Men bond too
Researchers have found it’s not just mum who experiences a surge in bonding hormones when a baby is born. Dad gets it too: it’s nature’s way of encouraging his nurturing side. Good job too, because studies also show that children whose fathers bonded with them early on are academically more successful and emotionally more secure later.
Get stuck in
The best way to bond early is to get stuck in with all the new baby-related chores right from the start: changing nappies, dressing, undressing and bathing. Sometimes mum can unwittingly sabotage this process by jumping in to rescue dad when he’s struggling with babygro poppers or back-to-front nappies. It’s best for all if mum can stand back and let him practice.
Skin to skin
There are loads of benefits of skin-to-skin contact between mum and baby in the early days and weeks to encourage bonding – but this applies to dads too. Make sure dad gets lots of cuddle time, not just chores.
It’s easy for dads to feel left out in the early days when mum’s breastfeeding because that’s the one thing he can’t help directly with. But she’ll need masses of emotional support in the first few weeks, especially if she hits feeding problems. And there’s practical support too: he can make sure she has a glass of water next to her while feeding and has healthy snacks and meals.
In the first couple of weeks when dad may be on paternity leave, he could be in charge of winding the baby after a feed and changing nappies so mum can rest. Later on, when feeding is properly established, she can express milk and dad can give that feed – often the late evening one so mum can get an early night.
Sometimes the best thing dad can give is his understanding – like when he arrives home from work and is handed a crying baby before he can even get his shoes off. However bad his day at work was, chances are mum’s was worse. It’s important for him to offer unconditional support – and remember this knee-deep phase doesn’t last forever.
Dads get down too
It’s not just mums who get the baby blues; experts think up to one in ten dads get post-natal depression, especially when the baby is around three to six months, possibly related to sleep-deprivation. Don’t be afraid to see the GP. Dads can also feel lonely, as they’re no longer the top priority in their partner’s life, or even jealous of the attention the baby gets. Again, it’s worth remembering that it’s not forever: balance will be restored. In the meantime, keep your relationship on track with plenty of support for each other.
Mum can be so caught up with day-to day care, dads often find themselves in the ‘masters of fun’ role. That means lots of giggling games, peekaboo, making silly faces and – later on – physical rough and tumble play. Dads can also get involved in reading to their babies: it’s never too early to start looking at books.