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Bonding With Baby

Newborns Need Dads, Too

Bond immediately with your baby. Be there at the birth. Cut the cord. Bring the baby to her mother. Those first moments are so important, stresses Greg Bishop, founder of Boot Camp for New Dads, a program that's in over 150 hospitals throughout the United States. "Don't let anybody -- not even your wife -- get in the way of you and your baby," says Bishop, offering the tale of one father he knew who spent all of his time after the birth of his child working and doing almost no baby-rearing. It was after the divorce when the father told Bishop, "You know, one day, I came home, and it was like they were a family, and I was on the outside."

No wonder, Bishop says, "a lot of guys are so uncomfortable with a newborn, they decide they'll get involved when he's old enough to play Little League. But if you're doing that, you're really missing the boat. Guys need to jump right in."

Though many dads think they're more of a nuisance than a necessity around their newborns, nothing could be further from the truth. "Moms represent comfort and security," says Bishop, "but to babies, dads represent what's new and interesting. Moms are busy with their everyday needs, but we're adding adventure to the mix." So holding and talking to your newborn gives him exactly what he needs. Giving more -- say, feeding your baby formula or bottled breast milk -- gives Mom what she needs, too.

Plus, men are often well-suited for the day-to-day tasks of caring for a baby, like feeding, diapering, and bathing. If you're a handyman sort of guy, such activities should be up your alley, says Bishop, who adds that a lot of fathers enjoy giving babies baths, and even burping them, since each activity has a kind of mechanical process involved.

If you still feel like you're all thumbs, find other special ways to spend time with your infant. It was months before I felt comfortable giving Isabelle a bath on my own, so instead, I began giving my wife a morning off every Saturday while Isabelle and I would visit with family and friends. They could share some of the load of caring for a little baby, and I could show Isabelle off.