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Health & Baby

New Dads: How to Bond With Your Baby

Build a strong connection with your newborn before the arrival and in those early days of parenthood.
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Worry Less continued...

"It's not a competition," Caroline DiBattisto, assistant professor of pediatrics at Georgia Health Sciences University, says. "Parents should support each other and work together as a team. It's important for dads to relax, be themselves, help Mom out, spend time with the baby, and enjoy this special time."

Pitching in will give you confidence as a new parent.

"I think a lot of dads feel nervous that babies are fragile and they're somehow going to do something wrong. But I promise they won't," Borman-Shoap says. "Don't worry about being perfect. The worst thing that happens if you change a diaper wrong is someone gets poop or pee on them. You wash it off, try again, and laugh about it. You need to get right in there and try it."

If your newborn was adopted or carried by a surrogate, you may feel that you should do something extra to encourage the bonding process. But this isn't necessary. "Children respond to comfort, to being loved," Diamond says. "They feel it. They sense it."

Get in Touch

During the first days and weeks of your baby's life, the power of touch can bring you closer. Hold your baby whenever possible. Stroke her back. Rock her gently in your arms. "Bonding has as much to do with contact as involvement," Hill says. "If you're in contact with your baby, the bond will occur."

Many hospitals encourage kangaroo care: placing your baby, wearing only a diaper, against your bare chest. "Lying skin to skin with your baby is great for moms and dads to do," Borman-Shoap says. "Babies are comforted by the up-and-down movement of your chest when you're breathing. They hear your heartbeat, and it helps them keep their body temperature regulated, especially for tiny babies in the NICU."

Wear Many Hats

Is your partner breastfeeding the baby? Obviously, you can't pinch hit there. But you can nourish your baby in other ways.

"Feeding is an important part of taking care of a baby, but it's not the only thing," DiBattisto says. "Dads can help with bathing, dressing, and changing diapers. They can read to, snuggle with, and hold their children. Dads can also pick up and bring the baby to Mom for feedings, which would be much appreciated in the middle of the night, then take the baby back for burping."

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