With parenting, there can often be a great divide between how you think things should be and how they actually are. This is very true for parental bonding, which may come naturally to some yet take longer for others.
When it comes to fathers, bonding can take longer than it might for mothers. When a baby is born, he or she is often placed immediately on the mother’s skin to promote bonding. The new mom also is responsible for breastfeeding the baby, which further promotes bonding and security.
Because a new dad does not fulfill these roles, bonding can feel different and sometimes delayed. Many new dads often report feeling indifferent toward the new baby. Dads may feel like outsiders in a child’s life because many people look to the mother as the main source of nurturing. Also, bringing a new baby home represents a significant change in available time and obligations. These facts can take new dads some time to adjust to.
Additionally, men tend to be more interactive than women. Dads get validation from feedback. This means dads may want a baby to respond to them, yet babies do not tend to show these behaviors until they are a few months older.
Enhancing the bonding process
New dads (and even “old” dads) can take several steps to build a bond. These include taking on everyday tasks, such as giving the baby a bath, feeding the baby, or letting the baby nap on his chest. Skin-to-skin contact is ideal for new dads, just as it is for new moms.
Dads should also attend pediatrician appointments whenever possible. Hearing how baby has grown and advanced in development, as well as a physician’s recommendations for care makes dads feel more a part of the bonding process.
Creating a “dad” routine or a unique job that only dad can do is a good way to promote bonding. Taking an afternoon walk, reading a story to baby, or just playing for 15 minutes in the morning before work can make a big difference toward feeling more involved.
If the bonding process continues to take time, new dads should not beat themselves up. As their children age, the bond can grow if they continue to show an interest and are patient with themselves and their babies.
Reviewed by Dr. Kristie Rivers, September 2020
- Father-child bonding can be delayed because of traditional parental roles, which cause the dad to feel left out at times.
- Father-child bonding can take longer but will come with time if dads continue to commit quality time to children.
- Bonding activities can include father-child playtime, giving the child a bath, feeding the child a bottle, or taking the night shift in waking up with baby.