8 Ways for Dad to Bond with Baby Before and After Birth

By Kyrie Collins, Highlands Ranch-Parker-Castle Rock-Lone Tree Publisher September 27, 2017

For some men, feeling a close connection to their newborn baby takes time. During pregnancy, mothers are "with" their babies 24/7, talking to and about their baby. After the baby is born, Mom is more likely to be the baby's primary caregiver during the first few weeks or months, especially if she's breastfeeding. Dad can end up feeling like an outsider.

Dads relate to their children differently than moms do, but their connection to their children is no less important. Here are 8 ways for dads-to-be and new dads to begin that connection from the very start.

1. Attend prenatal doctor appointments when possible. Schedule the first or last appointment of the day to make it easier to attend around work schedules. Learning about your baby's growth and development, hearing the heartbeat, and seeing the ultrasound are special moments. Plus, your presence lends extra support to Mom too.

2. Learn what to expect. What to Expect When You're Expecting is still the #1 selling pregnancy book but it is written for Mom. There are many great books written with Dad in mind. The Expectant Father by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash was my husband's favorite. Not only did it address what was happening with me and with the baby through the nine months of pregnancy, it also covered many of the concerns (money, sex) my husband experienced and gave useful suggestions.

3. Read stories, talk to your baby, and sing songs ... even before birth. During pregnancy, your baby will begin to hear sounds at only 18 weeks, and begin to respond to voices and noises around 25 weeks. All day every day, your baby hears Mom talking. Babies can often recognize their mother's voice immediately after birth. Read, talk, and sing to your baby during pregnancy and, of course, continue to do so after he is born. We sang the same song every night to our son ("You Are My Sunshine") while I was pregnant. Once he was born we discovered singing that song would instantly calm him.

4. Spend one-on-one time together after work. Whether Mom is home on maternity leave or has chosen to be a full-time stay-at-home mom, she is getting more than her share of cuddling, snuggling, and ... being spit up on. If your baby is awake when you get home from work, you can use that time to get in some cuddling of your own while Mom can take a shower, take a walk, or take a nap!

5. Feed your baby. If Mom is exclusively breastfeeding, consider having her pump breast milk so you can have the opportunity to feed your baby too. Providing nourishment to your baby can be a profoundly moving experience. Be sure to hold her close to you while you feed her. You may even want to remove your shirt for skin-to-skin contact.

6. Make eye contact. Babies can only focus a few inches away when they are first born. Hold your baby very close and look into her eyes. Make funny faces, talk to her, tell her jokes, complain about your boss or traffic. She will likely stare back pretty intently. What a great listener!

7. Play games. Another one of my husband's favorite books was Rookie Dad: Fun and Easy Exercises and Games for Dads and Babies in Their First Year by Susan Fox. Not only did the book have specific ideas for him to try with our baby, many of the exercises benefited our baby's development as well.

8. Claim a part of your baby's care to be reserved for you. Whether it's the nightly bath, a stroll after dinner, or a lotion massage before bed, choose a part of your baby's routine and make it yours. You'll probably find that both you and your baby will look forward to and cherish that time together.

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