Okay, confession time — I felt a little left out immediately after the birth of my first child. Because they shared such close physical contact for nine months, baby just seemed to naturally gravitate to mama. How could I possibly compete?
It seemed like I was left to hover on the sidelines while baby turned to mommy for all forms of comfort. I, on the other hand, had been relegated to the role of glorified errand boy. I felt about as necessary as an umbilical nubbin. In other words, not very.
Turns out, bonding with baby was entirely within my grasp. All it took was a different approach from mommy's and a little hard work. Well, okay, a lot of hard work. Sure, mommy and baby had a naturally-occurring bond, but I gamely swore I wouldn't let that discourage me.
Don’t be afraid to get close. At first, I was hesitant to even hold my newborn because he seemed so fragile, but I soon discovered that babies are much tougher than they look. After I got over my initial fear, I learned that physical contact, as well as light massage, was a great method for bonding. Skin-to-skin contact, in particular, drew baby and me close. Besides, there's no greater feeling than a warm newborn held directly against your bare chest.
Don’t be afraid to get silly. It became pretty clear, early on, that while mommy equals comfort and security, daddy has the real potential to represent fun and playtime. So, I honed my repertoire of silly faces and funny noises, and soon found a rapt audience in my newborn. Plus, goofing around gave us the opportunity for eye contact -- another bonding method that mommies regularly enjoy while feeding.
And, yes, I even wore my baby in a sling. Other dudes probably snickered at the ridiculous sight of my man-papoose, but I didn't care. I was bonding with my kid AND sporting the ultimate fashion accessory at the same time.
Don’t be afraid to open up: In addition, never underestimate changing diapers as a way to connect with your kid. I had to overcome a bit of squeamishness at first, but eventually dove in up to my elbows (sometimes literally) and discovered it made us closer. Same thing goes for bathing and dressing your newborn. To this day, I never miss an opportunity to do any of these things.I also, with some reluctance, put myself on the late shift. I've stumbled many times in the dark while playing night nurse, but I realized, in some barely-awake portion of my brain, that all the near-broken toes were well worth the opportunity to connect.
When my wife left me alone with baby for the first time, I was nervous, of course, but none of the catastrophes I was expecting actually happened. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised that solo childcare was indeed possible and, as an added bonus, I started developing techniques of my own on the fly. At that point, I think, our bond reached a totally new level.
Point is, it's well within a dad's power to connect with a newborn. We're at a disadvantage, for sure, compared to mommy — they had a head start — but getting involved is the first step. If there's one thing that's true among all others, baby will appreciate the fact that you at least tried. So, get in there and get your hands dirty, new dads. You won't regret it.
Donald S. Deane is the proud papa of three little boys who provide endless amounts of joy and sleep deprivation. He has held a variety of jobs, including college English teacher, newspaper reporter/editor, internet project manager, dishwasher and dogcatcher. Don has written for AOL TV, Moviefone, TheFW, ScreenCrush, GuySpeed, and Arcade Sushi, among others.
Parenting advice is given as a suggestion only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider.