Most families now assume that dads will take on their share of baby care, but it’s not always easy for men to take the plunge. Mothers, after all, get a “head start” from pregnancy and childbirth, and lots of early experience. But fathers and babies just need a chance to get to know each other. Often a father’s love grows gradually, as he spends time caring for, and getting to know, this new little being. Here’s how to get started.
Tips for dads
Start early. The sooner you get involved with your baby, the sooner a strong bond of love will grow between you. Some studies have shown that men who have early contact with their infants spend more time with them when they are three to six months old.
Get physical. Hold your baby, even if she’s asleep. Sometimes new fathers do much of their “baby duty” when the baby is not at her best, perhaps when both mother and child are at the end of their ropes. Holding a contented baby is a whole new experience. You’ll like it.
Use a baby carrier. Many fathers have found that one of the most effective things they can do to get some time with the little one and give mom a break is to go for a walk with baby in the front-pack. Most infants are happy and content in a carrier (in fact many go to sleep), and dad gets a chance to have some peaceful contact with the baby, while showing him the wide world.
Care for your baby. The more you take care of your baby, the better you will know her — and the better you know her, the more competent you will become at taking care of her. Bathing, burping, comforting, dressing and changing diapers are all things a new father can do. Your baby doesn’t care about your technique as long as you are gentle and reassuring.
Don’t compete with mom. Your relationship with the baby is important — to you, your baby and your partner. But a newborn’s first relationship is with her mother — that’s the priority right now. The closeness of the mother-baby bond can be a bit frustrating for fathers who are eager to connect with their newborn, but in time, your baby’s world will expand to include a close relationship with you, too.
Don’t compete with mom’s milk, either. Breastmilk is best for babies! Your support is important to a successful and happy nursing experience. If you want to give baby a bottle of expressed milk, wait until nursing is well established — about six weeks.
Go solo. At the same time, many dads find they gain confidence if they have a little time alone with their baby. It’s just different when your partner’s not there to bail you out. Short solo flights — under an hour at first — are best for breastfeeding infants.
Falling in love with your baby is one of the greatest rewards of parenthood. So don’t wait until your kid can talk or catch a ball to become part of her life. Get to know each other now!