The birth of a newborn is a time for ecstatic elation, excitement and celebration of the new little human that has joined your family. Behind the scenes however, new parents may secretly find themselves terrified or feeling awkward or anxious about how they’ll care for this tiny human. Not surprisingly this is particularly the case for first-time fathers, so what then can be said about the importance of encouraging father and baby bonding as early as possible?
Father and Baby Bonding – start early!
A baby recognises familiar voices from within the womb and will start to recognise its fathers voice from about 22 weeks1. For this reason the baby will recognise the sound of its fathers voice immediately at birth, and so it’s important they commence father and baby bonding on the outside as soon as possible. These moments are critical in developing a relationship with the new child right from the beginning and just as it’s advised to place a baby on a mother’s chest as early as possible so the nurturing relationship can begin, it’s just as important that daddy gets this same chance to start building his connection with the newborn.
Touching, cuddling, eye contact and spending time with your newborn play an important part in father and baby bonding, and all help to build the connection much faster than any other way. Obviously the baby will demonstrate a preference for mummy due to its natural urge to breastfeed, but developing a bond with its father will come a very close second in the list of priorities.
Sometimes dads feel awkward about knowing what they should do when it comes to holding their baby or helping change nappies or clothing, but with a little practice, a sprinkle of love and a touch of enthusiasm, there’s no reason they won’t be able to lift their game soon enough. As with anything, learning about your newborn baby just takes time and practice. The more you get involved, the better you’ll start to learn the individual nuances of your baby and the sooner you’ll feel more confident when it comes to caring for them and keeping them entertained in an age appropriate manner. One study revealed that infants exposed to plenty of nurturing touch are more likely to develop into stress-resilient adults2, so there’s every reason for dad to get hands on as early as possible.
Fathers who get involved and play with their children right from the beginning actually boost their child’s physical and mental development significantly more than those who don’t “join in”. It had also been reported that hands-on fathers also suffer less stress as well as the fact “Fathers can attune to their babies, to become familiar with them, their likes and dislikes, and therefore increase their confidence with the baby”3. Not only is father and baby bonding a special time that brings tangible rewards, but it’s something that both baby and daddies will enjoy!
So there’s no doubt about it, fathers should be encouraged to be involved with their newborn as much as possible in order to start creating the impact that will last their child a lifetime.