Parenting is a team sport. It requires great communication, clarity on roles and responsibilities, mutual respect and a shared purpose and desire to win. However each team player has a unique skillset and when it comes to helping husbands and partners bond with your newborn, there has to be agreement on the positions they are covering. In a previous article, we talked about the importance of getting a father ready before the baby is born and discussed the challenges a husband might feel, but here are some practical words of advice to make the process easier.
To continue the sports analogy, as the breastfeeding mom you are the quarterback, calling the plays and taking most of the emotional tackles. As a result, you often fall into the habit of doing “too much” for the baby and not giving dad a chance. So it’s important to take some time away from the baby by yourself, and give your partner some one-on-one time with the child. For example, you could agree on specific times each week when you will leave the house for an hour. You don’t have to go too far – maybe to the library, shops, or out for coffee with a friend – just long enough that your husband is forced to be creative in dealing with situations that might arise and feel capable in caring for his baby. The first time you go out alone without your baby, you might feel in a bit of a panic! Just remember to breathe, smile, and trust that they will be ok. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen”, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and try to relax and enjoy your break!
Create Opportunities for Bonding
As time goes by, you can look for other opportunities for dad and the baby to be alone together. How about a Sunday morning walk in the park, or when the baby is a little older, a trip to a father-child group? Are there any dad’s baby groups in your area? If not, maybe your husband or partner could start one.
Father-baby bonding doesn’t have to be elaborate or time-consuming. Look for opportunities in everyday situations where you can ask him to just hold the baby for 15 minutes now and again. Make it feel like the most natural thing in the world. Ask him to come sit with you while you breastfeed, and let him bond with both of you.
Many dads find that changing diapers is a good occasion for bonding with the baby (and it’s a great Facebook selfie opportunity). It gives them a chance to smile, kiss and make “baby talk” with his son or daughter. Let him find his own style and try not to criticize if he doesn’t’ do things perfectly. Your baby doesn’t know. All she knows is that this kind person is making her feel better. So don’t be shy about asking for help with diaper changes! You can also find other occasions throughout the day where dad can have special one-on-one time with the baby.
It’s also good to get dads involved with breastfeeding by letting them bottle-feed. Plan and coordinate timing for night feedings if you can. For example, your partner could do the midnight feed with expressed milk while you get some sleep and then you can do the 3 a.m. feeding (or the other way around, depending on your sleep patterns and daytime work schedules). Getting dad involved in the breastfeeding process will also give him a much better idea of what you are dealing with all the time – and also a much greater appreciation of you!
Encourage Skin to Skin Touching
One of the most important aspects of bonding with a new baby is touch. Skin-to-skin tactile connection is super powerful and helps babies feel calm, connected and protected. Encourage your partner to find new ways to comfort the baby. His voice is a strong connector, even if he only whispers her name. Story time and bath time are other great occasions for skin-to-skin contact.
Give Praise and Show Genuine Gratitude
Men like to be appreciated, just like women do. Having a baby is all incredibly new to them as well, and they need to know that their stress is recognized and their effort appreciated. Brag to your friends online – tell them what an amazing partner you have. Let him overhear. Make him feel like a hero! Post pictures on Facebook to show your baby’s dad being involved and connected, and keep looking for new occasions to bond together as a family – have fun!
Encourage Rituals and Laughter
In the day-to-day routine of caring for a baby, it’s important to use rituals as a way to break up the time and create little milestones along the way. Ask your partner to help come up with some ideas for fun rituals – favourite songs, dances, games or activities. Check out this article on 50 ways dads can bond with babies for some ideas on things that fathers can do to have fun and spend time with the baby.
Dads often create their own unique rituals and special activities to do with the baby, whether it’s having “Daddy-Baby Tummy Time,” or snuggling after a nap, or going for a ride in the car to get breakfast for mom on a Sunday morning, or bouncing the baby on his lap while listening to music at his computer. There are many ways for dads to include babies in their daily lives and share part of their world with the little ones.
Most importantly, let him have his own unique relationship with his son or daughter. It may have bumps or imperfections, and he might not always do things “the right way” by your standards, but it will be their special relationship and they will discover and enjoy their journey together. No matter how imperfect the execution, his love will shine through.
How have you tried to get your partner more involved in caring for the baby? What are some of your favourite rituals of parenting? Leave a comment and let us know, or join the discussion on the Medela Canada Facebook page.