Don’t lie to me gentlemen. Whether you paid extra money to find out early, you went with your wife to the mid-pregnancy anatomy scan or if you waited until the delivery room, don’t tell me you were not OVERJOYED to find out your baby was a boy.
There is something about that moment. You have a mini-me, someone to carry on the family name, a partner in crime, a Saturday kolache cohort, a sport watching buddy. You name it, you got it.
But… maybe there’s not a lot of connection there at first.
Sure, you love your son, but he just doesn’t DO anything yet. The bond for many mothers is instantaneous – or comes shortly thereafter. For my husband, and many other first-time fathers we’ve spoken to, it was just… different. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It takes time, just like building any relationship.
The science behind early bonding with Dad
A newborn baby doesn’t need all those clothes or toys. They’re cute and you spent a ton of money on them, but recent studies have been proving that a baby’s brain needs love more than it needs anything else. Established connection and trust with a caregiver in the earliest stages of life lead the child to better mental health and resilience.
Quite frankly, this stage of love (i.e. rocking, swaying, skin-to-skin contact, cuddling) is sometimes boring, especially for new fathers. I was often content to sit with my newborn son and rock him through tummy aches or talk to him about absolutely nothing while he stared at me. This wasn’t always so for my husband. He struggled a bit more with this phase.
For so long bonding with a young baby depended on and was mostly associated with the mother. That’s not the case anymore. Increasingly, it’s being proven that quality, meaningful interaction between father and newborn results in higher cognitive abilities at two years old.
So, it’s potentially boring, you’re probably sleep deprived, but it’s absolutely necessary. What do you do?
Activities for Dad and baby bonding
Some things to try:
- Bottle feeding – share this responsibility when appropriate. Breastfeeding obviously inhibits this some, but it’s important to discuss it with your spouse when the baby is ready and how often you both are comfortable with it because it’s very good quiet, bonding time with your son. If you’re using formula, share the responsibility.
- Nighttime Routines – my husband hardly ever got up to do nighttime feedings, especially while I was on maternity leave. He didn’t need to, it was easier for me to breastfeed. However, in the early days when I was exhausted, I should have fed the baby and asked him to rock the baby while I went back to sleep. Yes, it would have potentially made him more sleep deprived as well, but the quiet hours of the nights are some of my better newborn memories. Even after our son started sleeping through the night, my husband and I have alternated doing bedtime. Our son deserves to have this bonding time with both parents.
- Do something you want to do while telling your son about it – I understand you get bored. This baby boy does NOTHING, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do things you want to do while bonding with him. If the baby is just going to lay there and stare at you while you play with his toes anyway, might as well have those earbuds in listening to a podcast or a new album release from your favorite artist or even reading a book of your choice. You can comment, sing along or read out loud and it’s all the same. Your boy gets to see your face, listen to your voice and have one-on-one time.
A benefit of father-son bonding
My husband will tell you that I do most of the behind the scenes caring for our son. (At the time of writing he is a little over two years old.) I pack his lunches, do his laundry, schedule appointments and many of the other not-so-fun things associated with raising a child.
Why? Because my son adores his daddy. He would much rather play with him than me, giving me uninterrupted time to do the list of not-so-fun activities. I think there a few factors as to why, but I am sure that one of them is because my husband made a big effort to be around, to play and have fun and be just as big a part of my son’s life as I have been, from the very beginning.
Disclaimer: Written from a general perspective of male/female partnership. The man and woman get pregnant, the woman carries the baby, man and woman stay together and raise said baby. Various situations including, adoption, postpartum depression, NICU stays, etc. all warrant their own advice and bonding experiences.