by Sam Holt
Having interviewed hundreds of new dads around the word it's very rare to hear a man talk about how he bonded with his baby whilst it was still in the womb. For that matter I think the majority of men don't feel a strong bond with their baby for several weeks or even months. Why is this the case? What can we do about it?
Let's take a step back and consider for a moment what was happening only one generation ago. Men rarely attended the birth of their children, played a limited role in early parenting and were not expected to really know too much about the whole caper.
How times have changed! I'm sure there were many men in times gone by that would have wanted to play a bigger role but society just didn't see it as the norm. I feel pretty sorry for those guys! Modern men (on the whole) not only want to play a bigger role but they are expected to play a bigger role.
More double income families and a better understanding of how active fathering can improve the health of both mom and baby have led us to modern parenting but still there exist physical and emotional inequalities.
I've thought long and hard about men bonding with their babies better and faster and I think the answer lies in the following:
Men need help to crush the denial phase which normally lasts from the words, "Honey I'm pregnant!" until the baby starts crowning at birth. Some further research into the activities that can help men realize they are a dad from conception onwards.
In some ways the two points really go together. If you come up with the activities, you will solve the denial problem. Here are activities that you can both do to help him bond with the baby.
• Try not to talk about pregnancy just in terms of YOU. He needs to hear you talking about "our baby," "his baby." Ask him questions from early on about what he'd like to do as a dad and what sort of dad he wants to be. Get him to write down his thoughts so that he thinks about it and can reflect on it later.
• Share baby's growth. If you are reading in detail about the development of the baby and he isn't, leave him some cute sticky notes around the house, in his brief case or car. Let him know that today "your baby has developed fingernails" or this week "he’s as big as an orange." Get him thinking that you have a real person inside you.
• Financial stuff -- there is nothing like writing a will and organizing your finances to make you realize there is change in the wind. Get onto it as early as possible.
• Supporting mom is being a good dad! Remind him that whilst he can't do anything directly for the baby that by helping you and supporting you he is, in fact, helping the baby. If you are healthier, happier, and more comfortable, so is the baby.
• Share movements. Once the baby starts moving and kicking when you get into bed get him to spoon you with his hand on your tummy and DON'T TALK. Let him lie in the dark and silence and just feel the baby. Many dads I've spoken with have said that when they have felt the baby kick when their partner was asleep it made them feel truly connected for the first time.
• Buy him a cookbook with recipes created for pregnancy nutrition. I really believe this is something that has been overlooked. If he knows the health benefits to you and the baby of certain recipes he will get a real buzz out of it. For example a recipe that has ingredients to assist with brain development or muscle growth. How cool!
• Tell him about the things that make the baby happy. Whether it’s cooking you a meal, making you a cup of tea, walking together, cuddling or listening to music if he does something with you let him know that the little person in you liked it.