Your role in your child's life is irreplaceable. Here's how to have a strong relationship from the start.
Being a dad is pretty low-key for the first nine or so months. Other than rubbing your pregnant wife’s shoulders and telling her how amazing she is, there’s not a whole lot you need to do. Then comes labor and delivery, and this impossibly small, unnervingly fragile little human being enters your life and becomes its absolute focus. While your wife is healing from the birth and figuring out how to breastfeed, you might be wondering, “How can I bond with our baby, too?”
Mom’s role seems obvious (she was, after all, baby’s temporary home for over 9 months, and is often baby’s food source for a long time after that), but your role might seem less clear. Don’t for a minute, however, doubt your irreplaceable influence on your child’s life.
Baby loves you already (she’s been hearing your voice for nine months, remember?), and even if it’s a few more months before you can play together, it’s never too early to start building the fatherly relationship you dreamed of since you found out your wife was pregnant. Here are 8 ways you can bond with your new baby, right from the start.
Handling all the diaper changing isn’t just a way to care for your wife as she’s recovering: It’s also an important way to connect with baby. This can be a time to really focus on baby, talk to him, lotion his skin, sing to him if he seems upset, and just shower him with attention.
Christ tells us, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt 25:40) Changing the diaper of the “least of these” in your home is a way to love and honor Christ through your little one, and imitate God the Father’s tender love for His children.
2Burp the baby
Every time baby eats, he or she will need to be burped afterward. Especially if your wife is breastfeeding, making it your job to burp the baby is a great strategy to “divide and conquer” feedings.
Holding baby skin-to-skin, or “kangaroo care,” has so many benefits for baby, but a huge benefit may be how you feel when you hold baby like this. Experienced dads swear by it for feeling an immediate, intense connection with your little one. There’s no better feeling in the world!
4Sportscasting life for your baby
You can encourage language development from a young age if you narrate or “sportscast” what you and your baby are doing throughout the day. It might seem like baby can’t understand you, but research has shown that babies as young as two months old can understand statements like “I’m going to pick you up.”
You might say things like,
- “Mommy just fed you, and now I’m going to pick you up and burp you.”
- “I’m going to change your diaper. I’m lifting up your bottom; do you feel your legs going up? Now I’m sliding a clean diaper underneath you.”
- “It’s time for your swaddle! I’m laying you down on this blanket, and now I’m wrapping you up. Does that feel nice?”
- “You just threw up! I’m wiping your face now to help you get clean again. Does that feel better?”
- “I’m laying you down on your tummy now. This is called tummy time!”
- “It’s time for your bath. I’m putting you in the water. It’s nice and warm, isn’t it? Now I’m pouring water on your tummy. Do you like that?”
If you think about it, there’s something profoundly pro-life about “sportscasting” life for baby. Talking to your baby and explaining what’s going on is a way to respect and affirm his dignity, even when he’s very small and immobile.
5Read to your baby
Reading to baby is a great way to connect and support language development, and the great thing about this age is that you can read them absolutely anything! Read aloud the morning paper, or Lord of the Rings, or anything else you want—baby will happily listen to it all, and your voice is soothing for her.
6Sing to your baby
Singing to your baby can feel calming and relaxing for you, and it turns out it has the same effect on your baby. Maybe you might hesitate because you think you’re not a great singer, but your baby doesn’t care how good your voice is, so go ahead and belt out a tune. You might even choose a “special song” between you and your baby. These nightly lullabies can become some of your child’s most cherished memories.
7Wear your baby in a carrier
Baby wearing has been found to reduce crying, which is music to the ears of any new parent with a fussy little one! But more importantly, it feels like you’re snuggling with your baby all day long, which is enjoyable for both of you and a perfect way to connect with each other.
8Be in charge of bathtime
Most babies love a warm, gentle bath (although they might protest being pulled out of the water into the cold world!), and there’s nothing cuter than seeing them gurgle and kick their legs in the water. Being in charge of bath time is a sweet way to spend time together and have fun with your little water baby.
There are so many ways to connect with and care for your little one, right from the start. These simple strategies to bond with your new baby are the beginning of a warm and close relationship that will bring you both great joy throughout your lives.