When most people think of babies and parents, it is often the image of a mother and baby. However, as the modern world has progressed, fathers are playing a more significant role. To assure that bonding occurs, especially for a new father, experts and other dads offer advice.
More and more fathers are encouraged to be part of the birthing process such as comforting their partners in birthing rooms, cutting the umbilical cord and/or joining in with the hourly care.
“I recommend that dads do whatever they can to care for their babies,” said Tiffanie Bevan, perinatal coordinator at Liberty Hospital Birthing Center. “Diaper changing, bathing and soothing are just to name a few. Dads that learn these responsibilities early on feel more confident in their ability to care for the newborn and it also promotes bonding. Dads need that time with the baby to get to know each other and promote bonding.”
Bevan said dads can also practice skin to skin or kangaroo care with their newborn which not only promotes bonding, but helps to stabilize babies’ temperature, blood sugar and breathing.
One of the most important processes through which attachment or bonding develops is the cycle of baby cries, when a baby expresses a need and a parent responds.
“This cycle repeats thousands of times in the first year of life and is critical to developing healthy attachment and bonding,” Angie Winkler, a psychologist and clinical liaison with Signature Psychiatric Hospital said. “Fathers can and should respond to baby cries and learn ways to soothe and meet the needs of their baby. If possible, Dad can provide one to two feedings each day, including one nighttime feeding. This allows Mom to get more sleep, which is good for the entire family, and is wonderful bonding time for Dad and new baby.”
If mothers want to breastfeed and using a bottle is not part of the equation, Winkler suggests fathers take on primary responsibility for diaper changes, including holding and soothing baby after the new diaper is on.
“The repeated act of meeting your child’s basic needs creates bonding,” Winkler said. “Another way to bond with your baby is to watch them sleep. There is no such thing as spoiling a baby. Babies thrive under human touch and nurture. So, go ahead and cuddle those babies while they sleep, at least for a few minutes each day.”
Kent Peterson, market president at Hawthorn Bank in Liberty is a dad to two grown sons.
“I was the parent who got up with my boys in the middle of the night when they were little and couldn’t sleep. Some of my fondest memories are sitting with them in the middle of the night in a recliner rocking them, just them and me,” he said.
New dads may want to also consider getting a sling carrier to keep the baby close. An increasing amount of research suggests a strong correlation between early father-infant bonds and the happiness of the entire family.
Research also shows when dads spend time with their newborns and develop a strong relationship with them from the beginning, they reap a number of benefits including less stress from the new father as he gains confidence in taking care of the newborn.
Adam Kisler, community education coordinator at Metropolitan Community College – Kansas City, is the father of four sons.
“The moment I saw my oldest son when he was born, I instantly understand what unconditional love really meant. I used to talk to him while he was still in the womb and it was amazing how I could see him respond to my voice after he was born,” he said.
Ry Kincaid, an employee and performer at Mid-Continent Public Libraries, is a father to two girls.
“My lullaby I wrote for my first daughter nine years ago got me started writing and performing songs for kids today,” he said.