Bonding with Your Baby: Tips for Dads in Australia

Article By
Anna
Published On
05 Aug, 2020
Read Time
4 minutes

Whether you can't wait to become a dad or are feeling a little nervous about stepping into the world of parenthood. It's normal for it to take time for you to adjust to your new role. So, try not to worry about whether you'll be able to bond with your tiny newborn tot.

The truth is dads play a huge part in a child's development. As well as supporting their partner during pregnancy, there are lots of things that dads can try to help build a special connection with their new little arrival.

How can a father bond with their newborn?

Start early

Before your baby arrives, it can help to build your bond while they're still in the womb. You can do this by feeling them kick and move, speaking to them, going to prenatal classes and ultrasound appointments with your partner, and being there during the birth.

Let baby have some skin-to-skin bonding with dad

In those first few moments, skin-to-skin contact with your child is a wonderful experience. So, don't be shy to get your shirt off in the delivery room to cuddle your newborn. It's never too early to build that special bond, and you can continue to enjoy skin-to-skin cuddles with your little one as they grow.

Split the load between both parents

Taking charge of some of baby's feeds means more time with your baby for you, and some much-needed rest for your partner! If your partner is exclusively breastfeeding, you can pitch in by making sure they're comfortable, ensuring that they have everything they need close by, and burping your baby after their feed.

Give regular baby massages

Regular baby massages are a great way for you to bond with your little one and help them to feel calm and relaxed before bedtime.

To get started, lay your little one on a flat surface and gently rub your palms together with baby oil to warm them. Sing and talk to your baby to get them giggling and massage lightly. Watch how your baby responds and if they seem uncomfortable, simply try using a lighter touch.

Carry your little one close to you

Instead of pushing your little one around in a pram or buggy when you head out and about, try using a sling or carrier to keep them close. Whether you're going for a walk, running errands, or loading the dishwasher, you'll find it much easier to move around!

Entertain them by making silly faces

Keep your baby entertained by pulling your best silly faces. You never know, one of your cheesy grins or goofy dance moves could trigger your little one's first smile!

Don't be afraid of nappy duty

As well as being a rite of passage for any new parent, changing nappies also provides a great opportunity to laugh, chat and bond with your baby.

Soothe your baby with story time

Babies begin to hear familiar voices when they're still in the womb, so it's never too early to start reading to your little one! Hearing your voice stimulates an interest in sounds and helps your baby develop important listening skills. At the early newborn stage, your baby doesn't care what you read to them - it's simply the soothing sound of your voice that they'll love. So, cuddle up and read aloud.

Build connections with other parents

Whether you attend classes and local baby groups with your partner or go to dad-only gatherings, it's a good idea to reach out to and build connections with other parents who are going through the same things as you.

The importance of a father bonding with their newborn

Forming a connection with their newborn is important for dads because it can also help reduce stresses that dads experience later in life. In addition, it helps to reduce the risk of paternal postpartum depression. According to a study, around one in 10 new dads experience depression during pregnancy or after birth.

It can also help build the roots for long-term involvement in their little one's life and can have a positive impact on their development and mental health.

How to help dad bond with your newborn

The truth is many dads naturally fall into a supporting role rather than being more hands-on with parenting. Mums can also sometimes fall into maternal gate-closing, which leads to dads not being able to contribute equally.

To help encourage dad bonding with their newborn, mums should try to avoid taking over activities from their partner or dictating duties to them. Instead, it's best to approach things as a team, be patient with one another, and learn together.

Signs that dad hasn't bonded with their newborn

There're some signs you can look out for to know if a dad is struggling:

  • They seem to be uncomfortable or intimidated around the baby, or the baby seems upset when being held by dad
  • They find day-to-day tasks like nappy changing difficult or off-putting
  • They're struggling to understand the baby's preferences or cues
  • They don't understand certain basics, like how to hold or feed the baby
  • They're not getting actively involved in the baby's routine
  • They're showing signs of paternal postpartum depression, including being tired, irritable, and feeling out of control

Partners should speak to each other if they're concerned, and reach out to their GP, midwife or a dedicated organisation like PANDA, ForWhen, and Gidget Foundation.

If this content reminds you of your own experiences or makes you think of someone you know and you feel concerned or uncomfortable, please head to our support page for information about perinatal mental health resources that may be able to help.