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Proud papa: 7 ways for dad to bond with his newborn baby

Help your hubby and baby form a healthy, loving, close relationship.

Proud papa: 7 ways for dad to bond with his newborn baby

Bonding with your brand-new baby can be overwhelming, and it may not come naturally. No one wants to admit they are having trouble forming an attachment to their baby, because it’s supposed to happen naturally, immediately and intensely—right?


Not for everyone, and that’s okay. Take a breather and give yourself a break. Meredith Small, a cultural anthropologist at Cornell University and author of Our Babies, Ourselves: How Culture and Biology Shape the Way We Parent, told the Seleni Institute:

“Bonding is not instantaneous, but a process—a relationship that grows from being together over time.”

Even though it is admittedly tough for some mothers and fathers to bond with their babies right away, our society assumes that women will bond faster and more deeply with our little ones. Because we are the parent who carries the baby for nine months and are their primary food source, fathers tend to be put into the role of “secondary nurturer.” That doesn’t have to be the case.

How can you help your partner form a connection with the other love of your life? Here are some of our best tips:

Jump right in—together.

A photo posted by Simon (@father_of_daughters) on

Encourage your husband to join you in diving into the world of parenting—even before the baby arrives. Maybe it’s getting to some prenatal appointments, attending a birth class with you, or researching certain baby products you’re both interested in. Anything to make you feel like a parenting team.

And when the baby arrives, let’s face it, it’s hard for anyone to know what they are doing during those first few months of new parenthood, so make a pact to try to figure things out together. Dad can immerse himself in swaddling, soothing and diaper changing, just like mama. Parenting fails are easier to deal with, and parenting successes are sweeter to celebrate, when your teammate is alongside you.

Mama, try not to criticize.

A photo posted by Simon (@father_of_daughters) on

When encouraging dad to jump into caring for your infant, try to back off and give him space. Colleen Campo, a licensed mental health counselor who helps new mothers during this transition to new motherhood, says, “Try to let go a bit, allow your spouse to fumble. It’s okay if the onesie goes on backwards. You don’t need to swoop into to fix that.”

Mothers have been accused of “maternal gatekeeping,” which is when we prevent our partner from caring for the baby on his own without our supervision or expertise. Try to remember that fathers deserve room to grow and learn on their own. But they need space for this. They are going to do some things differently from us, and we need to trust that everything is going to be okay.

Help with feedings, pops.

A photo posted by Simon (@father_of_daughters) on

Campo suggests to “allow the baby to receive a bottle from the husband.” This will help the baby understand that although her mama may be the main source of food, she can also receive nourishment from her dad, too. Dad should cradle her nice and close during the feeding.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests bringing the baby to your wife for feedings, burping the baby after he is done nursing, and cuddling and rocking the baby to sleep afterward. These are all ways to connect with your breastfed child.

Give baby-wearing a try.

Follow this adorable dad’s lead and snuggle baby close to your chest while going on a walk or getting things done around the house. According to American Academy of Pediatrics research, baby-wearing “promotes parent-infant attachment and the baby’s development.” Plus it helps baby feel comfortable and safe.

Let dad soothe.

A photo posted by Simon (@father_of_daughters) on

Campo says mothers should allow their partners room to figure out how to soothe and comfort the baby, too. “Don’t worry if the baby cries more when your spouse is trying to console them. Your baby loves their dad and needs their dad; their crying is a signal that they are sensing something different and new and they are adapting to it.”

Note to dad: Try singing to your baby (anything!), talk to them, make up a silly song—let them hear your voice.

Establish a routine all his own.

Campo says to “encourage your partner to start his own routine or ritual with the baby,” like bath time.

Bath time could be dad and baby’s special time together.

Or maybe it could be an out-of-the-house activity like “taking the baby by himself to Starbucks in the morning, or to swim class,” Campo suggests. “Some sort of ritual that’s going to be his own. And he may need help or encouragement with what that ritual will be.” If that’s the case, feel free to help your spouse find something that can consistently be just for them.

Take paternity leave if possible.

One of the major hurdles a lot of new fathers must face in bonding with their child is finding the time to do so. If your husband gets paternity leave, encourage him to take advantage of it. According to a United States Department of Labor policy brief on paternity leave, “Paternity leave can promote parent-child bonding. Longer paternity leaves are associated with increased father engagement and bonding. This means that dads have more time to bond with a new child, and will be more involved in caring for their children right from the start. This hands-on engagement can set a pattern that lasts long after the leave ends.”

Let’s hope paternity leave becomes the norm for all businesses, big and small. Thank you to companies like Netflix, which offers mothers and fathers a year of paid parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child, Facebook, which offers four months of parental leave, and countless other companies that offer superb parental leave policies. Hopefully even more will follow suit.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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