How Dads Can Connect - and Help - in the Newborn Phase

How Dads Can Connect - and Help - in the Newborn Phase

Equitable parenting starts at birth. Here are the ways fathers can bond with their baby from the start, so that everyone’s doing their share.

Gone are the days when fathers just stood on the sidelines—dads today want to be involved and are interested in everything from learning to swaddle to mastering tummy time. In fact, according to The Pew Research Center, 85% of fathers say being a parent is the most, or one of the most important aspects of who they are as a person, and fathers today spend more time with their kids than any previous generation. 

But bonding with a new baby isn’t always easy, or even natural for some fathers. It can be hard to connect in the beginning, especially from a logistical stance. Sometimes a nursing partner is spending more time with their baby and therefore better in tune with their rhythms. But that doesn’t mean dads can’t create meaningful moments. Doing so can help the nursing partner feel supported. It also improves sleep for new mothers, according to recent research by Nanit Lab, and boosts both the dad’s and baby’s brain development. 

When dads lean in early, they’re also on a path towards equitable parenting - the concept that both parents are true partners in raising their children, as opposed to the silent burden of parenthood falling on the mom. True equitable parenting starts on day one by making routines and plans that give everyone special time with their baby and alone. That way, when logistical challenges kick into high gear later on, you’ve already paved the way for partner involvement. 

To make those first few months as a dad feel extra special, both in the moment and when you look back, consider these tips.

Enjoy skin-to-skin contact

Holding your baby with a bare chest isn’t just for the first day or two! Whip off your shirt at home whenever you can. This kind of contact helps a baby feel safe and helps regulate their temperature and heartbeat. According to the National Institute of Health, skin-to-skin feels so good it can actually help boost the love hormone oxytocin, which creates feelings of love, protectiveness, and contentment.  

Follow their gaze

This may sound silly, but something as simple as following a baby’s eyes —and narrating what they are seeing, can help you bond. Using “parent-ese” can help too, according to experts —that high-pitched, sing-songy voice you tend to use with puppies and babies—as it truly can boost connection with a baby. 

Involve baby in your everyday life

A baby in the family doesn’t mean that the things you like to do have to come to a halt. In fact, one of the best ways to bond with a new baby is to consider your hobbies and activities—and bring them along, says Dane Robinson, a Nanit Ambassador and Fitness Coach. 

It may not seem like much in the beginning, but having your baby in tow as you jog, paint, or stroll a museum—and narrating what’s happening as much as possible—can create a stronger bond, not to mention keep you involved in what makes you tick. “Until they are more interactive, it’s important to find what you enjoy and include them in it,” says Robinson. 

Whether you have your baby in a stroller or worn close to you on your chest, you’re together. Oh, and about babywearing: it’s a fantastic way to bond while you can still get things done, hand’s free, and there’s a carrier out there to suit everyone’s preference. 

Create rituals

Sure, every day can feel like Groundhog Day with a new baby. Feed, burp, soothe, diaper change, repeat. But what if you find other, more meaningful rituals to add to the routine? Perhaps you create a custom playlist of your favorite songs to accompany your stroller walks. Those strolls will become a beloved ritual. Or, if you walk the dog while your partner showers or has their morning prep time, bring your baby along with you. It’s a way to start the day together that’s calm and special and lets you be present in the moment while with your child, says Robinson. Walking in the morning also has the added benefit of helping to set your circadian rhythm and trigger your soothing reflex.

Read to them

Reading to infants early on can be a powerful way to connect with your infant. Through the rhythmic cadence of your voice, you're not only fostering language development but also a consistent routine that lets your partner off the hook for a while. Choose books with large, simple pictures and rhymes or repetitive phrases to captivate their attention. Make it interactive by pointing to pictures, making funny noises, or using different voices for characters. Your baby may not understand the words yet, but they'll be comforted by the sound of your voice. Plus, establishing a reading routine early on sets the foundation for a lifelong love of books and learning. What’s better than that?

Lean on parenting tech

You may not be nursing around the clock, but there’s plenty you can do straight from your phone. These days, a wealth of organizational tools exist to help track your baby’s behavior (think all of Nanit’s auto-capturing capabilities) as well as the logistical needs of your family.  At our most recent Parent Like a Pro Summit, Michael Perry, Founder and CEO at Maple, a logistics and scheduling app, and Nanit Founder and CTO Tor Ivry discussed the benefits of AI and other tech solutions in automating certain elements of parenting, so that we can focus on what we love to do (hint: hang with our kids) and let our apps work on the other stuff. It’s never too soon to create your family flow. 

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    Whatever you do to bond with your baby and create a routine that works for your family, remember that there is no one right way to do it, and every Dad has his own way of creating special moments. So long as it feels right and fits into your life—that’s the very best plan.

    Nanit is dedicated to delivering high-quality, reliable content for our readers. Our Parent Confidently articles are crafted by experienced parenting contributors and are firmly rooted in data and research. To ensure the accuracy and relevance of the content, all articles undergo a rigorous review process by our team of parenting experts. Additionally, our wellness-related content receives further scrutiny from Nanit Lab, our think tank of scientists, engineers, physicians, academic experts, and thought leaders.

    Our primary objective is to furnish readers with the most current, trustworthy, and actionable information concerning a host of parenting topics. We strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions by offering comprehensive and respected insights.

    In pursuit of transparency and credibility, our articles incorporate credible third-party sources, peer-reviewed studies, and abstracts. These sources are directly linked within the text or provided at the bottom of the articles to grant readers easy access to the source material.

    CONTRIBUTORS

    Natalie Barnett, PhD serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.

    Kristy Ojala is Nanit’s Digital Content Director. She spends way too much time looking at maps and weather forecasts and pictures of Devon Rex cats and no-cook dinners. A former sleep champion, she strives to share trustworthy somnabulism tips with other parents—praying for that one fine day when no tiny humans wake her up while it’s still dark out. Her kids highly recommend 3 books, approximately 600 stuffies, Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” and the Nanit Sound + Light for bedtime success.

    Mackenzie Sangster is on the Brand and Community team at Nanit. She supports content development and editing for Nanit’s Parent Confidently blog as well as other marketing initiatives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends, cooking, being active, and using the Pro + Flex Duo to keep an eye on her fur-baby, Poppy!

    Holly Hays is a contributor and writer for Nanit, channeling her years as a mama and former magazine editor to create fun, useful content for fellow busy, trying-to-do-their-best parents and caregivers. Holly has written for a wide range of brands and media outlets (Ergobaby, HGTV, Manhattan Toy Company, OXO), loves to cook and read mystery novels, and leans heavily on her two daughters to keep her up to date on all the latest slang.