If you are about to have a baby or you just had one, you are probably feeling a lot of different emotions. You may be excited, scared, happy, or even anxious. The combination of all of those emotions is pretty common. To set expectations and be very clear, everyone is different. I also want to say right off the bat, it’s ok if you don’t feel the bond with the baby right away.
I remember my wife and I brought our first child (our son) home from the hospital and we set him on the bed, we looked at each other, and I said “ok, now what do we do”.
She was a labor and delivery nurse so she was a lot more comfortable with a baby than I was. She also seemed to have a bond with our son right away. Granted she carried him for 9 months, was breastfeeding, and spent more time with him. It actually took me a few months after he was born to really start feeling that connected to him. If your baby is still in the womb (it hasn’t been born yet), here are a few things you can try to increase the bonding with your baby.
First, feel the baby move – Put your hands on your wife’s stomach and feel the baby kick or move. It gets real when you feel the baby kick or a turn.
Experiencing the movement of your child in the womb can help with the bonding. Your wife feels this a lot so it’s nice to be able to also feel the movement.
Another, talk, sing, or read to the baby – You can foster the bonding process by being verbal. Your baby gets to hear your voice but also you get to feel like you are communicating with it. Many experts recommend this, and some people love doing it. For me, talking into my wife’s belly just didn’t come naturally. I forced myself to do it a little bit, but it wasn’t my thing. It is worth a try.
Next, Get a Sonogram – Get a printout or digital copy of the ultrasound – it makes it tangible. When I saw the actual form of our child it was crazy. It was fascinating. I couldn’t believe that it was our baby. For many, this makes it real and can assist with the bonding.
The last thing prior to the baby being born…and I’m putting it in this section because it requires planning prior to the baby being born is taking Paternity Leave.
I understand not everyone has the ability to take off the time, but if you can, I would highly suggest it. Paternity leave gives you the ability to spend that early time with your child.
Once the baby is born, there are definitely some things you can do to try to increase bonding. Again, keep in mind it’s ok if you don’t feel a really strong bond right away. This is common.
1) Skin to skin contact – It’s a pretty cool feeling for both of you. You could lie down or recline in a chair and put the baby on your chest. Another way would be to give your baby a massage. Allow their skin to touch your skin. Both the lying on your chest and a massage are great ways to improve bonding.
2) Feeding – If your wife is breastfeeding, she may pump some milk which would give you the opportunity to do feedings. If she is not breastfeeding and you are using formula, use that feeding time to bond with your newborn.
3) Changing diapers – The time you are changing a diaper can really be used as a bonding time with your child. Make diaper changing a positive experience where you get to interact instead of it being a chore you have to do.
4) Bathing – Most babies seem to really enjoy warm baths so you can bond with your baby by giving them a bath. Bath time was an awesome bonding time in our house. You can even get in the bath with your baby if you want.
5) Wear your baby – You can use a baby carrier to be close to your baby and still be able to do other things. Babywearing (especially for dads) has become more popular over the years. The closeness as well as being able to share activities can assist with bonding.
6) Eye contact – Look at your baby, smile, make faces. You can communicate with them just with facial expressions. Your newborn may eventually try to imitate your expressions and this becomes a fun game.
The overall advice here is Spending time. If one of you spends more time with the child than the other, then there is probably going to be a difference in when you feel start feeling that bond.
As I mentioned, it took me a few months to begin feeling a deep bond. I think there were a few reasons for this. I had never really been around babies before. The other was that I didn’t spend as much time as my wife did with our son and as a result, the time it took to bond was longer.
For our second child, our daughter, it was a little different because I had been through this before. The bonding was a little quicker. Either way, don’t get frustrated if you don’t feel a bond right away. If you spend time with your baby, you eventually will. I promise.