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Bonding With Baby

Like any good dad, I've given some serious thought to protecting my 20-month-old should she ever tango with trouble. If an out-of-control steamroller threatens to flatten her, I'll push her aside and become a human pancake. If we go to the zoo and a crazed hyena crosses her path, I'll throw myself into his teeth. If Isabelle reaches for a glass of spoiled milk, I'll grab it -- and drink it.

Well, maybe I'll just pour the milk down the sink. But you get the idea. I'll do anything for this baby. We have bonded -- which is easier said than done.

Moms are schooled on the baby business from the moment they're given a doll to hug and hold. But my memories of playing with a Han Solo action figure never helped me when it came to taking care of my daughter. Unfortunately, that's the case for a lot of new dads, who look at their newborns more as aliens in diapers than bundles of joy.

But bonding with your child shouldn't be something that's left entirely to mom. Why? It's a confusing world for a baby: strange people, strange noises, strange shapes and sizes and sounds. Dads help bring stability to a baby's world, letting the infant know that she's twice as loved and twice as safe. If you aren't involved in your baby's life, your child may not initially be able to distinguish between you, the cat, and the coatrack.

Besides your own left-out feelings, your baby may feel anxious and insecure if you're not a tangible, consistent part of her life, says Louis Laguna, Ph.D., a child psychologist at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania. "If a baby doesn't have a secure attachment to a parent, she may feel like she has no control of her environment, and (as she gets older) she could become withdrawn, act out, or get in trouble more often."

So go ahead and wonder what you'd do in a crazed hyena attack, if you want, but don't forget to develop strategies for creating an early attachment between you and your baby.