To the mother, bonding with her baby is natural, instantaneous even, having carried the child in her belly for nine months. While the expectation is that it would be the same for dads, this may not necessarily be true. Some men might be so baffled by the baby, not knowing where to begin. While some dads, may love playing with the baby, but become completely clueless once it’s time for a feed or nappy change.
If you are one of those dads, don’t be embarrassed as you are not alone.. and no.. this does not make you a terrible father. While your bond and knowledge of your baby may not be instinctive like your wife’s, that does not mean that it could not be cultivated. Think of it as getting to know a stranger, you will need to start with baby steps (pun intended). But you have the advantage of 1) already being in love with this tiny little stranger, and 2) he or she is too young to form any negative preconceived notions about you.
Still not sure of where to begin? Try these break-the-ice activities.
Give a midnight bottle
Once breastfeeding is established, getting your wife to pump enough milk to provide a bottle for you to feed the baby creates a priceless opportunity for one-on-one time together. Once your baby started taking a bottle, do offer to get up for the middle-of-the-night banquet.
Sure, it’s late and you would probably have panda eyes at work the next morning, but in that precise moment, its only you and the baby, isolated from the rest of the world. What better way to bond with your baby, than having him or her all to yourself in the still of the night?
Have a staring contest
Prowess is a guy thing, right? Lest you believe that little baby of yours is a pushover, engage her or him in a time-honored ritual of seeing who’ll blink first. Your baby may surprise you.
Babies love to contemplate faces, and chances are that before she or he gets bored you’ll have dropped your gaze, wondering where she got that incredible dimple, or whether her ears look like your mom’s or your wife’s.
Some babies love being held all the time. Why not volunteer to do this for your wife? Strap on a front carrier and go about your daily business with no interruptions, be it cleaning, fixing something in the garage to even taking the dog for a walk. Having your little one nestled against your chest as you share your daily routine with him or her, is bound to make your heart burst with an overflowing of love.
Take a bath together
Some new dads may dread the nights when it is his turn to bathe his baby. No surprise there as the combination of a screaming baby and slippery skin is enough to make any dad nervous. But you know what can make it easier? You stripping down and taking a bath with your baby. You would be surprised to discover that not only will this calm the baby the entire duration of the bath, but being snuggled against your chest would make him or her a happier and contented baby.
Read the sports page
Aloud. Let’s face it: Goldilocks and the Three Bears can get you only so far. Since you love reading the sports pages of the news paper but at the same time don’t want to miss out on reading a bedtime story to your baby, why not combine the two? To a baby, it doesn’t matter what his or her father is reading, so long as he is reading. Your soothing voice and calming presence will definitely put your baby to sleep with a smile on his or her face, in no time.
Change a diaper
Talk about bonding at the earthiest level — with babies, the bottom line (no pun intended) often involves cleaning up a mess. During a change you get to touch your baby, and talk to him, but it’s sometimes hard to see a silver lining when a soggy lining is so much more evident.
Still, fair’s fair. Your wife’s done a lot of this and you could see how much your baby’s eyes light up, each time she enters the room, so why not try?
It’s dangerous to shake a baby, but you can certainly stimulate his or her muscles. If your child is old enough to sit up, he or she might like being tossed gently in the air, or getting bounced on a knee, or being carried beneath the arm like a football – things that Mom is less likely to do, but that are sure to bring squeals of delight.
Nothing makes as flawless a subject as your own child. An added benefit? All the grandmas and grandpas and uncles and cousins who receive the photos can’t help but notice what a great time you’re having being a dad.
The real secret of male-bonding with a baby is realising that you’re not supposed to try to be another mother; your child already has one of those. What your little one really needs is for you to be yourself. By following the above tips, it will help you break the ice, get to know your little one, and ultimately.. be on the way to becoming the best father you could possibly be. Now that’s definitely a win-win situation!