Essential Daddy-Baby Bonding Tips All Fathers Should Start Practicing Now
In this article we look at some common shortcomings when daddy tries bonding with baby. Fear not, we also explore some easy and meaningful ways a father can bond with his baby.
In the past, I loftily conceptualised that being a dad was solely about ensuring the financial well-being of my wife and babe. As long as I could put food on the table, and if I could bring the whole family out on weekends or the occasional trip to a parks or resort, I felt smug and I thought all was well with the world.
On several occasions when I got home early from work, I’d give the baby, a “kootchie-coo” tickle on the chin for a couple of minutes (thinking back now, it’s what visitors do to a baby— which is quite un-fatherly-like), then I’d contentedly slump on the couch with a beer in one hand and my remote control in the other.
It is so easy for us men to let bonding with the baby fall squarely on mummy's shoulders. I mean, if you ask the typical Joe on the street what bonding is, chances are he might retort “team-building” activities for employees or a weekend getaway with male friends. Duh.
Father bonding with baby: The Media Portrayal of a Father
The media, especially movies, mostly portray a lopsided view of fatherhood. Typically daddy gets the bacon while mummy plays nurturer. Only in sitcoms and comedies would you really ever see a man taking care of a baby.
And often, the characters are portrayed as awkwardly bumbling idiots! This just amplifies the popular notion that a father expertly doing the parenting “thing” (you know, the mother-baby “thing”) does not exist, and is not natural.
The breastfeeding and the yucky part
Doesn’t it seem natural for us dads to leave the mother alone when she is intimately breastfeeding the baby? This is also the reason why we fathers think that is all the bonding the baby needs. This also saves us from finding ourselves in a situation where we need to change diapers!
Hasn’t it occurred to you why mothers don’t mind dirty diapers and baby burps on the shoulders, while we have to struggle not to throw up? We guys just can’t stand the smell of it, let alone get near it. It's easy to get sucked into the mentality that "I’m doing fine with the wife doing the baby-bonding while I make frequent trips to the fridge during commercials." All is well with the world that way.
The wife is the expert
I'm simply amazed by my wife's dexterity in changing diapers. I don't know how she makes it seem so easy. When it's my turn, I always succeed in soiling the comforter, my hands, and everything else! And don’t even get me started on my woes on bathing that small and fragile little angel.
It just defies logic how the wife could manage to bathe a totally slippery and wriggly little baby without drowning it or (gasp!) breaking its arm or leg. I feel safer if I just stand behind her and make faces to the baby, and occasionally reach out to do my token “kootchie-coo” on the baby’s chin.
Besides, my wife is the alpha female when it comes to our baby. She is pretty territorial and generally feels uneasy handing our baby to someone else to take care of it, even if it is me. Truth is, I have no problem with that. It works fine with me.
Bonding with Baby: Things you might not already know
- The first encounter – the first time a daddy bond with his babe is when he talks to that precious little package while it's still inside mommy’s womb; the baby is supposed to recognise your voice through this exercise. Regardless of whether this is really true, what it actually does is to prepare and condition you to communicate with your baby. You form a bond this way long before you see your baby.
- Those small magical moments – bonding with your baby is a process that happens over time. You actually never think of it as bonding—just magical moments. That time alone when you look at his eyes, and he looks back; when you touch his cheeks and he clasps your fingers with his teeny-weeny little hand. It is magic! You can have more of this by sharing in the task of caring for the baby. Volunteer to be the one to burp the baby after feeding whenever you are around. While at it, talk or sing to the baby (forget the fact you can’t carry a note). This exposure to your touch, the way you gently hold him, the way you touch him, the way you try to soothe him with your voice when he cries, etc. are all appreciated by the baby as an entirely different experience which would foster a warm, strong connection between you and the baby.
- Rough-housing playtime – at a certain age when the baby could already support himself with his legs, you can start engaging the baby with your playfulness. Mothers tend to more on the gentle talking, and quiet interactions, the baby would most welcome Dad’s strength and a different sense of security his large firm hands and “manliness.” While the mother is the “nurturing parent,” you are the “fun parent” of the house. You are the one who often arrives with toys, the one who does the piggybacks, the flying baby, the standing on the palm things, and other physical rough-housing. Maybe we get to be shallow and easily pleased with the giggles and smiles that we want more of it (and the wife would sometimes need to good-naturedly remind us, “enough already.”)
- Schedule a baby duty time – time alone spent with the baby would force you to learn tasks that you would ordinarily avoid doing. It can be on certain times of the day or night (whenever you are around), or it could be a couple of hours during weekends. The wife would always love and appreciate you more for giving her a respite and time for herself. This could make you learn and understand the baby’s personality and then you could already differentiate a baby’s cry to mean he is hungry, or he’s just plain bored. When you can already respond sensitively to the baby, trust and bond are strengthened. Trust me, all the things a mom can do (except breastfeeding), we can do as well. Researchers would even suggest that a strong father-baby bond leads to better academic performance, social skills and self-esteem. What’s more, a lot of studies have shown that the more actively involved a father in their babies, the babies perform better on areas of mental development tests and are better at handling stressful situations later in life.
Know any good tips fathers can use in bonding with their little one? Share them with us below!
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