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Bond. Daddy-Baby Bond.

Creating Early Connection with Father or Father Figure Benefits Babies

American composer John Walter Bratton proclaimed: “A dad is a son’s first hero, a daughter’s first love.”

A study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN) states that creating a bond between a father and a child during the immediate postpartum period has shown to have several benefits for the infant: it reduces cognitive delay; promotes weight gain in preterm infants; and improves breastfeeding rates.

In addition, extensive research has shown that a strong father-child connection can lead to the child’s success later in life, including academic achievement, more positive social conduct, less risky behavior, and fewer psychological problems.

However, according to the JOGNN study, while most mothers feel an immediate bond as soon as they find out they are pregnant, it can take up to several weeks after the birth of the child for fathers to experience that connection.

But new dads shouldn’t panic, as experts point out that bonding takes time and grows stronger through everyday caregiving. They note that parents who are separated from their baby soon after delivery for medical reasons, or who adopt later in infancy or childhood, still develop close, loving relationships.

“No singular style or activity characterizes your daddy-baby bond,” says Steven A. Shapiro, DO, chairman of pediatrics at Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health. “I always urge dads to find their own ‘special time’ with their baby. Every activity that an infant experiences is enriching and forges a bond.”

Dr. Shapiro recommends taking your baby with you while going about everyday life. “There will be sounds, smells, and colors that your baby will experience in these activities that can become special and unique for the two of you forever.”

Some other daddy-baby bonding techniques can include:

  • Cradle the baby: Skin-to-skin cuddle time is soothing, so hold him often. Also, keep him close as you go about your daily routine by carrying him in a sling or front carrier.
  • Be verbal: Talk and sing to her regularly, keeping her face close to yours and making eye contact.
  • Play: Make silly faces; play peek-a-boo; turn on music and sway gently for a daddy-baby dance party. Make play time a part of your everyday routine.
  • Read to him: He might not be ready for “A Tale of Two Cities,” but reading baby books every day while holding him close will strengthen the bond and help establish a healthy love of reading as he gets older.
  • Be a comfort: Show her that mom isn’t the only one who can wipe away her tears; walk her, rock her, soothe her when she is having “fussy time.”
  • Give her a massage: A great way to soothe and relax a baby is with a gently massage; take a few minutes to gently rub her legs, belly, arms and neck while talking softly to her. Taking an infant massage class will make you a daddy massage expert!
  • Be a diaper dad: Talk and sing to him while on the changing table.
  • Sick Baby/Well Baby: Nurture your little one when she is sick, and go to well-baby checkups to track her progress.
  • Participate in the bedtime routine: Be a part of the bath-time-lullaby-rocking routine that sends him off to sweet dreamland.
  • Participate in breast feeding: Once the baby is fed, take over burping duties, changing duties, putting-back-to-bed duties, etc. If your partner is pumping breast milk, you can also take over some of the feeding duties.
  • Take the night shift: Let mom sleep and enjoy a little alone time with the baby by taking over the nighttime routine; remember to keep a few bottles in the fridge for feedings.

“Be creative and safe,” Dr. Shapiro says. “Enjoy all of your experiences, and grow with them... together!”