The days and weeks that follow the birth of your new baby are a busy time. As a father, you will likely continue to be the support person for your partner as well as communication central for family and friends. You will be juggling many roles and responsibilities.
It’s important that you take time to get to know your baby. Don’t hold back; jump right in and be an involved father.
If you are not too familiar with newborns, ask the delivery nurse how to hold your baby and any other questions you may have. These first days and weeks provide a unique opportunity for you to establish a bond and begin the relationship with your daughter or son that will last a lifetime.
Look for opportunities for you and your new baby to spend one-on-one time together, for example, when your partner is sleeping, needing a break, or preparing for nighttime feedings. Some new dads offer to get up to give the baby the middle of the night bottle (if bottle feeding) because it is such a peaceful and quiet time to hang out together – and mom will love the extra sleep.
Some dads describe holding their baby in one arm (head carefully supported) while doing some light work around the house. Other dads smile when they describe their baby falling asleep on their chest while they watch sports on television.
Use your five senses to learn about and enjoy your newborn:
- Sight–Look at his face (eyes, ears, tiny nose), hands, feet, hair (if any).
- Watch his facial expressions, awake or asleep. Smile and make funny faces. Close face-to-face contact allows your baby to see your face.
- Sound–Listen to your baby’s breathing and the many sounds he makes.
- Touch—Caress his soft cheek, feet, and tiny hands. Place your finger in his hand and see if he grabs hold. Bend your finger and let your baby suck on your knuckle. Let your baby lie on your chest. (This may work best with your shirt off because babies love skin-to-skin contact.) I also recommend that you and your partner learn infant massage.
- Smell—Take in his feast of amazing smells – hair, scalp, face, and other smells (with which you will become too familiar).
- Taste—Kiss your baby’s forehead, cheeks, hands, and feet.
Hold your baby close: After being in the enclosed womb for nine months, infants are used to being cuddled and held close. All of the above activities also engage your baby’s senses, which stimulate his growth and development.
By Mark Perlman