Most of the bonding research has focused on mother-infant bonding, with the father given only honorable mention. In recent years fathers, too, have been the subject of bonding research and have even merited a special term for the father- infant relationship at birth—”engrossment.” We used to talk about father involvement; now it’s father engrossment—meaning involvement to a higher degree. Engrossment is not only what the father does for the baby— holding and comforting—but also what the baby does for the father. Bonding with baby right after birth brings out sensitivity in dad.
Fathers are often portrayed as well meaning, but bumbling, when caring for newborns. Fathers are sometimes considered secondhand nurturers, nurturing the mother as she nurtures the baby. That’s only half the story. Fathers have their own unique way of relating to babies, and babies thrive on this difference.
In fact, studies on father bonding show that fathers who are given the opportunity and are encouraged to take an active part in caring for their newborns can become just as nurturing as mothers. A father’s nurturing responses may be less automatic and slower to unfold than a mother’s, but fathers are capable of a strong bonding attachment to their infants during the newborn period.