The New-Dad's Guide to Baby Bonding
How dads can bond with their babies even before they're born, and how to make the best memories once they arrive
Want to bond with your new namesake? No problem. You're probably doing a lot of the right stuff already. Today's fathers are way more involved than previous generations (way to go, guys!). Over the years moms have proven that they can do anything -- got a house or company to run? No problem. Moms have it covered. But dads do too. (Ladies, a little respect for the modern father, please.) Perhaps that's why dads make perfect partners in this whole parenting thing. Besides the obvious cuddling, baby talk and silly dances, there's a slew more pop (or mom) can do to get in on the baby-bonding act.
Hello? Anyone There? Bueller?
Moms have intimate contact with their babies for nine months. But dads also can bond even before the baby is born. Sure, it can be hard to connect with a being you can't see, feel or touch, but you can still do things that matter, from putting money aside for a college education to learning how to change a diaper -- if mom is a first-timer, you may want to show her too. Even easier: Talk to the belly. Research shows that unborn babies can recognize their mother's (and possibly their father's) voice starting at 32 weeks. So belt out your best karaoke, read him an article from Esquire or just let him know how your day went.
Dive in -- Headfirst!
Be there at the birth (duh). Cut the cord (not really that weird or gross). Bring baby to mom. Those first moments are so important, stresses Greg Bishop, founder of Boot Camp for New Dads (dadsadventure.com), a program with more than 250,000 graduates 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. After the divorce, 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." Even everyday tasks like feeding and giving baby a bath are bonding moments. Get into the bathtub with your baby. Let her nap while lying on your chest. (Just make sure you don't fall asleep too!). Newborns thrive on all skin-to-skin contact -- who says it has to be all mom, all the time?
Make a Date with Baby
Hanging out with your baby for hours every day isn't always practical, especially if you work outside the home. Moms and dads both may worry that quality time only comes in brief snatches instead of long stretches. The key is making the minutes you have count the most. "Establishing a routine is a good way to maximize your child's understanding [of how] you fit into his life," says Jonathan Pochyly, Ph.D., a psychologist at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "By the time they're 5 or 6 months old, babies start responding to a schedule. It's comforting to them, and they begin to get a sense of the role the parent plays in their life." Think about incorporating one or more rituals into your new life with baby: breakfast together every morning, a walk after work, bathtime or a bedtime story are all great ideas. Whatever you choose, try to do it at the same time every day to truly establish a routine, and you might find that you look forward to those moments as much as your baby does.