When people think about bonding with a newborn, images of a mother and her baby tend to come to mind. While it is essential for mothers and their babies to develop a deep connection, it's also important for fathers to spend quality time bonding with their babies.
An increasing amount of research suggests a strong correlation between early father-infant bonds and the happiness of the entire family. Below we’ll highlight some research findings and provide some tips for helping the fathers you work with form a close connection with their newborns from the start.
The importance of father-infant bonding
A growing body of research has shown that when dads spend time with their newborns and begin developing a strong relationship with them from the very beginning, they reap a number of benefits.
- A child’s physical and mental development is significantly boosted when his dad has played with him from the start, compared to children whose fathers took a more hands-off approach.
- Fathers experience less stress and increased confidence when they have their own special time with their newborns.
- Strong father-child bonds can help counter issues such as depression later on in life.
- Men who report that they had a good relationship with their fathers during childhood were found to be better equipped to handle stress.
- Children who experienced close interactions with their fathers from an early age tend to be more successful academically, have better relationships with their peers and be less likely to get involved with crime or abuse drugs and alcohol.
These important findings should be communicated to parents — especially to dads who may feel that their level of involvement with their newborns doesn’t matter all that much.
Recommendations for dads
You may find that more and more of the fathers you work with don’t think twice about being hands-on with their newborns. But for those dads who want to develop a bond with their baby but aren’t sure how to do so, you can gently encourage them to try some of the following ideas:
- Keep the baby close and feeling calm and safe by wearing a sling carrier while taking a walk or doing light tasks around the house.
- Share diaper duty with mom. This may not be the most fun time spent with baby, but it’s a great opportunity for dads to talk or sing to their babies.
- Once the baby is old enough, dads can have a blast engaging in physical play with their kids, such as giving horsey rides. Not only is this sort of play fun for both dad and child, but it also helps to develop a child’s sense of balance and coordination.
- Perhaps most importantly, encourage dads to tune into and trust their fatherly instincts.
There’s no doubt that moms and dads each bond with their babies in their own special ways. When both of these bonds are fostered from day one, parents and kids alike enjoy a lifetime of benefits.