The 21st century has ushered in countless dads who, from day one, jump right into their roles as fathers. But even though the societal role has evolved beautifully, that doesn't mean all the day-to-day details come naturally. Of course this can be the case with moms too, but women tend to have had at least some experience with babies, whether it's having played with dolls as a child, babysitting as a teen, or having friends and colleagues with babies. It can be a challenge for new fathers to sort out what to do in those first few newborn weeks and months, especially if mom is breastfeeding. But there are plenty of ways for dad to get involved beyond running errands, picking up slack on chores and handing over the baby for feeding. Here are just a few:
Stay connected: It can be tough for dads to return to work when his new family is at home together. In order to get in on the bonding, Dad should call, email, or text to check in during the day to see how everyone is doing. (And if Mom has time, she could send a photo of baby his way.)
Change diapers: Right from the beginning parents should alternate diaper changes. Not only is it fair, it's just another opportunity for bonding, speaking softly, or singing to baby -- baby will learn to find comfort in the sound of Dad's voice.
Give baths: A lot of moms I've worked with have handed the bath time ritual completely to dads and it's not a bad idea! At the very least, Dad should take part in bathing, as it will help baby get used to and feel comforted by Dad's unique touch. Bathing a newborn can be intimidating at first, but after a few gentle practice rounds, it'll be second nature and yet another way to connect.
Read books: I cannot emphasize this enough -- it's never too early to start reading with your baby. It's a wonderful way for dads to interact intimately at this early stage when there aren't a lot of options for playtime. It'll also help instill a lifetime love of reading. You don't even have to read baby books at first -- just cuddle up together and read anything you like!
Wear baby: One of the reasons babies are so comforted by their moms is because they have physically felt their movement rhythms for nine months and once born, instantly gravitate toward their smell and feeling. Dad can help develop a similar sense of comfort by wearing baby in a carrier. They don't have to be going anywhere necessarily, just walking or dancing gently around the house will do. The same goes for holding and cuddling with baby -- this will allow baby to come to know and love the feeling and scent that is Dad.
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