Bonding with Daddy

I’ll never forget watching a friend of mine hold his infant daughter for the first time. A robust, manly guy, his face was dripping with sweat as he gazed down at her fragile little frame and whispered, “She’s so tiny!  I’m scared to death I might break her.”

Of course, he certainly wasn’t the first dad to feel that way – nor the last.  Every eight seconds, someone in America becomes a father, and while many men are eager to jump into bonding with baby, others may feel ill-equipped to fulfill this exciting new role. This sense of feeling overwhelmed can be amplified right at the beginning, too, when it seems like mom has far more opportunities to form an attachment.
Yet research indicates that the earlier a father bonds with his newborn, the more likely he is to stay connected to that child throughout the rest of his life. Bottom line? The sooner he becomes hands-on, the better.

Research indicates that children whose fathers are actively involved from birth are:

  • more likely to be emotionally secure and confident in exploring their surroundings
  • more likely to have better social connections with peers as they grow older
  • less likely to get in trouble at home and at school
  • less likely to use drugs and alcohol

Some Practical Tips

There are tons of great ways a new dad can bond with his infant. A few include:

  • Holding and burping your baby after a feeding.
  • Gazing into your baby’s eyes and making silly noises.
  • Changing your baby’s diaper, and talking to her throughout the process.
  • Snuggling with your baby. Skin-to-skin contact is soothing and comforting to infants.
  • Holding your baby close while going for a walk.
  • Reading to your baby. This will help him recognize the sound of your voice.
  • Helping mom with late-night or early morning feedings (if she’s
    not breastfeeding)

His Role in Play

Another key role dad can play from the very beginning is just that: play! Research shows children of all ages prefer play with dad over mom because it’s usually more unpredictable, physical, and fun. Additionally, children with nurturing, involved, and playful fathers consistently exhibit higher IQs and have better language and cognitive capacities.

A Priceless Moment

While jumping into parenting is scary for everyone, any veteran father will tell you that it’s worth it. Time and time again, I’ve heard dads share how having a child was one of the best things that ever happened to them. Just ask, and they’ll tell you: time spent bonding with a baby is something you can’t trade!

Picture of Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE

Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE

President and CEO, First Things First

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