Dr. Kristie Rivers is an Attending Physician, Assistant Medical Director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Program, and Director of Pediatric Medical Education at a children’s hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Sometimes moms tend to take on the majority of the work when it comes to caring for the new baby, but that doesn’t mean it always has to be that way! There are plenty of ways that the partner can bond with the baby, and moms should embrace the extra caretaking. See what Dr. Kristie Rivers says about dad bonding with a 3-month-old.
Bundoo: There’s so much focus on moms bonding with their new babies beginning from the moment of birth that it can sometimes feel like their partners get less attention. When can bonding with Dad or the other childcare partner begin?
Dr. Kristie Rivers: Bonding with dad can begin right away! Even if mom is breastfeeding, dad can get involved in a variety of ways. Skin-to skin-contact with the baby on dad’s chest is a great way to develop that connection. Also dad can get involved with feedings and diaper changes right from the start. Take a middle of the night feeding with pumped breast milk to foster that bond and give mom a much-needed break. The bond that is developed initially will only strengthen once the baby is smiling and interacting.
When does a baby realistically begin to recognize a caregiver other than Mom?
In the first several weeks of life, your baby will learn to recognize parents by sight, smell, and sound. After all, he or she has been listening to your voices for months from inside the womb! In fact, babies just after birth will respond and turn toward a parent’s voice, and recognize a mother’s smell within a few days. Within a few weeks, he or she will recognize dad too. Over the first few months, you will notice your baby becoming more interactive with others he or she sees frequently. As vision improves, so does the recognition. If your baby smiles and coos when he or she sees someone, chances are they recognize them!
Do you have any activities that you think are good for Dads and other caregivers?
Dads can get involved right away, both with the day-to-day caring of the baby and also during play time. Set aside a special “daddy play time” at a predictable time of day so your baby begins to anticipate the fun. Dads can also take baby for a walk, play with toys, or give the baby a massage. Another great way for dads to bond with baby is by participating in the bath and bedtime routine.
Especially with first babies, many partners can feel nervous around the baby, or like a third-wheel in the intense mother/baby relationship. What advice do you have for partners who feel this way?
Dads often feel like a third wheel, sometimes making it difficult to bond with their new little one. I think it’s so important for dads to have some alone time with the baby in order to foster that bond. That allows dad to get comfortable caring for the baby’s daily needs, and gives them alone time to play, too! Dads can strap on the baby carrier and take their little one out for a trip to the park or even the store. Making the new baby a part of dad’s daily routine is a great way to bond.
What would you say to moms who find themselves having a hard time letting their partners do things “their way?”
Moms, let it go! I was without a doubt one of those moms at first, always thinking my way of caring for the baby was the only way. It wasn’t until I returned to work and my husband had to care for the baby overnight by himself that I realized his way worked just at well (and sometimes better) than my own! Dads need the freedom to make mistakes, whether it is putting the diaper on backwards or burping the baby the “wrong way.” And he will learn along the way trial and error, and your baby will survive, believe me!
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, August 2019