Having a baby enter your life is one of if not the, biggest changes to a dad’s life. Many dads feel overwhelmed with it all. There are plenty of resources to help with parents but we feel there just aren’t nearly as many websites offering practical baby tips for dads which have as much depth as the female counterparts. Here at Best For Mums we’ve got our resident dads together to write an ultimate guide for dads of newborn babies.
Dad Bonding with Baby Tips
Can dads have a strong bond with a baby?
New fathers can absolutely have a fantastic bond with a newborn baby with plenty of time and effort. Not only that, having a strong bond between a father and their child has a positive impact on their mental and emotional health.
However, this is not to say that a strong paternal bond comes easy or naturally. Historically, the role of the father has been downplayed and perhaps at times “not necessary” but we feel that a good bond between father and child is not only possible but an important part of raising a healthy child.
Here is our ultimate guide on how to bond with your baby.
How long does it take to form a bond between dad and baby?
Forming a bond with a baby as a dad does take time and you will need a lot of patience. There is no set time for how long it takes to form a bond between a dad an a baby. However, it’s not as simple as one day there isn’t a bond and the next there is – a bond is formed slowly and you will notice some cues along the way that a strong bond will be there eventually.
10 Tips For Dads To Bond With Baby
1. Skin to skin
Studies curated by Psychology Today have shown that skin to skin contact with babies can have enormous health benefits for both the parent and the mother and is heavily encouraged. We could write an entire article purely on skin to skin contact and its benefits for both mums and dads. Here are some reasons why skin to skin between dad and baby can help with bonding:
- Helps the dad’s brain release dopamine (pleasure hormone) which can then lead to a positive association between the dad and the baby. Think of this as unearthing your natural paternal instincts
- Helps regulate your babies temperature, especially in younger babies
- Helps your baby identify your smell and create a positive association with it
- Helps the baby be comfortable and enjoy physical touch from the father
It should be noted that skin to skin is much more important at the very early days/weeks of a newborn babies life before they are able to remember, recognise, see and hear things properly. Eventually skin to skin would be phased out in favour of normal play time and cuddling but if you want to get your dad and baby bond off to a good start then don’t miss out on this opportunity!
2. Talk and sing to them
Talking and singing to your baby from the get-go can let them get used to your voice and know when they hear it’s a trusted person. Eventually, as your baby gets older, they will start to love your voice and may even make some noises themselves. From around 4 months old when they start to ‘talk’ a bit you can even start having conversations with them which will encourage a healthy bond. Babies really appreciate feedback whenever they do something which will, in turn, make them want to do it more!
Talking and singing to your baby isn’t just a great method to get to know your baby it’s also a very powerful tool to encourage your babies development and how to learn your language. Here’s a couple of tips:
- Make sure what you’re saying is clear and experiment with different sounds and phrases to see which interest your baby
- Face your child and make eye contact while talking
- Throw in new words regularly to let them experience new things to process
- If your baby tries to make noises, make sure to respond to them- they love it!
- An easy way to make talking to them natural and not forced is to commentate what you’re doing ‘I’m about to change your nappy now.’
3. Make eye contact
Making eye contact synchronises an adult’s and babies brainwaves which can support communication and learning, research at Cambridge University finds. Making eye contact is also deliberate and can confirm to both dad and baby that they want to communicate. Babies love this as they know they’ve got your attention and you have theirs. Take this opportunity to make them laugh, talk and sing to them or simple relax and enjoy the moment.
- Make silly faces with eye contact to have some shared fun with your baby
- Making eye contact while changing a nappy can make that much more of a bonding session for dads
- Maintain eye contact for as long as possible and engage them as often as possible
4. Carry and cuddle your baby
Baby carrying is well known to create a strong bond between a parent and a child. Carrying your baby in your arms or in an actual baby carrier is an easy way to have physical contact with your baby and bond. Cuddling your baby is another obvious way to bond which is not only a lovely thing to do but also quite fun. Your baby will associate being safe with you and that your presence is a lot of fun. They may start to put their arms out in anticipation for cuddle time with you.
Instead of taking the pram, put them in the carrier instead. Instead of putting them in the baby bouncer have some rough and tumble instead. If your partner needs a break, take them for a cuddle or back in the carrier for a walk. Don’t miss an opportunity to have physical touch with your baby as it’s another important tool available to you to have that close bond you want.
5. Change their nappy
Changing a nappy/diaper shouldn’t be a chore. Many babies enjoy having their nappy changed because it’s a very intimate experience which results in them feeling clean and fresh. A lot of babies offer smiles, make noises and maintain eye contact while you do it. A great baby tip for dads to bond with a baby AND help your partner is by taking over nappy changing duties whenever you can. Your baby will love it and your partner will really appreciate it.
You can combine this tip with some of our others in one single act: make plenty of eye contact and talk/sing to them while you do it. You can even give them a massage before or after the deed if you wanted to. Here are some bitesize tips for you:
- Make sure that the baby changing area has everything you need so that you don’t need to rush about looking for the nappies, wipes and creams
- Talk through everything you’re doing ‘we’re going to get you cleaned up now’ as an example
- Make eye contact throughout and make sure to smile to let them know you’re enjoying this as much as they do
- Have fun with them! Pull funny faces, blow raspberries so that nappy change time with daddy is something to look forward to
6. Play with them, every day
Make time for ‘Daddy and baby time’ every day. If your baby’s in a good mood and isn’t hungry then why not take your baby and have a bit of a play with them? This doesn’t necessarily mean rough and tumble or a cuddle it just means that you are giving them undivided attention in a relaxed environment. If you wanted to put them in a bouncer then that’s fine just make sure to engage with them by making eye contact and talking to them.
Take your play time to the next level with some of these daddy baby play time tips:
- Read an interactive book with your baby so that they learn and bond at the same time
- Play fun games such as peek-a-boo to get them laughing and loving your company
- Sing them a song so that they can have positive dad associations with that song
- Have rough and tumble so your baby can learn, improve and explore their physical limits
- Have messy play to let them explore new textures and colours while having fun with dad
- Play different genres of music and see how your baby responds
- Keep play times varied so your baby looks forward to it and prevent boredom
There are just so many different and effective ways a dad and baby can bond during playtime that it should be encouraged as often as you can. Your partner can also get a break which makes it a double win for everyone involved!
7. Feed them
If your baby is bottle fed or has moved on to being weaned then feeding is definitely something a dad can help out with and bond with their baby at the same time. Our tips for dads with this one is to try and do it as often as you can and to make eye contact during the feed to really connect with them. There’s not much else in life which can create a healthy bond than to give or share food so your baby can associate the warm feeling of eating with spending time with daddy.
According to Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD. Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding are both natural times for bonding and although it’s commonly associated with mothers there is no reason why fathers can’t use it as a way to bond. Helping out with feeding your child would also give the mother a well-deserved break which will go a long way with strengthening that bond, too!
If your baby or newborn is breastfed (here’s an article on how to support a breastfeeding mum) then your opportunities to bond via feeding are going to be much more limited but if your partner decides to express at some point then that could be your chance to shine.
8. Be present
Sometimes, you don’t need to do anything to continue to bond with a baby just being there can let them get familiar with you and in the long run, make it easier to bond whenever you do get to do step up to the stage. It’s important that if the baby is currently with the mum that you help out in different ways but don’t let yourself be invisible to the baby. Drop in from time to time and make some silly faces and eye contact so the baby knows you’re still around.
Although it’s common sense that an involved dad is a great thing for a baby’s development, it’s useful to know that it’s a scientific fact the cognitive benefits of having an active paternal presence
So, even if there isn’t an active opportunity to do an activity with the baby we think it’s still an easy, passive, way to continue the connection and keep your developing bond going. Plus, if you’re always present then you’re much more likely to be available when an opportunity arises to change a nappy, give them a feed or just hold them for example.
9. Give baby a bath
Giving your newborn baby a bath is an intimate and fun activity to do for a dad. Many babies enjoy baths as it’s something that’s completely different from their normal day to day life. Taking over bathing duties gives you the chance to bond with your baby and take another task away from the mother giving you the chance to score another double win. Here are some tips to make the most out of bath time with daddy:
- Make it fun! Don’t just give them a quick bath and that’s it. Make silly faces, splash them and so on
- Make plenty of eye contact and so one to make it clear to them they have your full attention
- Talk and sing to them during the whole thing, commentating on what you’re doing is an easy way to do it if you’re lost for words
- Make post bath fun, too – when you’re drying and changing the baby carry on making eye contact and silly faces
10. Keep at it
Don’t give up!
More Baby Tips For Dads
1. Be prepared
The best newborn advice for dads we can give is to make the most of the 9 months waiting time to get prepared for their arrival; well, as prepared as you possibly can as we believe from experience that you can never truly be prepared for a baby entering your life. But there are certain things you can do to make it a little less of a shock:
- Read up on baby books to learn about baby growth stages (more on this after this section)
- Redecorate whatever rooms need to be done and get all the required furniture sooner rather than later
- Learn about how your partner intends to feed the child, how the baby will sleep and whether or not you need to save some work holidays up
- How the both of you will be using paternity/maternity leave
We could write a whole article on this section alone so our best recommendation is to probably read some guidebooks which are specifically geared towards expectant fathers
2. Read up
Baby tips for dads books and Parental books and literature in general are among the most common form of self-learning books on the market. There are plenty of baby tips for dads books out there and they all more or less say the same sort of message as this article would. However, some people just want something physical they can pick up and put down from time to time as opposed to sitting down and reading off a screen. Here are a couple of our recommendations:
The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year
The New Father is a down to earth, dad joke-free guide to Fathers who want to make sure they are as supportive as possible and actively working on creating a strong bond with a baby. It’s not all about bonding though as there are some cracking tips on staying on top of fatherhood in general with practical and easy to follow newborn advice to dads and up to the first birthday.
The Expectant Dad’s Survival Guide
A more lighthearted baby tips book for dads is the Expectant Dads Survival Guide. It’s from 2012 so some details may be a little out of date. For those who want more accuracy and structured advice may be a little disappointed as this book is very much light-hearted and geared towards younger expectant fathers.
3. Get hands-on and show an interest
We can not recommend enough for any expectant father to make sure to take an interest and get hands-on from the get-go. We are referring to attending routine scans, go to parenting classes with your partner, take the lead on researching products such as changing tables and prams or just keep reading your parenting books. We feel that doing these will get you excited for the baby and really enjoy the 9 months before the baby actually gets here. By showing an interest during pregnancy you’ll also be much better educated on the whole parenting thing and possibly find it easier than if you hadn’t.
You may be wondering how these classes as a ‘baby tip’ for expectant father; you’ll find that by showing an interest you’ll be better educated and view the baby in a positive light laying the foundation of a potential strong bond with your child. As a bonus effect, your partner will most certainly appreciate the interest and this will reduce their anxiety, too. Don’t sit on the sidelines and assume you have a minimal role as a parent! Get stuck in!
4. Look after your relationship
This is an important tip before and after the birth of your baby. A new baby brings with it a new sense of responsibility for both mother and father and your existing relationship can often be sidelined as the focus is directed towards the baby. This is completely normal and natural but it’s important to remember to support one another and work as a team and not two individuals. The biggest tip we can give is to communicate as often as you can and remember to ask your partner how they are and let them know you care.
When the time comes where your baby is able to babysat by someone else safely, then try and arrange a date night to reconnect one on one again. Even if you’re having a ‘business as usual’ day there’s still plenty of opportunities to make sure your partner’s needs are met and that you are having a laugh while doing your parental duties. Here are some dead easy tips for dads to keep the relationship healthy with a baby:
- Take ownership of the meals
- Find or recommend new TV shows or meals to watch together
- Surprise your partner with some flowers and chocolates
- Run a hot bath without being prompted and take care of the baby so she can have some alone time
- Be mindful to have plenty of non-baby related conversations during down times
- Be intimate when appropriate, hugs, cuddles and kisses can go a long way to help maintain a healthy relationship
Of course, these tips are all geared towards your partner and you might be thinking where’s your attention but believe us when we say if you were to do most of the above the affection would definitely be reciprocated.
5. Look after yourself
Having a baby is a physically challenging time, you’re going to be on your feet for a lot longer, sleep a lot less and doing things like holding your baby, moving baby products around (think heavy pram) and other activities like that. You can prepare your body in advance for this by improving your general health, here are some tips to get into shape for the big day:
- Go to the gym with a focus on overall fitness by mixing in weightlifting and cardiovascular activities
- Quit smoking
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Eat more fruit and vegetables
If you’re in great shape then your ability to handle your new environment will be greatly increased and you’ll feel like you have a lot more energy, focus and your mood will be lifted.
6. Communicate with your partner
If you’re worried about stuff like bonding with your baby, or you don’t know what is expected of you by your partner (and what you’re expecting of them) then be open and honest and bring them up in a calm and relaxed conversation. There’s an awful lot that’s going to change and a lot can be confusing for a baby daddy especially for those who feel they aren’t naturally paternal.
Perhaps you may be worried about other things such as money, living arrangements, work-life balance – whatever it is, a problem shared is a problem halved. We would obviously recommend bringing these discussions up before the baby arrives. Here are some tips to help make the conversations constructive and positive
- Write down all your worries on paper
- Consider how your partner may feel about these issues – is she going through the same thing?
- Think of potential compromises and positive outcomes in advance
- Be supportive, don’t bring anything that’s unreasonable or selfish to the table
- Make sure to listen to your partner as much as she is listening to you
- Be positive, be calm and be mindful of your partner’s feelings