Pregnancy sucked. Things happened to my body that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I will admit that I was guilty of spending pretty much 9 months wishing that baby would just get out of my incubator already.
Once my first child was born, though, something immediately snapped inside of me. It was as though when he came out, he took a piece of me with him. In that moment, I knew that any harm or heartbreak that came to this tiny person would bring the same to me. I was instantly head over heels in love in a way that I had never known possible.
Then the nurses went to hand him to my husband who suddenly went rigid the instant our son was in his arms. His look wasn’t a mirror of the tears and adoration that I felt. It was a look of abject terror. I was hurt and confused by my husband’s reaction, wondering how that awe and patience didn’t automatically expand his heart like in that Grinch animation.
The answer is simple, of course. He did not (and could not) experience the intimate relationship with this beautiful baby the way that pregnancy had afforded me. I had already felt those kicks (or in my case, contortions) and I had the privilege of experiencing those first hiccups in utero. This is why actively encouraging daddy-baby bonding is so important once your child is born and these tips will help you get started.
Let Him Take the Reins Sometimes
This can be incredibly difficult for a new mom for a myriad of reasons. It is biologically difficult for her to be away from the baby. Often, moms get more (if not the only) work leave in the family and they feel guilty about “passing off” the baby to papa after work. Also, if you are breastfeeding you feel additional obligation to constantly be your baby’s caregiver. Here are some tips to combat these barriers:
- Those hormones making you want to keep your baby in your line of sight at all times are a good thing. They ensure that you take care of your baby. However, it is important for you to recharge and be at your best. Letting papa run things for a couple hours is good for everyone.
- Even if he is working all day so are you. Not only are you taking care of the baby, but your body is also healing. Dad taking care of the baby when he gets home is not “passing off” responsibilities. It is important bonding time that both dad and baby need.
- If you are breast feeding, pump milk so that he can handle some of the midnight feedings. Babies equate being taken care of with love. Allowing papa to be the one feeding helps foster that relationship between them.
Extend That Newfound Baby-Patience to Dad
You will not always see eye-to-eye on how to parent and care for your child. That’s not only okay, it’s good! Let him make some of those decisions even when it’s hard to let go. Be patient with him even if the idea ends up not working out. How can he expect to feel that bond that you do if he doesn’t feel like he is getting any say in what’s best?
Once a Week, Do Something Nice for Him
Has your husband ever gotten a new tool or video game and then spent every free minute he has talking about it or playing with it? Chances are you weren’t too happy about it. Now, while obviously there is a big difference between a game and a baby, the fact remains that those hurt feelings and resentment are similar. It may even be compounded further for him because he may feel guilty for resenting the attention you give the baby. Making an effort to do things that show he is still number one can go a long way to help him.
- Make a comment or send him a text saying you never knew how sexy dads could be until he became one.
- Try to get dressed in something other than sweatpants before he gets home. Even if you still feel like ‘bleck’ and it is only in maternity jeans and a tank top, he will appreciate your effort.
- Make his favorite meal one night. Or, if you don’t feel like cooking (or physically can’t due to healing) order from his favorite restaurant. Try to adjust dinner time that night to when the baby is napping or sleeping so you can focus on each other.
- Send him a card or candy at work. This has the added bonus of making him look super cool to his work buddies.
Let Them Play
This is especially important if dad is nervous around such a tiny, fragile person. Show him games he can play with the baby. Here are some ideas if you need help:
- Dance to the iconic Rocky song. He and baby “dance” on the floor with dad supporting the baby. Bonus if he helps baby learn those fake, warm-up punch things.
- Get a play mat and let papa help baby explore it. Even better, let him pick it out (even if it has a ton of extra things that the baby couldn’t possibly need).
- Don’t be afraid to let him push the bounds a little. So a newborn doesn’t care at all about an O-Ball yet. That doesn’t mean that dad can go ahead and pick up baby’s first little football and attempt to play with it together.
Doing these things will help encourage and grow daddy-baby bonding but they will also help bring your new little family even closer. There is nothing hotter in this world than a caring and devoted father. You may find yourself falling in love all over again.
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