The Truth About Bonding
Why it might not happen on day one, and how Mom and Dad (and Baby!) can ease into it
Let him help. It may sound like an oxymoron when you are in fact desperate for assistance, but no matter how inadequate we new moms feel at times, we are usually pretty sure we're better at childcare than our partners. There's a good reason for this: Because most dads have a different day job while you're on maternity leave or have become an at-home mom, they just aren't going to be as in sync as you are with your baby's ever-changing schedule of eating, pooping, and sleeping. So point out the baby tasks (diapering, burping, rocking) as necessary, then resist swooping in and fixing things when he screws up (which he will). After all, a backward diaper is still better than a dirty diaper. And your baby is probably going to enjoy hearing a raucous football-game recap from Sports Illustrated just as much as your reading Goodnight Moon in motherese.
If your hubby's learning curve seems steep, it's okay to dumb things down a bit (trust us: He won't mind). Teach him how to strap on the front carrier, for instance, and let him get comfortable toting the bambino around without having to worry about supporting his head. Then show him that it's possible to actually use his hands-perhaps raking leaves or folding laundry-while wearing his baby. Rocking is another foolproof task; short of dropping the baby, there's not much he can do to screw that up. And your little guy or gal is getting to know about Dad's manly scent, and hairy chest, in the process, which will prove to be good substitutes when you take on the next step.
Leave-often. Yeah, you read that right. We mean every few days or so, for as many hours as you can manage without your breasts rivaling Mount St. Helens's last eruption if you're breastfeeding. If you don't, your baby will begin to identify your loving arms (and any of your other available appendages, for that matter) as the center of his universe, and your husband will be lost in space. To beam him back, it takes sheer Dad-and-baby time, which can best be accomplished when Mom is out of viewing and smelling range. If it's hard to tear yourself away, just give your baby to his father and bolt. Quickly. Any wailing and gnashing of teeth (yes, we mean from Dad) won't last long, and they'll both be forced to develop the coping tools they need to get along with each other and without you.
Giving them some time --and yourself and the baby time to get to know each other, too --will build that bond in a way that those delivery room nuts in the '70s could barely dream of.
From the book The Babytalk Insider's Guide to Your Baby's First Year: Expert Advice That Tells It Like It Is-Plus the Secrets that Nobody Else Reveals, by The Editors of Babytalk Magazine. Text copyright 2008 by The Parenting Group, Inc. Illustrations copyright ©2008 by Grand Central Publishing. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY. All rights reserved.