More than ever, fathers are present and involved in the births of their babies (source). Some take on the role of doula or even catch their babies! However, even when 80-90% of fathers are involved in the birth process, by the time the child enters preschool only 50% of the fathers are still present. Why is this the case? And why is dad and baby bonding not happening?
I believe if we do a better job of encouraging and educating dad and baby bonding these numbers will increase, which will help keep our families and societies intact.
How Can We Encourage Dad and Baby Bonding?
Many fathers care deeply for their babies. They want to help out in whatever way they can!
However, many dads feel inadequate because “they don’t have a boob”.
By using the following 4 simple tools, dads will feel encouraged, educated and equipped to begin developing the bonds with their babies.
4 Simple Ways to Encourage Dad and Baby Bonding
Did you know that if not touched, babies will die? (source)
Did you know that postpartum depression decreases if moms massage their babies OR if they watch someone massage their baby? (source)
Did you know that fathers receive well-being when they massage their babies? (source)
According to research (source), infant massage gives dads confidence and competence to be able to care for their baby well. When mom leaves for some much needed time away, many dads have learned, through infant massage, how to sooth their babies and make them happy.
TIP: When learning infant massage, it’s important for fathers to learn independently of the baby’s mother. Trust me on this! 😉
Here is a really interesting Ted Talk about fathers and infant massage by someone in my very own community, Mary Kay Keller.
Skin to Skin
Another way to encourage dad and baby bonding is to allow for frequent skin to skin contact with dad and baby.
Skin to skin contact with a baby releases peak amounts of oxytocin in both baby and baby holder. Oxytocin is a feel good hormone that encourages bonding, and feelings of altruism. Some even call it the hormone of love!
For dads, skin to skin contact is super simple. Take off your shirt, baby’s shirt and hold them on your chest. Make sure there’s nothing in between you and baby! (Leave a comment if you see what’s wrong with the picture below.) 😉
Another way to encourage dad and baby bonding is for dad to be in charge of bath time. Some babies don’t like baths, but most love it. In fact, bath time was often the thing that calmed my babies down the most! They became calm, curious and very happy. To see them learn about water was so much fun!
TIP: If their umbilical cord stump has not fully healed, do not submerge baby but do a “sponge bath” instead.
TIP: The dirtiest place on a baby is in their neck. See how my son’s chin is basically on his chest? Up in the crevice between the chin and chest you will find old, spit up milk. Yum! Other than that, babies are pretty clean.
TIP: We use California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Body Wash and love it.
TIP: Baby bath tubs can be bulky and obnoxious to store. The Puj Tub works great and is the opposite of bulky. You’ll love it!
TIP: Bring everything you need to where you will be bathing your baby. Once your baby is in the tub you can’t leave! A towel, small cup for quick rinsing and soap will probably be enough. Oh, and your phone because you’ll of course want to take pictures.
Another really neat way to encourage dad and baby bonding is to try some of the exercises in the book How Smart is Your Baby?, specifically the one in the following video.
My husband really enjoyed this fun game of “pull up the baby” and so did Gabriel. They were always so proud of themselves when they got further and stronger in this exercise. In this video Gabriel is 10 weeks old.
See how focused they both are with each other? To this day, they have a very strong bond.
The key is to let baby grasp your fingers instead of you grasping theirs. The goal is for the baby to strengthen the muscles in their hands, arms, chest and shoulders. The earlier a baby can do this, the earlier they can explore other things and therefore become more intelligent.
For more fun things to do with your baby, check out the book How Smart is Your Baby?
BONUS: Encourage Little Boys
Here’s a bonus tidbit for all the mamas reading this blog post. Moms? Let your little boys have opportunity to practice fathering through caring for a baby doll. Most little boys are denied this opportunity because “it’s just for girls”.
I STRONGLY DISAGREE!
By taking a baby doll away from a little boy we are teaching them that fathering a baby is not for them. PLEASE! If your little boys show interest in a baby doll, encourage it and show them how to take care of “their baby”. They will love it and you will be giving a gift to their future children.
Not that boys need you to buy them a special doll, but if you are lacking in the doll department, we love this one!
Encourage Dad and Baby Bonding
In conclusion, in order to encourage dad and baby bonding we need to
- Teach Dads Infant Massage
- Encourage Skin to Skin
- Make Bath Time “Dad’s Thing”
- “Exercise” with Baby
- Let Boys Have Dolls
By encouraging dad and baby bonding, fathers are more likely to be involved and STAY INVOLVED as their children grow up.