If you’re a brand new Dad finding it difficult to connect with your newborn, you’re not alone. It’s an extremely common way to feel in the first month or two, particularly if your partner has made that immediate connection that mothers often have with their babies.
First thing to do is stop worrying. That connection will come. For me, it took about six weeks with my first, and nearly three months with my second. Babies all develop at different rates; so do Dads. I guarantee your heart will be entirely theirs in due course.
Here’s the thing, though. Your concern is really just your ego, asserting itself on your behalf. Unfortunately, your ego is utterly useless here. For these early days, the role of Dad is strictly a supporting role. Mum is the star. She carried the baby for nine uncomfortable, nauseating, exhausting months. Then she had to birth the damn thing – if you were there for that, you know what an astonishing feat that was. Then, instead of enjoying a well-earned break, she’s on 24-hour feeding duty and only sleeps when the baby does, ie a few hours at a stretch. She’s knackered. She doesn’t care about your difficulty in connecting – in fact the only thing she wants to hear from you are offers of cups of tea / back rubs / chances to sleep uninterrupted for a few blessed hours.
So, here are some ways to help your exhausted partner – and perhaps help kickstart that connection into the bargain.
Learn how to look after the baby on your own.
Feeding can be tricky if bub is breastfeeding and Mum can’t express. If you’re using formula or supplementing its easier for Dad to be involved. Even if you can’t be part of feeding, everything else – changing nappies, bathing, dressing, wrapping, settling – is easy to master. Some of it is actually pretty fun. This being the 21st century, there’s really no valid excuse for not learning & doing these things as often as you can.
Work Dad-baby time into your daily schedule.
Before you get up, bring the baby into your bed for 5-10 mins every morning. If you’re into watching sports, sit bub on your lap whilst watching. If you’re into running, warm up with a quick 5-min walk around the block with bub in the stroller. Soon you’ll look forward to these little moments together – and when bub gets older, he/she will too.
Assign yourself various daily & weekly tasks that involve the baby.
I gave my eldest her first bath at the hospital and have done almost every bath since. Now that she’s nearly two we’ve have a super-fun routine for bathtime, and it’s a highlight of our day. Another example: I take both our girls to my parents’ for a whole day every two weeks, which has the double benefit of getting to spend that time together and giving my wife a much-appreciated day san kids.
Take LOTS of photos and videos.
Now that we all have smartphones everyone does this already, but make sure you actually look at them too. Have bub in your lap whilst watching a video you took two weeks before, and marvel at the difference. Frame and hang a newborn photo above the bassinet so you can compare daily. They grow SO fast. Photos and videos are a great way of appreciating just how fast.
These things will all help build & reinforce the connection between you and your child. Be patient and it’ll happen – and trust me, it’s even better than you think. But the real benefit is spreading the load. Before the baby even came home from the hospital, Mum was kicking your butt in terms of effort applied. Time to even the score a little.
Now stop reading blogs and go do a load of laundry or something…!