50 Ways Dads Can Bond with Babies (Without Giving Them a Bottle)

November 27th, 2012 by Dionna | 14 Comments
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Compassionate Advocacy, Feed with Love and Respect, natural parenting

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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!

Harrison and Daddy

  1. 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

  2. Snuggle your newborn close any time mama needs a hands-free break.
  3. Bounce on the birth ball together.
  4. 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
  5. Walk baby around and help her find interesting colors and patterns to stare at.
  6. Rock with baby in a rocking chair.
  7. 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.
  8. Tell your baby the story of how you met his mother.
  9. Wrap baby snugly in a blanket3.
  10. 2008-06-14 Abby 25

  11. 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

  12. 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
  13. Whisper sweet nothings into baby’s ear.
  14. Share your favorite music with baby. Go ahead and get a little misty-eyed over songs like Fix You and Gracie.
  15. 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).
  16. Give baby a sponge bath or a bath in the sink.
  17. Play an instrument? Give your newborn a concert.
  18. Gently burp baby after she finishes nursing.
  19. Help soothe a crying baby by gently swaying and shushing loudly.6
  20. Make funny faces at baby. Babies as young as a day old can imitate the facial expressions they see.7
  21. ergo wearing dad

  22. Have a baby with croup?

    Take baby for a walk in the Ergo outside in the cool air.

  23. Make up a song that incorporates your baby’s name.
  24. 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.
  25. Change his diaper, and be sure to get lots of gazing and smiles in while you’re at it.
  26. 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.
  27. Some babies love to be lulled in a stroller, so strap him in and spend some time exploring the neighborhood.
  28. Hold baby in your arms and swing her back and forth gently – replicate the soothing motions she was used to in the womb.
  29. String up some soft holiday lights, snuggle baby near the lights, and revel in their wonder.
  30. 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.
  31. Take baby into the bath tub with you.
  32. dad cosleeping

  33. Have you given cosleeping a try yet?

    Safely share sleep with baby, enjoy a family bed.

  34. Give that baby lots of butterfly kisses.
  35. Practice eliciting sleepy smiles (or blank stares) and take pictures. Lots of pictures.
  36. 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!
  37. 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
  38. Dance together.
  39. Create a ritual, something special that you share only with your baby.
  40. Nurture his sense of touch: introduce him to different textures (cotton, satin, corduroy, etc.).
  41. 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.)
  42. 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.
  43. dad baby Eskimo kisses

  44. Engage in a few kisses.

    Eskimo kisses!

  45. 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.
  46. 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).
  47. 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.
  48. 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.
  49. Tired of board books? Rock baby close while you read your newspaper aloud (or your book or work report).
  50. 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
  51. 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!
  52. 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!
  53. 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.
  54. 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.
  55. How did you bond with your baby?


    Photo Credits:

    Photo 1: Used with permission from The Adventures of Kristin and Adam via Flickr Creative Commons

    Photo 2: Used with permission from Blessed Life Photography

    Photo 3: Used with permission from Hobo Mama via Flickr Creative Commons

    Photo 4: Used with permission from Karen Sheets de Gracia via Flickr Creative Commons

    Photo 5: Used with permission from Heather Bailey via Flickr Creative Commons

    Photo 6: Author

14 Responses to:
"50 Ways Dads Can Bond with Babies (Without Giving Them a Bottle)"

  1. Crunchy Con Mommy   crunchyconmom

    Great ideas! We got the same suggestion, and ignored it. My husband and son bonded just fine :)
    In some ways me having a c-section may have made that easier; I was so unable to care for my son in his newborn days that my husband did basically everything BUT nurse for the first week!! We’ll have to talk about making sure we intentionally have him do lots of the early babycare this time around even if the VBAC is successful and he doesn’t have to.

    • Rebecca

      I wrote my comment before reading yours. We had the same experience with the c-section. I’m also hoping for a VBAC (due in 5 weeks). I hope with the demands of our first born (she’s a daddy’s girl), that he can still bond early on with this baby too. Good luck to you!!

  2. Rebecca

    During a difficult (4 night) hospital stay after having my first born (via c-section), my husband did everything for the baby. I was so weak that I only wanted to breastfeed her. He changed her diapers, burped her, snuggled with her, swaddled her, everything. Then when we came home, he taught me how to change her diaper. ;) He bonded with her immediately because of that and they still have a close bond.

    • Crunchy Con Mommy   crunchyconmom

      How funny-we may have actually found a benefit of c-sections (other than, you know, the whole life-saving thing when they actually are necessary)! Lol. Good luck with your VBAC attempt! Do you have a blog? I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      • Rebecca

        Hi! Thanks for your reply and well wishes. :) My blog is oldnewlegacy.wordpress.com.

  3. MrsWJAA

    Just thought I’d pass along another way for Papa/Partner to bond.. Talk to the baby while it is still inside. My husband loves nothing more than to cuddle up with his head near my belly and start talking to the baby.. it is very interesting now that I’m passing the 18 week mark and the baby is starting to move around while he’s talking..still not noticeable from the outside, but wow can I feel it, lol.

  4. Karen at MomAgain@40   karentoittoit

    Great list! Thanks!!

  5. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    This is such a great list! My wonderful hubby has done many of these things. He especially loves playing guitar for our baby girl and cuddling with her on the couch.

    Thanks for linking up at The Tuesday Baby Link Up!

  6. Gary   ABetterGuy

    With both of my little girls a really neat bonding for us was music. I play guitar as a hobby so providing some relaxing acoustic music not only helped with some sleepless nights but during normal waking hours playing fun quirky tunes made her light up!

    Along the same line I love the note about dancing. I danced with both my girls. It would often help them calm down from any crying spells and was a great way to be super close to them.

    Really nice list! Thanks!

  7. Andrea Olson   ECSimplified

    One of the most awesome ways a dad can be involved with a new baby is by learning how to participate in not diaper-changing but in elimination communication or pottying the baby. Oftentimes, dads equipped with the knowledge of how to do EC just completely rock it, sometimes surpassing the mother’s ability to detect pee signals and take the baby to the potty. So in addition to #23: changing that diaper and ooh-hooing the baby while you do it, he could take it a step further and make that end of the baby his job and his job is to provide the baby with cleanliness, to protect him from diaper rash and to honor his innate wisdom and cries for help. It’s really an empowering thing for the dads and I highly, highly recommend that moms and dads both learn about it and that dads get to participate in this way. And by the way, it’s much, much cleaner and easier than cleaning up a splatterbutt, which I’m sure he won’t want to do! Haha! :D

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I cannot believe I didn’t say that – Tom was (and still is) the EC master in our house. Thank you for the reminder!!

  8. I see how the site links but would rather see the credit below the picture in case someone is reading or printing this offline.



  9. Camelia

    Actually, I found this article quite helpful. To my big surprise, my husband did not quite bond with our son for… three years. All of our ivy-educated, equal-rights, equal-partnership modern couple balance was thrown out the window when our son arrived in our lives, and I am sure had I been able to identify what was going on and to find advice such as this, our lives would have been a lot better. The fifties, for some, aren’t so far away

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