You’re probably looking forward to the day when you’ll be able to play catch with your child or go skating, swimming or fishing together. Those days will come. But right now spending time with your child is all about hands-on care – diapering, bathing, holding, carrying and comforting. And those activities will help you make the early dad/baby connection that is the foundation for the great relationship and all the good times you want to have with your child in the future.
Touch, touch, touch
One of the great things about looking after babies is that almost anything you do involves touch. And that’s good because babies need to be touched and held. It helps them feel safe and secure and actually helps their little brains develop. Touch is good for your “dad brain” too. Using a baby carrier (a front pack or baby sling) is a great way to get the touch time you both need. Dad/baby touch time will help both of you feel comfortable with each other – like you belong together.
Give yourself time
Some people talk about instant connection with babies, but in reality this is a new relationship and it takes time – time together – to build. You need to get to know each other.
It might take a little while to figure out what you and your baby like doing together. Some babies are content to be held and just watch the world go by. Others seem to want more stimulation. Try taking the baby for a walk around the house, looking in all mirrors and talking about the things you see. Maybe you’ll like to show her pictures in books or photo albums or even read to her (she needs to get used to the sound of Dad’s voice!). One thing that a lot of babies really respond to is singing. It doesn’t matter what you sing. It could be a nursery rhyme or a tune by your favourite rock band.
The key is watching to see how she responds. If she likes what you’re doing (and you like it) keep doing it. If she doesn’t like it or loses interest, try something else.
Babies come in easy, medium and hard
Babies were not created equal. Some cry more, sleep less and are harder to soothe than others. If your baby is one of the challenging ones it may take longer for you to feel comfortable and connected. And you will also have to spend more time figuring out what works with your baby and how to soothe him. It’s not always easy. Have courage! Your attempts comfort you baby are important and they make a difference, even if things don’t seem to be working at times. It usually gets better after a few months.
Don’t compete with Mom
Fathers need their dad and baby time. But try to be involved in a way that supports the mom-baby connection. That relationship is very important for both your partner and your child. There may be times when she needs you to back off a bit so she and the baby can do their thing together. Give her some space when she needs it.
Your partner’s support will help you
At the same time, you need your partner’s support. Research shows that support from Mom really helps the dad/baby relationship. In fact, new fathers often learn some of their early parenting skills from their partners. Let your partner know that you want to be involved, that you want know your baby and learn to be a good caregiver. Ask for her support with that. Most mothers will respond well because they understand that a skilled, involved partner is a new mom’s best friend.
The more you understand your child, the more you’ll be able to share the experience of parenting with your partner. That will be good for your relationship and good for your family.