How partners can bond with a new baby
With childbirth and breast feeding, mum can quickly bond with her new baby. But that doesn’t mean partners have to miss out.
What is bonding
Bonding refers to an intense feeling of protective love often felt by parents towards their baby. While bonding is natural, some people – especially dads or other partners – can find it takes a while. Don’t worry; this is perfectly natural.
The key to bonding is spending close intimate time with your baby. As a partner to the baby’s mum, even if you don’t know what to do at first, in a few days or weeks you’ll be amazed at the new rush of feelings you’ll experience.
To kick you off in the right direction, here are some tips to starting to bond with the new little one in your life.
5 bonding ideas for partners
1. Hands-on help
Just like mum, the best way to learn is by doing. So get right into the day-to-day activities of caring for your new little one. From bathing, changing and dressing to playing and settling your little one. Muddle through and you’ll soon find yourself looking forward to these one-on-one times. It helps to strengthen your mutual bonds and mum gets a break too, which is a plus!
2. Physical touch
When you touch, stroke, pat or hold your baby, feelings of trust and connection develop in your little one. Even when you’re feeling tired, just lay your bub on your chest; hearing your heartbeat is also comforting, as it’s a familiar sound from when they were in the womb. You can also do skin to skin which not only means baby hears your heartbeat, but they adjust their temperature better and recognise your smell.
3. Talk to your baby
This can feel weird at first, but talking quietly to your baby helps foster feelings of safety and familiarity. Remember, your baby already knows your voice from their time in the womb. Just narrate what you’re doing together: “Should we go for a walk? Yes, let’s do that. Up into the pram you go. Are you nice and comfy? Right, where should we go? I know, let’s go to the park…” Every word your little one hears will help with language and learning development. If you get stuck, reading, telling stories and singing has the same effect.
4. Help with feeding
Breast milk is the best food for your baby, and if mum is finding it difficult or painful, your support can go a long way. Support can be practical: a glass of water or a pillow perhaps. Or you could offer moral support: encouragement, praise, offers to source external help and reassurance are worth their weight in gold.
After a while, mum might choose to express breast milk and store it for later. This gives partners the unique opportunity to actually be the one doing the feeding. Take a night shift, or encourage your partner to go out for a meal with friends. Meanwhile, you’ll be tightening your bond and getting closer to your baby.
5. Be confident
If your partner has her own way of doing things, it can sometimes lead to disagreements if you prefer a different approach. Let your partner know that she can relax, and show that you are able to take charge and do things properly. Over time, both your partner and your baby will trust you to take the initiative and be an equal partner in looking after your bub. Plus, it gives you more one-on-one time with baby.
Look after yourself
Just like new mums, partners need to look after themselves. A good diet, rest when possible and teamwork means you’ll be better able able to look after your baby and support your partner.
Studies suggest around 10 per cent of Australian dads and partners suffer from postnatal depression, usually around 3 to 6 months into parenthood. If you’re not feeling yourself, feeling impulsive, cranky, anxious, worthless or disinterested, thinking about harming yourself or others, or relying on drugs or alcohol to cope, have a chat with a GP to see if there’s anything that could help.