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Daddy's Little One: The Dad and Baby Bond

Daddy's Little One: The Dad and Baby Bond

Every once in a while, during those first heady days after the birth of my first child, I'd catch myself staring at her, trancelike, marveling at every little thing she did. Of course, it would be quite a while before she actually did anything truly remarkable, but somehow, I found everything miraculous, from the smell of her hair and her delicate hands (complete with outrageously sharp fingernails), to the snarfles and soft breathing when she was awake and the look of pure peace when she slept.

Dad in Training

After a few days of this, I was snapped out of my reverie by a sharp jolt of reality: There was a lot more to being a dad than just looking at my baby. If I really wanted to build the kind of relationship with her that I'd dreamed of, I was going to have to get in there and get my hands dirty (metaphorically, of course. I'd already done a ton of diaper changing...). The problem was that, never having spent much time around babies, I had absolutely no idea what to do. Not being one to ask for help (I know, I know, it's a guy thing), there was really only one way to learn what I needed to learn. So I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and jumped in.

Within minutes, I had an important epiphany: Since my daughter was just as clueless as I was, she was incredibly forgiving. Over the first few weeks of her life I made dozens of mistakes (none life- or health-threatening, I'm happy to say). But I also discovered a few simple ways of interacting with her that she really seemed to enjoy.

The Power of Touch

The first discovery was that she loved it when I held her. She generally preferred my arms, but after they went numb and my back started aching, she was perfectly happy in a baby carrier. She also loved it when I talked to her. At first I felt a little silly about the whole thing ¾ she clearly had no idea what I was saying ¾ but my voice seemed to soothe her. I'd tell her about my day, about what was happening in the news, and what we were seeing when we went out for walks.

One important piece of advice: Because babies' heads are relatively large and their neck muscles aren't very well developed, their heads tend to be pretty floppy for the first few months. So it's critical to be sure to support your baby's head ¾ from behind ¾ at all times, and to avoid sudden or jerky motions.

The Diaper Drill

Another major discovery was that changing her diapers was actually a great way for the two of us to connect. It also gave me an opportunity to rub her soft belly, tickle her knees, and kiss her tiny fingers.

Playing and Growing

Like a lot of new dads, I didn't know much about child development. And I was, frankly, a little disappointed when I found out it would be a long, long time before my daughter would be able to play catch with me. But I learned fairly early on that there were other ways to play with her. I read stories, played peek-a-boo, made faces, and even gently rolled around on the floor with her. The more encouraging I was —whether it was verbally or with smiles and laughter — the more she liked it. But her attention span was shorter than I thought (or hoped) it would be. Five minutes or so was her limit. After that, she'd start crying or fussing, or simply look at me like she was bored out of her mind.

Thinking back on all this with a few years of distance, it was definitely a little scary ¾ and there's no shortage of "shoulda, coulda, woulda." I know that what my daughter and I did together when she was a baby has made a huge difference in my relationship with her.

109 Comments

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Joe 4/24/2016
It is vital to take time off and help mommy out. It is also extremely important for your bond with baby to have as much time home as possible.

Not So Alone

caretaker 4/23/2016
When my daughter was on her way, my wife and I decided that I will stay home with her since I also work from home. Having never been around children before, I was so scared. Mr. Brott describes the feeling very well and he is right: neither the baby or I had a clue about what to do. Our first few months were tough but we learned a lot from each other and have become very close. I think that the fear brings a vulnerability that dad needs to let the child in. I enjoyed reading this, thank you.

Good article for my husband

4/23/2016
My husband was nervous around our daughter for the same reasons. Good for him to know its natural to feel that way and subtle interactions can be impactful.

Growing a Dad

Echo 4/21/2016
My Husband was so nervous everyday of my pregnancy that our son would not bond with him or that my husband would have no clue what to do with our boy, but he is so wrong. I ended up having to get a c-section and during my stitching process I began to feel a lot of pain so they put me under very quickly. This meaning I did not get to do my initial skin to skin contact. When I came too there was dad and Baby shirtless cuddling and smiling at me. Dad is the calming factor in our family since then.

Awwwww

4/20/2016
Feels like our own story.