Written by: theworkingparent
Bonding with your baby is not necessarily an automatic thing for either men or women. New Dads have not carried their child about for nine months, so the moment of birth holds a special significance for them – it is the first real physical experience they have of their child. Bombarded with questions about what it’s like to be a Dad, many will respond on auto-pilot with gushing replies about how wonderful it all is. This is true for many men, but for others the process of bonding can take longer.
Fatherhood brings with it a whole bunch of fears and pressures for many men, alongside the pride and joy they are experiencing. An atavistic sense of protection and the need to provide for their family can feel incredibly burdensome. The birthing process can make many men feel helpless, and seeing Mum so utterly, and necessarily absorbed with her new charge can leave Dad wondering where he fits into this new reality. Insecurity is very common among new fathers. Add exhaustion and emotional fatigue into the mix, and it’s no surprise that paternal bonding may not be an instant hit.
Making Time for Dad
New mothers, especially those who are breastfeeding, typically spend a lot of time with their newborn baby. Boosted by post-natal endorphins and mood-elevating hormones, those mothers who are mercifully unaffected by post-natal depression have an undeniable head start in the bonding stakes.
It is important for new Dads not to resent this important bonding time between Mum and baby, but equally vital is the need to make time every day for Dad to have one-on-one time with their newborn. This is when paternal bonding can really kick-in if it hasn’t already. Few can fail to be moved by the charm offensive of a wriggling, gurgling bundle that gazes so adoringly into your eyes. With enough time, most Dads will be bonded, wrapped and helplessly in love with their new baby.
What do the Experts Say?
Studies have shown that Dad’s who are present at the birth and are able to hold their newborn early on can experience deep feelings of attachment to their baby. A lot of research has been done in this area, and most of it indicates that Dads who maximise their opportunities for physical and emotional closeness with their babies in the early months find it easier to establish a strong relationship with their child as they grow.
Various studies have also revealed that many Dads experience fluctuations in their own hormone levels in the run up to the birth of their baby, with testosterone levels falling, and prolactin and cortisol levels rising. While these changes may be unseen, they lend weight to the argument that Dads experience pregnancy more physically than was previously thought, and these internal changes are thought to assist with the attachment and bonding process.
How to Bond
There was a funny pic doing the rounds of Facebook the other day, showing a comparison between a Mum alone with her baby (cooing and nibbling toes) and a Dad alone with his baby (squidging its face gently together to make a funny shape). This graphic humour apparently reflects reality, as scientists have found that after the first few mad weeks following birth, mothers tend to bond with their babies through quiet, verbal interactions, where fathers will tend to indulge in more gentle physical playfulness. Ultimately, Mums and Dads alike are more likely to bond by being natural with their baby, and showing love in the best way they know how.
The first 2-3 months of life with a newborn are pretty thankless. Endless rounds of feeding, nappy-changing and sleepless nights can leave may Dads (and Mums!) wondering why they bothered at all. And then your tiny baby does something amazing. They smile. They giggle. They Start to Respond. It is at this point that the ‘Why?’ behind all the effort falls into place for many men, and when the bonding process becomes complete.