At Beer + Bubs we bang on a lot about how important bonding is for newborn babies. Here, Carrina Bradbury, our Beer + Bubs Bunbury presenter, goes into more detail about exactly HOW dads can bond with their bubs.
There is nothing more beautiful to a mum than the sight of her partner and baby happily bonding (other than her partner doing the vacuuming). Bonding and attachment is a fundamental part of the new relationship between baby and parent, which is innate in all of us. While for some it begins as a rush of profound love at the sight of your new bub (Hollywood style), for others it takes more time for this to bloom. There is much talk about ways that new mothers can and should bond with a new baby, but this process is just as important for dads. So just as Beer+Bubs provides an arsenal of sensory pain management techniques, below is another one… ways to bond with your baby through the senses.
While babies may not be able to clearly see in the early days, they do well to combine sight and sound to recognise their parents. Spend time close to your baby, gazing into her eyes. It is perfectly okay in the early months to spent time just staring at your little one – this is not time wasted, but time cherished. If your baby does tend to be unsettled during the waking hours, it can be hard to find the space to simply watch them. So steal a moment or three when she is sleeping, just to soak up the beauty that is your creation.
Sing, talk, goo, and gaa; and listen attentively as he does the same back to you. Men don’t look silly playing with their babies… but I can tell you they look stupid when they don’t! The more you talk to your baby the more he will listen for your voice and be thrilled when he hears it. Sing to him – fun songs at play time, and quiet songs at bedtime… don’t worry about your voice or the perfect tune, from a baby’s perspective nothing sounds better than the sound of his parents voice.
So you can’t feed a breastfed baby, but as a dad you can still support this process by keeping mum hydrated and fed. When she is feeding bub prepare her a drink or a snack; or leave some cut up fruit in the fridge for her to grab when needed. This can help you to feel helpful, your partner to feel supported, and your baby to receive quality milk from a well nourished mum.
If your baby has a bottle find a time of the day that works for you and your partner, for you to take responsibility for feeds. I always found that if my partner covered 5am-8am with formula or expressed breast milk, I started each day with 3-4 hours of solid sleep. It amazing the difference that that can make both to mood, general health and milk production.
Skin-to-skin contact is so important for your baby that in the moments after birth, it should not be interrupted unless there is an emergency. After the birth, skin-to-skin contact is still critical to bonding and is just as important for dad, as it is for mum.
Spend time each day with your baby that is not obstructed by a shirt or a blanket. A perfect way to do this is to take responsibility for daily baths or showers. Make this your special time with your baby, where you can cuddle, talk, sing and bond! Meanwhile mum can cook dinner, or sit peacefully on the couch.
You can also massage baby each day – a small task considering their little bodies. This is relaxing for bub (and often for dad too); and helps with all aspects of dad-baby bonding.
Sounds odd, but the smell of a newborn baby is beautiful and every day that passes a little more of that smell disappears. So soak it up while you can. Your baby will love your smell too (be it your natural manly scent or a combination of deodorants and washing powder); the more time she spends smelling you, the more your ‘smell’ will become a comfort to her.
So over all get involved, be an active father who shared in the joy of raising a baby from the very beginning. Bonding is process whereby the more you put in the easier it is. If in doubt think about your sense and start from there. Happy Bonding!!
Carrina Bradbury is a doula, childbirth educator and family therapist.
Beer + Bubs Bunbury