After having a baby, a lot of the focus is on the mum, her health, her weight and her stress levels. But what about dad? A small human coming into your life is a huge change and it might not be the fairy tale of love at first sight that you might expect. It’s common for many parents to struggle to bond with their baby after it’s born and 1 out of 20 dads will even experience post-natal depression or anxiety. If you don’t fall in love with your new baby the second you lock eyes, that’s completely fine. Don’t panic or feel guilty, because there are plenty of ways to build the bond with your baby.
Meet your baby’s basic needs
If you ensure that your baby is fed, warm, comfortable and is given lots of cuddles, all your baby’s needs will be met. Babies won’t be able to tell if you aren’t infatuated with them and you can give yourself time to begin the bonding process. This can take weeks for some parents. You aren’t a bad father if you don’t feel madly in love when your baby is first born. Don’t beat yourself up about it or feel guilty, instead try some bonding activities and over time you will come to love your little one.
Bonding through touch
Parents and children need to have skin to skin contact as well as eye contact to form a connection. If mum is breastfeeding, she will be getting lots of important bonding time with her baby.
When humans hug or kiss, hormones are released into our body which promotes love and trust and gives a feeling of comfort, happiness and warmth. Because of these hormones, just cuddling and holding your baby with your skin touching will strengthen your bond over time.
When next feeding your baby with a bottle, you might like to try mimicking the way mum would hold the baby when breastfeeding. Put the baby against your bare skin and make eye contact while you bottle feed, both of you will get lots out of this experience.
Giving your baby a massage is also a great way to calm them down, soothe their discomforts from teething and other issues, and promote bonding between the both of you.
Having fun with your baby is another way to speed up the bonding process. There are so many ways to play with your baby! Lift them up, sing to them and play games at bath time. After a month or two, your baby will probably start to smile and even laugh. This is a great reward for playing with them, and when you two are giggling together bonding will happen more easily. The more time you spend together, the more your baby will love and trust you.
Don’t feel guilty
It can be hard to have fun together because having a newborn means you’re exhausted and busy. But having fun and enjoying your baby can go a long way to bonding and loving each other.
Remember, don’t feel guilty if bonding doesn’t happen right away. Performing these bonding exercises over time will ensure a lasting love and trust between you and your baby. If you feel this bonding is not happening for you or you feel worried for any other reasons about your feelings towards your child, contact your doctor or visit the Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia website.