It’s easy for a new Dad to feel a little sidelined, all the attention is on Mum and baby so they can feel that the most they can be is a “helper” rather than an equal partner in parenting. Even more so if Mum is breastfeeding and has more time off work than Dad does, babycare can automatically fall to her.
Dads are very important though. Infact various research studies suggest that babies who spend more time with their Dads are likely to grow into children who feel more secure and are more sociable, with fewer behaviour difficulties and even a higher IQ.
It can be difficult to develop that relationship with your baby when you also work all day, and many of my clients tell me they struggle to bond with a newborn and hope their relationship will develop more as their little one grows and can take part in hobbies or games. Here are a few suggestions for things you can do to be an involved parent and develop a deep bond with your baby right from the start, even if you spend long hours away from home.
Take charge of the evening routine
If you get home from work around an hour before your baby goes to bed then make that hour a special time to spend with them. Even if you’ve had a long day try to delay collapsing on the sofa for a little longer, it really is worth it to develop a strong relationship with your little one. As a maternity nurse I’ve shown many Dads how to bathe their newborns and taught them the basics of baby massage, which can build into a lovely bedtime routine and a chance to really connect with your baby each evening. As they grow older you can start to read books together and play quiet games like jigsaws or lego.
If you are out at work until after bedtime you might want to look for a different time of day that will work better for you. Perhaps the first hour of the morning could be your special time instead. I have worked with some of my clients to establish daily routines for their babies that were either earlier or later than is typical, specifically to allow for this family time.
If your baby has bottles of formula or expressed milk then there is no reason why you can’t do some of the night feeds. There are lots of different approaches and it’s important to find one that works for your family, perhaps you do wakings before 1 am and Mum covers the rest of the night, or you might take charge all night on weekends. My clients have me to help at nights but they may choose to take it in turns to do night feeds on my days off. Night feeds are about more than being a supportive partner, although that is important too. Dads who do night-time baby care can feel more involved and competent, an equal partner as a parent.
A great deal of baby care is routine tasks that can seem boring or insignificant. Things like winding, dressing or changing nappies. The truth is that these are wonderful opportunities to bond with your baby as you handle them, stroke their skin, talk to them and respond to their little sounds and movements. Every nappy you change helps to build trust between you and your baby, every time you wind them they feel more safe and secure in your arms.