The Importance of Dad and Baby Bonding
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 dad and baby 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. Dad and baby bonding right after birth brings out sensitivity in dad.
Dads can be just as Nurturing as Moms
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.
First Moments as a Family
Delaying routine procedures that nurses try to administer immediately after birth is a great way for mom, dad, and baby to enjoy their first moments of family bonding time. Nurses usually instill eye ointment in baby’s eyes immediately after birth and then presents baby to his mother and father for bonding. This can be delayed for an hour or so until baby has enjoyed the initial bonding period. The eye ointment temporarily blurs baby’s vision or causes his eyes to stay closed. He needs a clear first impression of both parents, and both mom and dad need to look right back into those eyes.
Dad’s First Moments Alone with Baby
Many times after mom has gotten a chance to hold her newborn, she will need a much-deserved rest. This is a great opportunity for dad and baby to get to know one another. Holding baby, rocking with him, talking, singing, and stroking him is dad and baby bonding at its best. Babies actually breathe better when someone is stroking them and talking to them. Baby will recognize dad’s voice because he has been hearing it all along while he was in mom’s tummy. Fathers who get their hands on their babies and take an active part in their baby’s care immediately after birth find it easier to get attached to their babies later. Don’t forget to share with mom though. She wants to hold baby just as much as you do.