Someone once pointed out a key difference between men and women to me: a woman can love her baby before it is born, but a man cannot, or at least not in the same way. Women have a head start on us guys when it comes to building a relationship with children (after all, they carry the child beneath their hearts for nine months), so the moment the little boy or girl comes into our lives in a more tangible fashion after birth, we need to be playing catch up. SO what are some of the things we can do to bond quickly and significantly with a newborn?
This issue is kind of a strange one for me. My wife and I went through three pregnancies, with a total of four children. I had no problem bonding with our daughter, the first, but I struggled to bond with our older son, and even more so with our twin boys. I guess the “new” had worn off of the experience after the first time, and I did not put up the same effort after the second and third pregnancies.
Don’t get me wrong. I did eventually bond with the three boys, and we are great. It just took longer. In the case of my daughter, I really worked to develop that bond, but with the boys I just let it happen in its own time. Both methods worked, but if I had it all to do over again, I would have tried to bond faster with my sons, since it would have meant I would have spent more quality time with them in their infancies.
Creating a significant and lasting bond with a newborn is a bit tricky, since you cannot do traditional male bonding activities with them like fishing or duck hunting; the sound of the shotgun scares them, as you would guess, and you don’t want to miss a strike on your hook while you are changing a diaper. So, that means you have to work on this relationship by doing things you might consider ‘mommy’ stuff.
First thing, change an occasional diaper. As gross as this sounds, you will be amazed how quickly this helps you to get to know this little person. I became so familiar with the little ones’ habits that I could tell ahead of time what that diaper contained. I missed a lot of the more disgusting diapers that way. Getting to know someone that well does help bring the two of you closer.
Feeding the baby is a bit more complicated way to get to know your newborn, but it’s a great one when you manage to get the details worked out. If your wife breastfeeds exclusively, you are kind of left out in the cold, at least until she starts to pump and store milk. However, you can still take part by getting up to bring the baby to your wife for feeding and returning the baby to the crib afterwards. The little one will pick up on the fact that while mommy is the one who feeds, daddy is still involved, because he delivers the hungry infant to the parent with the boobies. The resulting smile you get when you lean over the side of the crib at 3 AM will relieve some of the grumpiness you feel over having to get up, trust me.
On the other hand, if your wife chooses to give formula, whether exclusively or as a supplement to breast milk, or if she pumps breast milk, you can feed the baby. Giving your child a bottle occasionally will build on that bond we are talking about very quickly.
Those are the most obvious answers to the problem, but don’t stop there. Remember bath times, for Pete’s sake! Kids love to splash and play in water, and having fun with the baby is the first key to them having good feelings toward you.
Another thing to remember is that you can take your baby just about anywhere, even without Mom going along. I once took my daughter to a bird show with me, when she was two months old, sans spouse. I got so many admiring looks and compliments on being such a good dad, just because I was willing to carry my baby along with me while I enjoyed my hobby.
This list could probably go on and on, but I think I have touched on the key points. Remember to meet the baby on a level that his or her developing mind can comprehend, and don’t wait for the little one to come to you.