Becoming a dad for the first time is nothing short of amazing. Whether you have a little one on the way or are getting to know your baby girl or boy, get ready to experience so much tenderness, love and joy. We know you’re excited about your big new role. The great news is, there is a lot that dads like you can do from Day One to grow your relationship with your child.
Nursing isn’t the only way to develop a special bond with your new baby. We want to share with you a few of our favorite ways for dads to help their children get acquainted with their world. By the end of the newborn phase, practicing these activities will make you feel more confident about yourself as a father. They’ll also help you meet your little one’s needs for comfort, stimulation and safety.
- Snuggle Baby Skin-to-Skin
If you’ve recently taken a hospital tour or parenting class, you probably heard about the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for newborns. Also known as Kangaroo Care, it’s inspired by the way kangaroos hold their young when they’re born. For decades, doctors and midwives all over the world have recommended the practice of holding baby skin-to-skin and close to the body. Medical professionals think it helps baby adjust to life outside the womb. It doesn’t just make for great snuggle time. Research shows it enhances an infant’s mental development, reduces stress levels and helps put them to sleep.
Babies love skin-to-skin contact with dad like they do with mom. You can even begin at the hospital. All you need to do is grab a hoodie or zip up jacket. Take your shirt off and then place your little one on your bare chest. While keeping one hand on baby, pull the sides of your jacket around their body so he or she stays warm. Once you’re comfy, all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the cuddles.
- Put Baby to Bed
Trust us—mom would love it if she had a few moments in the evening to herself. Why not take advantage of the nighttime hours and make them bonding time with baby? Dads can have a great time creating a bedtime ritual of their own. Start by working with mom to choose a good time to put your little one to sleep. Next, think of a few activities you can do before bedtime to help baby wind down and relax. In the newborn phase, it’s best to pick activities that are both simple and soothing. Some first-time fathers begin their routine by changing baby’s diaper and dressing them in their favorite footed pajamas. Once baby is comfortable, you may want to try a quiet activity like reading a short book or singing a favorite lullaby.
Find whatever works for your family and do it every evening. Routine makes a newborn’s life more predictable, while a nighttime schedule will help you and your partner plan bath time, personal time and dinner. In the first several weeks, your newborn may need help falling asleep. Use that time in the glider or rocking chair to meditate or create a mental to-do list for the next day. You can even grab headphones and listen to an audiobook or podcast.
- Bathe Your Baby
Bond with your baby over bath time. Start by learning the basics of how to bathe a newborn. Once you memorize the steps, grab all of the necessary newborn bath time supplies, like a clean washcloth, mild baby soap and a hooded towel.
Whether you’re performing a sponge bath or your little one is taking a regular dip in the tub, it’s best to keep things short. Since baby doesn’t have good eyesight and the water gets cool quickly, the activity isn’t as enjoyable as it will be later on. Make it more fun by making silly noises, singing songs while you wash and cuddling at the end with a warm towel.
- Babysit for Mom
While mom loves spending time with her baby, everyone needs a break! While she has a cup of tea or takes a trip to her favorite store, you and your newborn can get to know each other. Of course, you’ll be in charge of feedings, diaper changes and naps. These activities are just as important for dads as playtime. The more chances you get to meet baby’s needs, the quicker your bond will grow. This is because your little one will begin to associate your face, voice and scent with comfort and safety.
Besides doing the essentials, you can always take a walk with baby in the stroller, listen to nursery rhymes or play with toys. A newborn doesn’t need much variety. As long as you and baby are having a good time, you’re a Super Dad.
- Help Mom Feed Baby
It doesn’t matter whether your baby is drinking breast milk or formula. You can still help with feedings. It’ll probably be at least a few weeks before a new nursing mom is ready to pump, so check in with her every once in a while. In the meantime, you can try the other bonding activities. Some stay-at-home moms take care of daytime feedings, while dads do the night shift. Other families like to have dad help on the weekends or while mom is out running errands. There really is no right or wrong routine.
To best bond with baby at feeding time, make sure you have the right supplies. Always pair your bottle with flannel, cotton or terry burp cloths, depending on your baby’s needs and family’s preferences. Don’t be afraid to use a nursing pillow under your arm if it helps make your child more comfortable. It’s also important to watch closely for baby hunger cues, like smacking of the lips or turning their head to one side. That way, you can get to them before they are too hungry and begin crying. It’ll also help you determine if your newborn needs to eat more, which is especially helpful during a growth spurt.
Dad and Newborn Baby: A Special Relationship
Whether you have a boy or a girl, your newborn baby knows only one dad—and a relationship between father and child is one-of-a-kind. As you navigate with your partner throughout your baby’s first year, remember that you’re a wonderful dad because you’re doing the best you can. Every day is a learning experience and each day your child will grow closer with you, knowing you’re always eager to care for them and love them.
While the first few months can be a blur, find structure by picking one or more of the activities on this list. It’ll be a comforting constant for both you and baby. You’ll also be amazed to see how your child blossoms, your love grows and your skills as a parent flourish.