Parenthood comes with a lot of unexpected challenges and jobs to do (holy mother of god, so. many. jobs) but it also comes with an incredible bond that we hope can guide us. The bond between parent and child can’t be taken for granted - it’s a relationship that needs to be created, with time and energy and effort.
There’s a lot of societal expectations around moms being “natural” at bonding, and you get told that your mother’s instinct will help you know what to do.
While I don’t necessarily buy that, there’s some biological stuff that isn’t going to change and a lot of moms will have carried that new baby inside them creating a sense of connection early on. But what about babies born by surrogate or adoptive moms, or step-parents or dads?! The more love and good vibes you can give that baby the better it is for everyone. If babies feel safe and comforted by more than one caregiver, the less pressure there is on just one individual to solve every issue that comes up.
So here are five ways to bond, as a Dad (or a mom!) with your baby.
Go skin-to-skin - whenever!
Babies are non-judgmental humans with no body issues - they are totally on board with a dad bod. We think they probably prefer it, actually. Slip out of that dad hoodie, lay the baby across your chest, and do whatever! Babies love chilling and watching TV, or playing video games with you - they're super nice like that!
When a mom is breastfeeding, that baby is all up in her business and personal space. Any parent can totally (or not totally - but chapped nipples aren't anything you need to experience) recreate this intense form of bonding while bottle-feeding. Hold baby in the same position and make some serious eye contact with the new person you’ve created. And remember, don’t blink. (Just kidding! Blinking’s cool - probably?)
Get that baby all clean and shiny!
Bath time is great for bonding - especially if your baby doesn’t hate the water. (That’s a little hit-or-miss, so if your baby screams when you get them near the water, feel free to skip this one) If you have a water baby, take them into the shower or bath with you - or just bathe them in a kitchen sink, old school style.
Reading to a baby is great for language development, sure, but hearing your voice and the rhythms of speech is soothing and comforting - and great for bonding. Top tip: Pick books that you actually enjoy reading. We liked Julia Donaldson for our little guys. These are genuinely fun to read for everyone (Sorry, Usborn, I don’t care who’s hedgehog, unicorn, bear, etc. that is. Feel free to stop pumping those titles out anytime, btw.)
Just do what you love to do - and bring along your new sidekick!
Now not every hobby is appropriate for this - maybe skip the axe throwing - but there are a lot of activities and hobbies that can be modified to be baby-friendly. Grab your game controller, throw on a movie, head into the garden, and put on your baby wearing contraption. You can do (almost) anything with a baby - you basically just need the right tools!
Here’s the secret: Bonding doesn’t feel natural to every mom either. We’re all googling shit and trying to figure this whole thing out. We’re all just setting the foundation that will lead to so many days packed with fun, dad jokes, silly games, camping trips, bicycle rides, and whatever else you and your buddy get into!