Dads, you’re not alone if you’re feeling out of bounds with your newborn. I know life with a new baby can be overwhelming, particularly for new dads. This Father’s Day, I want to emphasize the importance of daddy-baby bonding with your newborn. Daddy-baby bonding is a topic that is not discussed enough but needs to be addressed. Did you know father-infant bonding is just as important as a mother-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period? It is vitally important for a father to interact and bond with his newborn to help the infant’s development and to reduce the risk of paternal postpartum depression. That’s correct. Postpartum depression is not exclusive to new moms. Delayed bonding over the course of the first couple of months can increase the risk of paternal postpartum depression.
According to a new study published in Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN), from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), when fathers delay bonding with their newborns, they risk altering the long-term course of paternal involvement as the infant progresses throughout childhood and adolescence. In addition, fathers “reported that they didn’t start to experience fatherhood until birth” while, mothers reported that they started to experience motherhood as soon they received news that they were pregnant. This difference has an effect on the amount of time it takes for a mother and a father to feel a loving connection and bond with their newborn. Most fathers enter parenthood expecting an immediate emotional bond with their newborns, but many report that forming that bond takes time.
Moms can help by encouraging dad’s involvement with their newborn. As a mom, I know that we have a ‘take charge” approach with our infants but this attitude can have negative effects on dads. Fathers have reported delayed onset of feeling bonded with their infants for as long as 6 weeks to 2 months after birth. In an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors reviewed 43 studies on depression in new fathers. They found that prenatal and postpartum depression was evident in about 10% of men in their studies and was relatively higher in the 3- to 6-month postpartum period. We can help fathers reduce the risk of paternal postpartum depression by getting them more involved with their newborns from the time of birth.
Successful father-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period has been shown to have several benefits for the infant: it reduces cognitive delay, promotes weight gain in preterm infants, and improves breastfeeding rates. Dads can start to bond with their newborns by practicing these tips found in AWHONN’s magazine Healthy Mom&Baby:
- Jump right in. Don’t be afraid to begin immediately caring for and loving your baby. The more you hold your baby, the more comfortable and natural it will feel
- Take a night shift. Once mom is breastfeeding well, she may want to let you give the baby a nighttime meal. This way she can get more sleep and you will have the opportunity to bond with your newborn
- Read your newborn a book. Your newborn will enjoy the rhythm and pace of your voice while you read a book. In the early months, it’s not about what you’re reading; it’s about reading itself
- Initiate the bath. Bathing your newborn will enhance bonding and provide a multi-sensory learning experience.
- Create a bedtime ritual. Infants will learn to depend on the consistency and predictability of a nighttime routine.
Whether this is your first or your second father’s day, absorbing these new bonding techniques will help bring you and your newborn together in a powerful way.