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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.

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."

Don't fret that you won't be able to soothe your baby because you don't smell like mother's milk. Dads have a knack for handling their babies thanks to certain manly traits. "Dads have a very special role to play in nurturing and calming down a fussy baby," Hill says. "Sometimes, if you have larger, stronger hands, you can specialize in making a nice, tight swaddle. Babies like to be gently vibrated or jiggled -- never shaken -- and a dad's knee is a great place to experience that sensation. And babies often calm down to the sound of a deep voice. So singing, humming, or speaking calmly can help."

Find a task you love and use it to deepen your relationship with your baby. Sean Folkson of White Plains, N.Y., took bedtime duty when his toddler son was born, and the special time they spend together each night has brought them closer.

"Early on, I took every opportunity to help him get to sleep," Folkson says. "Whether it was a nap on my shoulder or I was putting him down in his crib while singing a lullaby, we were bonding during those precious moments."

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Reviewed on September 17, 2014

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