability in the unfamiliar world of pregnancy and childbirth. The fear of not knowing what to do or what to expect can limit his connection with baby. He may not instinctually know what to do or how, but every opportunity he takes to be involved is an investment in your family. Encourage his participation in all things baby. Whether taking a baby care class, going shopping for the nursery, or attending a doctor’s appointment, every step he takes to be involved will help him to feel included and closer to baby.

Praise. Shifting societal roles have freed men to be active participants in nurturing their children. No longer seen as sole providers, fathers are able to dust off the cobwebs and reignite their nurturing skills. As traditional views of what it means to be a father fade away, men are defining their new identities as involved fathers. Fathers’ unique ways of nurturing through play are essential to developing healthy children and families. Praise every effort your partner takes to connect with his baby. Whether it is changing a diaper, soothing the baby, or playing with the baby, praise him! Praise is a great reward and confidence builder.

Take these three easy steps and support his journey to fatherhood as you journey along motherhood. Make them a part of every day and soon you will be the parents you always knew you could be!

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Gladys Vallespir Ellett, RN, MA, LCCE, CLC, is the Coordinator for Parent Education at NYU Langone Medical Center and oversees all prenatal and postnatal education programs for new and expectant parents. She also teaches prepared childbirth, cesarean delivery courses to expectant couples and is the group facilitator for the New Moms Group at NYU Langone. She is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and Certified Lactation Counselor and currently serves as chair of Continuing Education for Lamaze International. She is a graduate of NYU College of Nursing and holds a master’s degree in education from The American University. As current doctoral student at the NYU College of Nursing, her research interest focuses on supporting new and expectant families, specifically fathers.

To register for Daddy Bootcamp Classes at NYU Langone Medical Center click here!