Being a new parent is a difficult, yet rewarding task for everyone in the house. While many moms may instinctively take charge from the moment of birth, new dads sometimes stand aside wondering what they can do to be involved.
Armin Brott, author of “Ask Mr. Dad”, knows a few things about being a great dad. In honor of Father’s Day this week, and for new dads everywhere, we’ve collected his list of ways dads can nurture and bond with their new babies.
Skin To Skin
Get plenty of one-on-one time with the baby for activities that provide regular skin-to-skin contact. Things like changing diapers, cuddling, putting to bed, bathing, and even just sitting in a chair reading while the baby naps on your shirt-less chest are great Just be sure to put baby down if you get sleepy! These give you and your baby a chance to be alone together and create your own relationship. The more this happens, the more you’ll feel confident in your own abilities as a parent.
Even if you can’t do the skin-to-skin thing, spend time with your baby just hanging out. Take him for walks in the stroller, put him in a front-pack and go grocery shopping, any activity you can think of to be together.
Bottle Feed your Breastfed Baby
If you decide to go this route, wait a few weeks before introducing the bottle so your baby will have a chance to get completely comfortable with nursing. Don’t push your spouse too hard on this one; many women find expressing milk uncomfortable or even painful.
Try not to take it personally if your baby seems less than interested in taking a bottle from you. Once they’ve gotten used to their mother’s nipples, some babies get a little surprised when presented with a plastic one. Others may simply refuse to take a bottle at all—probably just on principle. But don’t give up. Plastic nipples, like real ones, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. You may have to do a little experimenting before you and your baby discover the kind she likes best.
Support Your Partner
Support your partner any way you can. The current thinking among pediatricians is that women should try to breastfeed for at least six months. Interestingly, studies have shown that the more supportive their partners, the longer women breastfeed and the more confident they feel in their ability to do so. Think of yourselves as a breastfeeding team—mom may be the only one who can breastfeed, but your help makes it easier.
Get Some Practice
Some new dads have already been around a baby through friends or family. If you haven’t, get some practice. Don’t assume that your partner magically knows more than you do. Whatever she knows about raising kids, she’s learned by doing, just like anything else. Take a birthing class together, babysit for a friend’s baby, or find a dad’s group online or in your community—they are sprouting up everywhere! Practice makes perfect—or at least it can make you more comfortable when your baby arrives.
Ultimately, if you don’t start taking the initiative, you’ll never be able to assume the child-rearing responsibilities you want and deserve. If you find yourself in a situation where Mom looks like she could use a break, try a few lines such as: “I think I can handle things” or “That’s okay, I really need the practice.” There’s also nothing wrong with asking your partner for advice. You both have insights that the other could benefit from; have her tell you how instead of doing it for you.
Value The “Dad Things” You Like Doing
Men and women have different ways of interacting with their children—both are equally important to your child’s development. Don’t let anyone tell you that wrestling, playing “monster,” or other so-called guy things are somehow not as important as the “girl things” your partner may do. Your child will remember those interactions specific to Dad forever.
Get Involved in the Details
Get involved in the day-to-day decisions that affect your kids’ lives. This means making a special effort to share with your partner such responsibilities as meal planning, food and clothes shopping, cooking, taking the kiddies to the library or bookstore, getting to know their friends’ parents, and planning play dates. Not being involved in these things can give the impression that you don’t think they’re important or that you’re not interested in being involved.
Communicate Your Commitment
If you don’t like the status quo, let your partner know, but be gentle. If at first she seems reluctant to share the role of child nurturer with you, don’t take it too personally. Men are not the only ones society has done a bad job of socializing. Many women have been raised to believe that if they aren’t the primary caregivers—even if they work outside the home—they’ve somehow failed as mothers.
It’s in everyone’s best interest for you to do everything you possibly can to become an involved father. It’s not easy, but the rewards—for you, your children, and your partner—are incalculable.
Bonus Tip from The Sleep Lady:
If you and your partner decide to sleep coach your baby or child, being a united front is essential! That is why when I work with a family I have the initial consultation with both parents. You can support each other and tag team when needed, while having the shared goal of improving the whole family’s sleep.
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