Father-Baby Bonding: Advice for UK Dads

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Published On
04 Aug, 2020
Read Time
4 minutes

It can sometimes be a struggle for dads to form a bond with their newborn. And if you do, you're not alone!

In the UK, a study showed that three in five mums felt as though their partner was struggling to form a bond with their newborn due to lacking time off.

The importance of father bonding with their newborn

Dads need to form a bond with their newborn baby. Successful father-infant bonding also has several benefits, from decreased stress on dads later in life to a positive impact on the child's mental health.

Delaying this bond may have a long-term impact on their childhood and adolescence. It can also impact a dad's mental health and increases the risk of them experiencing paternal postpartum depression.

How do dads bond with newborns?

Mums tend to get a head start when it comes to bonding with newborns.

While mums say that they started experiencing feelings of motherhood as early as receiving news of their pregnancy, for dads, research finds that they don't start to experience fatherhood until after birth. Some don't feel bonded until as late as two months after birth in some cases.

Pre-birth bonding significantly increases the chances of partners developing a strong bond with their newborn. So, it's important to start early. The bonding process will take time, but you can start early on by speaking to your baby when they're still in the womb and being involved with appointments and prenatal classes.

Ways for dad to bond with their newborn

The truth is dads play a huge part in a child's development. As well as supporting their partner during pregnancy, there're many ways for a dad to form a strong bond with their newborn once they arrive.

Skin-to-skin contact

In those first few moments, skin-to-skin contact with your child is a wonderful experience. So, don't be shy to get your shirt off in the delivery room to cuddle your newborn. It's never too early to build that special bond, and you can continue to enjoy skin-to-skin cuddles with your little one as they grow.

Share the load

Taking charge of some of the baby's feeds means more time with your baby for you, and some much-needed rest for your partner! If your partner is exclusively breastfeeding, you can pitch in by making sure that they're comfortable, have everything they need close by, and burping the baby after their feed.

Give a baby massage

Regular baby massages are a great way for you to bond with your little one and help them to feel calm and relaxed before bedtime.

To get started, lay your little one on a flat surface and gently rub your palms together with baby oil to warm them. Sing and talk to your baby to get them giggling and massage lightly. Watch how your baby responds and if they seem uncomfortable, simply try using a lighter touch.

Play kangaroo

Instead of pushing your little one around in a pram or buggy when you head out and about, try using a sling or carrier to keep them close. Whether you're going for a walk, running errands, or loading the dishwasher, you'll find it much easier to move around!

Make silly faces

Keep your baby entertained by pulling your best silly faces. You never know, one of your cheesy grins or goofy dance moves could trigger your little one's first smile!

Do nappy duty

As well as being a rite of passage for any new parent, changing nappies also provides a great opportunity to laugh, chat and bond with your baby.

Get involved with story time

Babies begin to hear familiar voices when they're still in the womb, so it's never too early to start reading to your little one! Hearing your voice stimulates an interest in sounds and helps your baby develop important listening skills. At the early newborn stage, your baby doesn't care what you read to them - it's simply the soothing sound of your voice that they'll love. So, cuddle up and read aloud!

Build connections

Whether you attend classes and local baby groups with your partner or go to dad-only gatherings, it's a good idea to reach out to and build connections with other parents who are going through the same things as you.

Signs that dad hasn't bonded with their baby

Bonding can be difficult for dads. They're not as involved in the pregnancy stage as mum and often go back to work when their baby is still very young.

There are some signs that can indicate dad is not bonding with their newborn, including:

  • Baby is crying when held by dad or dad seems uncomfortable when holding the baby
  • Struggling with certain tasks, like feeding or nappy changing
  • Missing certain cues from the baby
  • Feeling out of depth or like there isn't enough time
  • Experiencing jealousy of mum and baby's connection

It's normal to worry about forming a bond with your baby, but remember, these special bonds take time to develop. It's important to speak out and talk to your partner or other people around you if you need support.

How to help dad bond with your newborn

Naturally, some mums find that they have a stronger connection to the newborn than dad does because they carry, deliver, and nurse their baby. But it's important to avoid what's known as maternal gatekeeping or gate-closing and make sure that dad is involved in all aspects of caring for baby too.

The bonding techniques that work best will vary based on individual parents, but mums should try to avoid taking over activities with the child if they think the dad is doing it wrong. This can end up pushing them away and contribute to dad struggling to bond with the baby. Instead, give guidance and show patience and understanding - it's new to them too!

Ultimately, it's important to remember that dad's bond with the newborn is just as special and that both parents are a team when it comes to raising their little one.