The Vital Role of Father

photo of baby holding person's fingers

Part 1 – Creating Positive Connections with Your New Baby

As parents plan for the arrival of the new baby, it is often difficult for the fathers to have much sense of involvement or even ownership of the baby as theirs. They do not experience the morning sickness or feel the baby kick. Contraction pain in labor is a foreign sensation. While they can provide empathy and encouragement, it is often hard for many fathers to completely relate or truly understand what the mother is experiencing.

Unfortunately, if fathers are not encouraged to become involved during pregnancy, it can often affect their level of involvement with their new baby. Developing their own bond and connection with their child is vital, not only for the growing baby, but for that new father. Let’s take a look at some practical ways that new fathers can invest in the lives of the new arrival in the family:

Learning how to Comfort the Newborn

Fathers should take the time to get to know their little one in the earliest hours after birth. Cradling, soothing and talking to the baby are easy ways to begin the bonding process. Very often, fathers will learn to develop their own unique ways of soothing their baby. It can be very empowering to a new father to see that he also has the ability to comfort his new son or daughter in those early days and weeks after birth. This boosts his confidence and builds the connection he has with his baby. The key is that he does need to have the opportunity to do this without any interference from the mother.

Participating in Care of Baby

Even routine things such as changing diapers, bathing and burping newborns are opportunities to build connections with the baby. . At first, fathers may balk at these seemingly mundane activities since they can be messy and the baby may fuss. Overtime, however, fathers will see that as the baby gets used to these routines, they are wonderful opportunities for interaction. Changing a diaper places the baby’s face just below yours and is a perfect distance for vision and communication. Fathers who begin this early, will soon find that changing a diaper can lead easily to game-playing, laughing and positive interactions that can last until the child is potty-trained.

Participate in Feedings

If the mother is breastfeeding, fathers can participate by burping the baby. If the baby is about 3-4 weeks of age and breastfeeding is well-established and going very well, fathers can offer to give the mother a break from nursing by giving the baby a bottle of pumped breastmilk. This would likely be very appreciated during one of the nighttime feedings!

Not only does this provide fathers with an opportunity to give the mother a well-deserved break, but it can give the father a great sense of satisfaction to be participating in feeding his baby the most nutritious and healthy food available on the planet for babies!

Continuing to Make Connections with Your Child

As your newborn grows and changes week by week, the need for interaction and connection with fathers is just as, if not more important. What are ways that fathers can continue to build on those early interactions from the newborn period?

Reading to Your Child

Babies as young as a few months old do enjoy repetitive phrases, especially things with a sing-song element such as nursery rhymes. Though a baby’s attention span may vary from only a few minutes to as long as 30-45 minutes as they reach a year or two, reading to your child is not only a great way to interact and grow connections, but combines visual stimulation, with learning language. In some cases, early and consistent reading to your child can actually increase their abiility to learn to read at a much earlier age.

Fathers who spend this quality time of reading to their babies will very soon come to enjoy and anticipate the richness of this activity. What better way to have a connection with your baby than to stimulate their learning at the same time!

Take an Active Role in Parenting Decisions

It is not uncommon for mothers to assume a more active role in parenting than fathers. This can be a natural tendency for many mothers, however it should never take place without input and participation from fathers. It is important during pregnancy for both parents to discuss vital issues regarding parenting. Some of the important issues that warrant discussion include where the baby sleeps, should you allow the baby to cry, discipline, to name a few. Fathers can and should play an important role in making parenting decisions. It is crucial that both parents agree on how to parent their children and they both are consistent in carrying out parenting activities. A child learns very quickly when there is inconsistencies between parents and will use this to their advantage!

Find Special Activities that Grow and Change with Your Child

As a new father, you may be diapering your baby at first. Then you might find pleasure in singing songs before bedtime with your infant or toddler. Then later you might have a ritual of reading their favorites books at the same time every day. As they grow, your son or daughter will have many other activities that fathers can participate in such as sports, game-playing, fishing or other shared hobbies. It is important to recognize that the child’s need for a connection with their father is still vital, regardless of the child’s age.

Fathers should not make the mistake of thinking that the child does not need to spend as much time with them as they get older. In fact, as your son or daughter enters middle school (which is often the time that parents relax on “rules” since the child is much more independent and self-sufficient), the need for a strong, male role model is never more important. Fathers should continue to pursue and initiate activities that are age-appropriate to share with their son or daughter as they mature.

Take Time to Pause and Enjoy the Special Moments

We are only given about 18 years with our children. This represents only about 1/4 of our lives. Fathers should remember during the sleepless nights with their newborn that “this too will pass.” As your baby grows from week to week, huge changes are taking place in their development that will never occur a second time. Fathers need to periodically stop their busy lives and work schedules, take a day off from work if needed, and think about the beautiful moments that may come quite spontaneously. You will never remember the day you worked overtime, but you might remember the day you took your toddler to the zoo and their look of pure joy at seeing animals for the first time!

If you are a new (or old) father, what are some practical things you did to get to know and interact with your baby? Share them with us.

If you are a new (or old) father, what are some practical things you did to get to know and interact with your baby? Share them with us.

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