Can fathers and babies bond?

When our son was only a few weeks old, my husband asked me one day how old the baby had to be before he could go kayaking with him. Off the top of my head, I said: "About five." He immediately brightened up and said: "So, we'll be able to go out on the water in about May?" I looked at him for a moment. "Err…no." I had to point out to him that I meant when the baby was five years old, not five months old.

But when I thought about it later, I realised what lay behind his question. At this point, I was spending all the time with the baby; breastfeeding him, bathing him, changing him. We were bonding – big time. My husband also wanted to be part of the fun and for him that meant boy's stuff. He wanted to go camping, 4x4ing and canoeing with his son.

Dads don't need to wait for their children to grow up before they can bond with them though. Bonding is also not the exclusive domain of mothers, despite what many may think. The most important time for bonding is right after birth. Traditionally, it is with the mother, who as primary care-giver, is also biologically and psychologically programmed to bond with their baby. 

Dads need to bond too

Just like moms, the sooner the bonding begins - the better. Many new fathers struggle to cope with the changes in their partner and lifestyle, as well as the added pressures that a baby brings. Additionally, they feel left out of the process, they didn't carry the baby, they didn't give birth and they don't have the breasts to nurse.

But what they don't realise is that they can still form a unique bond with their baby. My husband spoke and sang to our baby while I was still pregnant. He sang one particular song, Hickory Dickory Dock (with a funny accent to amuse us), night after night, to my bulging stomach.

Later, when the baby was several months old, we could hardly believe it when this was the only song (in the funny voice) that would calm him down when he cried inconsolably at night. He really seemed to know it and to be soothed by it.

Our experience was backed up by Barbara Kisilevsky, a nursing professor at Queens University in Ontario, who conducted research to prove that babies were able to distinguish between their parents' and strangers' voices from 30 weeks in the womb. Even more amazing - male voices were apparently lower in tone and easier for babies to hear.  "The same study found that if dads speak to a baby before birth, the newborn will recognise his father's voice."

Reserved dads who find the idea of singing to a pregnant belly a little silly, need not worry. Bonding with your baby is really very simple. An article on shows how easy it is. It doesn't matter what the dads do – if they change diapers or not, give bottles or not, if they play and chat to the baby… as long as they just spend time with them.

The point is – to interact with your child from a very early age, to make him a part of your life and to play a pivotal part in his/her life. Then, by the time he is able to go kayaking – at whatever age that is - the experience will be so much more rewarding for both father and son.

How did you or your partner bond with your baby?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
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