Parenting is way easier on a mother with an extra pair of hands on standby, but most dads have a tough time ingratiating themselves to their babies – especially early in their little ones’ lives.
Babies are born bonded to their mothers. The same can’t be said for fathers, or at least not nearly to the same extent. Dads need to earn their baby’s trust through time and hard work. It’s an uphill battle, but bonding with your child is one of the most rewarding experiences for any parent.
Don’t overwhelm your baby – let them ease into their dad’s company. You want to increase how much quality time the two spend together. This quality time doesn’t need to be restricted to just care-taking duties, so be sure to incorporate a bit of leisure into their shared routines.
It’s normal for a baby to cry with their dad, but it shouldn’t be normalized. A bit of persistence will go a long way towards cultivating a healthy, comfortable dynamic between father and child.
Don’t Rush The Bond
It’s tempting to think of this problem as something to be solved promptly. Tackling it this way is very likely to leave things worse than they began – we’ll go over how below.
There could be dozens of reasons as to why your baby cries with their dad. None of these are due to personal shortcomings or any sort of failure. It’s simply a problem of exposure and familiarity, so don’t take your child’s response personally.
Think of it this way: your baby doesn’t really know their dad. It’s like meeting a stranger – you won’t always like them at first. You get to know them after a while, but it always takes some time.
You can’t force a good relationship to develop at the pace you want it to. This isn’t just a problem to solve, but a person to win over.
For example, you might consider leaving your baby with their dad for a whole day. Since they’d be dependent on them, surely your baby ought to start liking their new caretaker immediately!
In reality, your baby would spend a long time crying for their mother. They’d feel unsafe with their current company because don’t have that bond. It won’t matter that they’re flesh and blood.
Your baby would be placed on the spot here, complying out of necessity rather than comfort. Some might not even comply at all, overwhelmed and anxious due to separation from their mother.
Ease them into daddy’s company, little by little. Leave the baby in their dad’s care only for as long as you need to – like if you need to go to the bathroom and freshen up. These little moments will add up eventually.
For the first few attempts, make sure that you’re close to your child while their dad plays with them. Your child needs to realize that they can be comfortable around other people, but they won’t pick up on that if they’re frantically searching for their mommies!
Let Them Feed The Baby
Once dad can hold the baby without them crying on contact, let them bottle feed from time to time. Feeding time is one of the best bonding opportunities people can share with babies. It involves close, cuddly contact with your infant for a long stretch of about fifteen to twenty minutes.
While feeding, a lot of babies have issues swallowing air. This can lead to more gas in their little bodies, which occasionally manifests as stomach pain or cholic.
Make sure to teach daddy how to feed the baby properly. Teach them to always hold the bottle at an angle, rather than directly downwards. This reduces how much milk flows out of the bottle, allowing the baby to better control their pace while making them less likely to cough at a bad time.
We’d also recommend having them switch sides every five or so minutes. This gives the baby time to catch their breath while letting the parents rest their aching arms for a bit. Doing so also provides the baby with a different view, alleviating some of their potential boredom.
Keep Mommy Out
While it’s generally a good idea to have both parents in the room, this rule does not apply to feeding time. Babies can smell breastmilk off their mothers, and won’t settle for anything less in their presence. They will refuse a bottle feed at this time – even if the bottle is filled with breastmilk!
In these situations, it’s ideal for mommy to leave the room. This private feeding time is one of the best bonding activities a father and baby can share, but it usually won’t go smoothly at first.
It’s best to have a bit of trust built between the two by this point, but perseverance matters most here. Your baby should calm down and start feeding in about five minutes at most. If they continue crying, it may not be wise to push it – let mommy give it a go. You can try again next time.
Teach Dad How to Hold Them Properly
You’re trying to make your infant comfortable here – the first thing they will notice is how you hold them. Or rather, how they feel while being held by you.
Holding an infant the right way is crucial, as their bodies are soft, frail, and developing. An awkward or bad hold could cause significant discomfort, and may even strain their neck and shoulder muscles in extreme cases.
A bawling baby is difficult to calm down at the best of times, even in their beloved mother’s arms. Fathers need to work extra hard to make things just right for their baby to feel safe and comfy.
When it comes to holding a baby, your first priority will be supporting their neck and head. You can use your hand for this – some positions even let your baby rest their head over your shoulder.
Rock your baby gently with slow, consistent motions. Make it a point to avoid jarring them with abrupt movements or directional changes.
You can change your holding arm if you’re starting to tire, but try not to do so when your baby is drifting off to sleep. It might be better to just find a chair or bed to plop down and lean on.
For more specific information, you’d be better off asking mom. She can guide you through how to hold them properly – just follow her lead and let her help you improve!
Get Them Used to Dad’s Scent
Babies can recognize a caregiver’s distinct scent in as little as three days. They end up drawn to the familiarity, seeking them out over other scents due to the comfort they provide.
This can work through close contact while doing other bonding activities, but you can supplement this by loaning some of daddy’s shirts to your infant.
Do be sure they’ve been freshly laundered since used clothing could harbor bacteria or irritants your baby’s immune system won’t be equipped for.
This bonding method isn’t restricted to body odor. You could also have dad and your baby share other scents: similar-smelling soap, shampoo, or even air freshener could do just the trick! We’d strongly recommend sticking with small doses, as baby hygiene products can get pretty pricy.
Reading stories to your baby is a great way to get them closer to you. While they won’t be following along anytime soon, infants will still benefit from the experience. They end up exposed to a plethora of new words, stimulating their language skills and cognitive development.
Storytime also lets your baby get used to their dad’s voice. Babies are capable of recognizing voices as early as the third trimester, but this initially applies mostly to their mothers. Fathers have to start earning that familiarity after the baby is born.
If you can set aside some time in your week to read to your young child, do so. It’ll go a long way towards furthering the precious relationship the two of you share.
You can squeeze some reading time in even if they’re doing other things (i.e. being fed, getting changed, etc.). You can even take turns reading to them with mommy! Their presence will surely be a big help in soothing your infant.
At very early stages in their life, you don’t even need to read children’s stories to them. Babies recognize the voice speaking and the sounds the words make. They won’t be understanding the meaning behind them anytime soon, so feel free to read what you want – just be sure to do it aloud!
Newspaper segments and novels of your choice are perfectly fine to use here.
That said, there will come a certain point where your baby’s storytelling experience will involve them looking or even reading along with you.
It’s best to stick with children’s storybooks at this point since the pretty illustrations will go a long way towards keeping your little one engaged and content in your presence.
Go for stroller walks with your baby! It’s a nice way to bring your baby around without tiring your arms out. In fact, some babies sleep better in a stroller than they would in someone’s arms – it’s basically a mobile crib!
It’s fine to use these even if your baby isn’t too familiar with you. They’ll get used to your movements, voice, and presence after enough trips around the block. Just be sure not to haul them along to bumpy places, okay?
Strollers also give babies practice sleeping on their own. It’s important that you form a bond with your baby, but this method gives you the option to build on that without them stuck clinging to you! Mom will also be grateful for the space and breathing room this method provides.
If you can take your kid out for a stroller walk, go for it. It’s one of the easiest ways to start bonding with your baby, and lets you accomplish it (quite literally) hands-off to boot!
Commit to Scheduling Quality Time
Lastly, establish a proper schedule for all of this. While bonding opportunities might be few and far in between at first, you can’t just drop in and help hoping it’ll be enough to create a real emotional connection with your baby.
As a father, you need to commit your presence in their lives. This requires regularity in your caretaking rituals. You don’t have to do it all the time, but you will need to be consistent.
Offer to bottle feed your baby a few times on your rest day. Read to them every night, before bed. Take them on morning walks on the weekend. If you have to miss a bonding opportunity, make up for it as soon as possible.
A lot of babies are uncomfortable in their dad’s presence, and this can be disheartening for fathers trying their best. The worst of this experience is frontloaded – things will get better once you’re past the lack of familiarity. Just do all you can, when you can, and be patient until your child starts warming up to your company.
Not all babies start off comfortable with their dads, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s lacking or at fault. It’s a matter of building a good bond, which always takes time, effort, and patience. Bear with the process – your diligence will pay off in the strong, healthy relationship you solidify.