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.
10 Things you can do to help him bond with the baby in Utero.
• 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.
• Reassure him that his life isn't about to end. Some men can resent the baby out of fear that it’s going to cause a catastrophic change in their life. Talk about the changes ahead and the adjustments that you need to make but let him know he'll still be able to do whatever it is he loves and wants to do -- maybe just not as often!
• Watch Being Dad. Many men need to be "given permission" to feel like it's okay to be emotionally involved with their baby in utero or soon after birth. Listening to other men talk about their experiences and how wonderful being a dad can be is a liberating experience for many guys.
• Give the baby a nickname and encourage him to talk to him/her. Not only can it be fun but it's a constant reminder there is a real person in there and having spoken with them for 6 months when they finally meet, I'm certain it’s going to be special.
As silly as it sounds men need women to help them bond with their babies. It's not something we've been taught how to do and many guys don't understand the importance of it. If you can help him bond better and faster there will be plenty of benefits for both you and the baby.
About the authors: Troy Jones: Troy's company produced the Being Dad series and he has traveled the globe interviewing hundreds of new dads and experts. As a result we like to think of him as a "well renowned global guru in all things Being Dad;" sounds impressive anyway. Troy has a beautiful daughter Matilda, who appears in the Being Dad series.
Sam Holt: Best known for coming up with a new idea every five minutes it's little wonder that Being Dad was, in fact, his idea. Fortunately, Being Dad was one of Sam's better ideas and with the help of Troy and Tom it has grown way beyond all of their expectations. Sam has a son, Hugo, who is too cute to be his.
Tom Hastwell: Lured out of the corporate world by Sam and Troy, Tom has been bitten by the business bug. Troy and Sam are eagerly awaiting news that Toms wife is pregnant so that they can attach a camera crew to him for nine months and actually put him to work. Tom is currently practicing for kids.
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