The adjustment from a twosome to a threesome can be quite the tricky transition. During the early days, when baby seems to be breastfeeding around the clock, dads can often feel left out in the cold. As baby gets older, and into toddler-hood, they may seem to only want mommy during times of frustration, tiredness, and stress. A fathers role in the new family triangle can be hard to figure out. Know that a fathers role, although different, is just as important as a mothers.
The following list of “new dad tricks” was compiled with the help of my husband:
- Skin-to-skin contact– Spend time skin-to-skin with your baby whenever it is possible. Take baths with baby, cuddle on the couch with baby on your chest, or lay in bed as you read stories and mom takes a well deserved break. Skin-to-skin contact will help to facilitate bonding between you and your child.
- Take care of mom – During the early weeks and months it is your job to take care of mom! Breastfeeding is a 24 hour a day job and man is it exhausting. Mom needs someone to make snacks and bring her a glass of water; she needs someone to rub her aching shoulders and offer her bites of food when she does not have her hands free; she needs someone to hand her her favorite book when the baby falls asleep nursing and she left the book on the other side of the room. It is so hard to nurture someone all day and never be nurtured yourself. By nourishing mom you are nourishing your baby!
- Mealtime – Once baby begins experimenting with solid food(around the middle of the first year), take over mealtime when you are home. Mom will be grateful for the chance to use both of her hands to eat a meal for once. Baby mealtimes do not need to be a daunting task. It is unnecessary to provide special “baby food” for your child; simply mash some healthy food from your plate with a fork and place it in front of your baby for him to grab if he is interested. Don’t worry if all he wants to do is play with his food. Playing with food is a wonderful sensory experience and mamas milk is providing all the nutrition he needs for now!
- Baby-wearing – Wearing your baby in a carrier is a great way to bond with your child. Take walks down to the park, around the neighborhood, or simply wear your baby while you cook dinner. This is an easy way to naturally bring on a nap for the baby who usually nurses to sleep. Don’t be surprised if these daddy-baby walks become something that you look forward to all day long!
- Diaper changes – Diaper changes are a wonderful bonding opportunity. Your baby will be looking at your face and listening to your voice. Play games with your baby during diaper time. Extremely young babies have the ability to imitate. Open and close your mouth slowly while your baby is studying your face and see if he tries it too! Try taking over the majority of diaper changes when you are home, your partner will be extremely grateful.
- One-on-one time – As your baby gets older, spend some one-on-one time with your child as your partner runs an errand or takes a bath. These windows will gradually get longer as your baby grows. This time will help your child form a secure and trusting attachment to you. Your child will soon learn that although you are not mommy, you are there to meet their needs and provide them with loving comfort in a way that only daddy can.
- Sleep with baby– Don’t separate yourself from nighttime parenting by sleeping in a separate room. The family bed is a wonderful way to bond, especially if you work long hours. If your child only wants to nurse back to sleep when they wake during the night, a loving rub on the back when the baby wakes will let your partner know that you are there if she needs you. Although you might be short on sleep for awhile, it is worth it when your baby reaches for your arm in the middle of the night or wakes you up with a big smile in the morning.
The bond that you share with your child is stronger than anything you could have possibly imagined prior to becoming a parent. Taking the time to be a nurturing, attentive, and involved father while your baby is young will help to lay a strong foundation for the relationship that the two of you will share for the rest of your life.