50 Ways Dads Can Bond with Babies (Without Giving Them a Bottle)
One of the bits of “advice” we got when first pregnant was to encourage Tom to bond with the baby by giving baby a bottle. But giving a bottle too early can negatively impact milk supply and increases the risk of nipple confusion or flow preference.
Yes, bottle nursing can be a bonding experience for any caregiver, but there are so many other ways dads (or non-lactating female partners) can bond with babies. Below are 50 ideas to get you started. Please leave a comment and tell me your favorite way to bond with baby!
- Participate in your baby’s birth. Mothers aren’t the only ones who succumb to the hormones of love that women experience during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.
Research shows that dad also experiences a hormonal shift during his partner’s pregnancy, even “more so if he is present at the birth.”1
- Snuggle your newborn close any time mama needs a hands-free break.
- Bounce on the birth ball together.
- Enjoy skin to skin time. Did you know that fathers who engage in skin to skin time with their newborns after a cesarean section help reduce the time their babies cry?2
- Walk baby around and help her find interesting colors and patterns to stare at.
- Rock with baby in a rocking chair.
- Be present – touching and talking to baby if possible – any time your care provider performs an exam or check on baby. Gently reassure your little one that you are there with him, and he is safe.
- Tell your baby the story of how you met his mother.
- Wrap baby snugly in a blanket3.
- Who says breastfeeding bonding and oxytocin highs are only for the mamas?! Snuggle up with mama and baby while they are nursing – research shows that snuggle time increases the father’s oxytocin levels, too.
So breastfeeding is bonding for both parents!4
- Have a conversation. Pay attention to the way your newborn will focus on you, then shift his gaze elsewhere. The back and forth in these early eye-gazing and cooing sessions is called “synchrony,” and it will develop into more sophisticated social interactions as baby matures.5
- Whisper sweet nothings into baby’s ear.
- Share your favorite music with baby. Go ahead and get a little misty-eyed over songs like Fix You and Gracie.
- Help care for a sick newborn. Dads can help make baby feel better by preparing a steam treatment, doing sinus pressure massage, or applying diluted essential oils. Check out these 32 Natural Remedies for Colds, Congestion, Coughs, and Fevers in Infants (Newborn to 6 Months).
- Give baby a sponge bath or a bath in the sink.
- Play an instrument? Give your newborn a concert.
- Gently burp baby after she finishes nursing.
- Help soothe a crying baby by gently swaying and shushing loudly.6
- Make funny faces at baby. Babies as young as a day old can imitate the facial expressions they see.7
- Have a baby with croup?
Take baby for a walk in the Ergo outside in the cool air.
- Make up a song that incorporates your baby’s name.
- Is baby crying and dad wants a turn to soothe her? Try massaging Cypress, Frankincense, Geranium, Lavender, Roman chamomile, Ylang Ylang or a combination of any of these pure essential oils diluted in a carrier oil onto baby’s back, limbs, or feet. For more ideas on essential oils that are safe to use on children for anything from colic to teething, see Essential Oil Remedies for Children: What to Use.
- Change his diaper, and be sure to get lots of gazing and smiles in while you’re at it.
- Wrap baby up in a front carry and snuggle up to that sweet-smelling head. Need help figuring out how to use your stretchy wrap? Check out the video of this dad who shows us how to use a Moby wrap.
- Some babies love to be lulled in a stroller, so strap him in and spend some time exploring the neighborhood.
- Hold baby in your arms and swing her back and forth gently – replicate the soothing motions she was used to in the womb.
- String up some soft holiday lights, snuggle baby near the lights, and revel in their wonder.
- Dress baby. Do it mindfully, taking time to check in with her and see how she is experiencing it. Describe to her what you are doing. Enjoy the moment, rather than making it just another item to check off your to do list.
- Take baby into the bath tub with you.
- Have you given cosleeping a try yet?
Safely share sleep with baby, enjoy a family bed.
- Give that baby lots of butterfly kisses.
- Practice eliciting sleepy smiles (or blank stares) and take pictures. Lots of pictures.
- Find an older, soft t-shirt with some stretch. Give the neck hole a good snip down the middle toward the chest. Now put the t-shirt on, relax against some propped-up pillows, and tuck your newborn up skin to skin underneath it with you. Snuggle!
- Give baby a relaxing massage. Not only will it facilitate bonding, but massage can also aid sleep and digestion, boost baby’s immune system, and improve circulation, among other benefits.8
- Dance together.
- Create a ritual, something special that you share only with your baby.
- Nurture his sense of touch: introduce him to different textures (cotton, satin, corduroy, etc.).
- Talk to baby about whatever is on your mind. Babies love to hear our voices; they’ve listened to them from inside the womb for the last nine months! (And according to what I’ve read, they could hear dad’s voice from the womb the best, since it is usually deeper.)
- Let baby orient to fun sounds. Try shaking a rattle or squeaking a soft toy near baby; he will turn his head to find the sound.
- Engage in a few kisses.
- Start practicing your nursery rhymes, finger plays, and silly songs. They can help you bond with your baby now, and later when he is older he can sing along.
- Try some baby yoga. Doing slow, gentle yoga stretches with your baby can aide in brain and motor development, and it can ease other discomforts (like gas).
- Do you have a pet?Spend time cuddling baby and your furry friend. You’ll help introduce them to each other, and it’s never too early to start modeling kind, gentle touches.
- Figure out which board books have good rhythm, which have clever prose, which you’ll look forward to reading over and over about a year from now. Try them out now with your captive audience.
- Tired of board books? Rock baby close while you read your newspaper aloud (or your book or work report).
- Tune in to baby. Learn the difference between the times when she is alert and ready to interact (she is “attentive and responsive and interested in surroundings”), and when she is overstimulated and needs more quiet snuggles (she is “squirming, flapping arms,  kicking legs” or fussing).9
- Gently and softly run your fingers along baby’s face, arms, hands, being careful not to tickle. Memorize every crease, every baby soft bit of chub. She won’t be this little for long!
- Share pictures of friends and family – babies love to look at faces. You can also try to show baby a mirror. She won’t know it is her in the reflection for quite awhile, but she will like that baby face!
- Close your eyes and focus on your baby’s smell. Would you be able to pick him out of a baby line-up using only your nose? A baby’s sense of smell is “highly developed at birth” – he can remember the smells he is most familiar with; namely, his parents.10 Let baby smell you, not the heavy fragrances of cologne or chemical-laden deodorant.
- Find a quiet place and listen to your little one’s heartbeat. After you’ve mentally recorded this miracle, snuggle her up close to your chest and let her listen to yours.
- The Science of “Father Love” ↩
- Skin-to-skin care with the father after cesarean birth and its effect on newborn crying and prefeeding behavior ↩
- Alternatives to Baby Swaddling ↩
- Father’s Day: Why Men Are Hard-Wired To Cuddle Their Babies ↩
- Parent-Infant Synchrony ↩
- “5 S’s System” May Help Colic Symptoms ↩
- The Social World of Newborns ↩
- Benefits of Infant Massage. ↩
- Learning, Play, and Your Newborn ↩
- Your Baby’s Senses: Smell ↩
How did you bond with your baby?
11 Responses to:
"50 Ways Dads Can Bond with Babies (Without Giving Them a Bottle)"
My Book Is Now Available!
For My Children: A Mother's Journal of Memories, Wishes and Wisdom
Click the cover to order now!
- Parenting From the Inside Out
- Five Ideas to Keep Babies and Toddlers Safe from Choking
- Vote Now for Your Favorite Photos in NPN’s Flickr Contest: What Does Natural Parenting Really Look Like?
- May 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting Call for Submissions: Emergency Preparedness
- Mother’s Day Gift Set Giveaway from moksa organics and Zoe Organics
Forced Weaning Due to Pregnancy
101 Things To Do Instead of Yelling or Spanking
The Effects of Circumcision on Newborn Boys
Kardashian’s Call to Cover Up
- Mother’s Day Gift Set Giveaway from moksa organics and Zoe Organics
- Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide
- Giveaway: 12×16 Custom Portrait from Destany Fenton Fine Art – $220 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: Story Starters Game from Mama May I – $25 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $35 Gift Certificate to Earthslings – $35 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $30 Gift Certificate from Dominna – $30 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $20 Gift Certificate to Two Pink Hearts – $20 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: 3 Pairs of Earrings from Job Description Mommy – $45 ARV CLOSED
- Revisionary Parenting
- Giveaway: Qwirkle Game from SeriousShops.com – $25 ARV CLOSED