When Gary first held his son, it was awkward. The child cried and he didn’t know what to do. It was obvious that his wife already felt a deep affection for this new member of the family. But Gary didn’t know what to say, and there was no rush of emotion, no glow in his eyes.
And it still wasn’t magical after everyone came home from the hospital. That bothered Gary for weeks, even months after his child’s birth. But thankfully, Gary hung in there, kept trying, fought through the frustration and awkwardness, and finally bonded with his baby. If you’re a new dad, you can do it, too. Get in there, get your hands dirty—literally—and get to know your little one.
When a new baby comes into the world, we dads don’t always get the support and encouragement we need to make a smooth transition into fatherhood. It can take time to figure out how to relate to your little bundle of joy. You’re exploring new territory! For the first few months, it may seem like there are few activities you can do together, and if your wife is breastfeeding, you won’t be able to help much with the feeding times.
You already know this, but your child needs you to be involved. Make sure you don’t miss out on those early days. This is where you start habits that will serve you well through the years. Plus, you’ll benefit from soaking in all the joy that comes with being a new dad.
Here are five suggestions for how you can bond with your baby:
Get priorities straight. Take a close look at whether your time management truly reflects what’s most important to you, and recognize that there are few things you’ll ever do in life that will match the significance of building a close relationship with your children. Being a devoted father makes an impact that truly lasts.
Get on your child’s level. Get close to her and talk in gentle tones. Crawl around on the floor a lot. Lie down on your back put him on your chest. And hold her often. Her field of vision is about the distance from your face to the crook of your arm, so you can make eye contact, smile, and talk to her. Let her get familiar and comfortable with you. Helping to care for her is a great way to do that, too. As she grows and develops, you can be her horsey, bridge or jungle gym.
Spend time alone with your baby. It’s good for Mom to get away and have some time to herself, and she needs to learn that she can trust you with the baby. The baby also needs to learn that you’re dependable; he can rely on you to meet his needs. Plus, dad, you probably need practice caring for him alone, dealing with crying, and all of that. Your baby is special, and you need to take it upon yourself to figure out what makes him laugh and smile—funny faces, gentle tickling, favorite toys, and so on. If he does take a bottle occasionally, that’s another great time to jump in.
Be willing to ask for help. You don’t know everything, and you’ll make mistakes. So ask the baby’s mom how to do things. Tell her you know she’s good at this stuff, but you want to learn it too. Talk together about joys and concerns that you have from day to day. Other dads, too, are a great resource. The baby is brand new to you, but you probably have friends with children a few years older than yours. Ask about how they handled things, and any secrets they stumbled on that made a difference.
Finally, remember: one step at a time. Fatherhood is a big responsibility, and sometimes it seems overwhelming. You might look at your baby and envision a star quarterback or a 17-year-old in her prom dress. Don’t worry. There’s plenty of time to prepare for that. Just think about what your baby needs from you today, tomorrow, and maybe a few months down the road.
If you’re committed to be there and meet your baby’s needs, you’ll do fine.