Did you know that dads also experience a hormonal rush around the time your baby is born? Research out of the Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, and Bar-Itan University in Israel have found that men also have a surge of bonding hormones. The Canadian study found that men experience a shift in their levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, as well as prolactin around the time of birth, while the research out of Israel found that men experience a rise in oxytocin, which also increases the bonding process. Dr William Sears, childcare expert for over 40 years, the father of eight children and author of more than 40 books, shares that in recent years, fathers have been the subject of bonding research. This has given rise to a special term that encompasses the dad and baby relationship at birth – father engrossment. “Engrossment is not only what the father does for the baby – holding and comforting – but also what the baby does for the father. Dad and baby bonding right after birth brings out sensitivity in the dad.”
What is important is that your partner will have a unique way of relating to your baby, and your baby will thrive on this difference. Sears adds: “Studies on father bonding show that fathers who are given the opportunity and are encouraged to take an active part in caring for their newborns can become just as nurturing as mothers. A father’s nurturing responses may be less automatic and slower to unfold than a mother’s, but fathers are capable of a strong bonding attachment to their infants during the newborn period.”
Here’s how you can create those special bonding moments:
Get involved in feeding time
If you are breastfeeding, this is probably your special time with your baby. However, your partner can be involved in the process. In the early days, he can bring your baby to you to feed, and help with burping after. If you are bottlefeeding or expressing, he can take over the late-night feed. This way you also can get some much-needed sleep.
Create cuddle time
Newborns give the best cuddles. Create a time and space for your partner to relax in the evening with your new baby on his chest. This way, he gets to quiet his mind and just be with your baby and you get to have a bath or a breather.
Bath time bonding
Involve your partner in the evening bath routine. Either have him bath with your baby, or the two of you can bath your little one together. There is something soothing and special about water, that helps calm even the most fractious of babies. Plus, this allows for chest to skin bonding for your baby and partner, which in turn has bonding and health benefits for both.
Start a family ritual
Encourage your partner to read a bedtime story each night as part of the bedtime ritual from as early as possible. Not only is this a great way for your baby to get familiar with his dad’s voice and be soothed by it, but it also creates a special time for the two of them that can continue right through childhood. Perhaps he would prefer to make up his own story, or tell your son about his day – a special time staring into each other’s eyes and getting to know each other a bit better.
Ask him to help you in the morning
Mornings are usualy crazy busy in any household. One way to get him involved is to have him change the nappy and get your baby dressed after the early morning feed. Or have them enjoy a quick cuddle before work, while you have the opportunity to get yourself ready for the day. Everyone’s morning schedule is different, so find what works for you.
Let them get on with it
It’s very easy to want to step in and take over when you think your oartner isn’t holding your baby correctly, or isn’t doing something the way you would. But just by letting them be, they will find their own routine and way of doing things. Take a step back and enjoy.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday. You can learn more about Kim Bell here.