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The Daddy-Baby Connection

Share feedings and sleeptime

If you're a combo-feeding family  -- meaning both breast and bottle  -- encourage Dad to take bottle duty often. Your baby drinks only formula? Try to split feedings evenly.

Then remind him that feeding should not be (or at least shouldn't always be) an opportunity to prop the baby and bottle in one arm while reading the paper or changing channels with the other. Let him see that a little bit of eye contact and some conversation (even a silly rhyme or some nonsense words) can go a long way.

Even if your baby is solely breastfed, your husband can get involved by adding the finishing touches. When she's done dining, your partner can let the baby go to town on his pinkie finger for a few minutes. Another idea: When she's finished nursing and is getting drowsy, ease her off your breast and into Daddy's arms. Once she gets used to him putting her to sleep, she'll be more likely to accept him comforting her back to sleep when she wakes up  -- and, later, when she loses a beloved toy or falls and scrapes her knee.

Put Dad on the night shift

Let's be honest here: No matter how tired you are, it's not easy to convince a dad who works days to spend his nights awake with the baby  -- especially if you stay home. So try striking a deal, like Martha and I did. If she could comfort the baby without getting out of bed, she did it. (Fortunately for me, this was usually the case.) But if the baby needed to be walked, then I was up. Rosa, a mom of a patient, shared her husband's contribution: "After a nighttime feeding, he gets up and uses his 'magic shoulder' to burp our baby for me." If having him help out at night during the week simply doesn't work for your family, try giving him the weekend night shift instead. It's worth the effort to find a solution. After all  -- and I know this first hand  -- the peace and quiet of nighttime is a great opportunity for a dad and baby to connect, even if they are both half asleep.

Two months after I gave Melanie advice in my office, she and baby Jason returned with Nick. As he walked in carrying his baby (yes, in a sling) and beaming with a father's pride, Melanie whispered to me, "He's hooked!" Clearly, Nick and Jason had made that daddy-baby connection.

Contributing editor William Sears, M.D., is a pediatrician in California. He most recently coauthored The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood.

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