The Third Month of Fatherhood

by Bruce Linton, Ph.D.

playing with babyIn the third month of fatherhood you begin to hope for a "routine" to be established for your baby. But that's not always the case! It doesn't mean anything is "wrong" with your baby or that you and your wife are not doing things right. Babies take a long time to adjust to being in the outside world. Remember for nine months your baby's every need was met on demand. Eating, sleeping, all bodily functions were met immediately and without any effort while inside the womb. Over the last two months your baby has been learning how to communicate their needs to you. Needs they don't even understand themselves.

Dad's at this time often hit the "exhaustion point." The unpredictability of the nights is usually the toughest. Not getting a continual night's sleep leaves many new fathers feel spent and fatigued. Along with being physical overtired, new dad's need to recognize how emotionally weary they have become making all the adjustments to their new life style. I remember feeling when we went out as a family; it was my wife, our baby and their pack animal, me...carrying all our stuff, we now needed to take with us.

At three months the roles of mother and father can become polarized. Dad spending less time with baby and mom spending more. Dads may feel they can't calm the baby as easy as their wife probably can. Research has shown that whoever, mom or dad, spends more time with baby gets to know their needs better. But is also clear that babies need both their father's and mother's.

Your baby is now learning that your hands are larger and hold him differently than does his moms. Fathers' cloths feel different and he has a different smell than mother. He can feel the differences of your skins and recognize the differences of your voices. These experience, that there are two different kinds of people in the world that both cares for him and love him is very important. We now know the care and stimulation of the father at this early age sets in motion a developmental process for later learning.

By staying involved in the early months of your child's life you are preparing your child for the future. Involved fathers help stimulate better social skills and problems solving abilities in their children, that often show up years later. So even if you are wearying a bit thin in this third month of fatherhood ....hang in there!

Here are a few practical tips that new dads have shared with me to get the most out of your 3rd month of fatherhood.

For your baby:

  • Babies are discovering their own hands and are fascinated by them. Hold your baby on your lap and let him grasp your finger.
  • Your baby may like to sit contently and look at things. Have a safe place; a crib, playpen or infant seat that won't tip over where you can place objects for your baby to look at. From time to time change the views your baby has of the objects he's been viewing.

For your wife/partner:

  • Take a walk together as a family. See if you can have the baby in a "front pack" that is on you.
  • Talk with your wife about each of you getting twenty minutes to yourselves in the evening.

For you:

  • Find time to walk with the baby by yourself. Use this time to appreciate how by caring for your baby you are making a very important contribution to her life.
  • See if you can leave work ten or fifteen minutes early and have a cup of coffee of tea by yourself.

Bruce Linton, Ph.D. is founder and director of the Fathers' Forum programs for expectant and new fathers. He is a former contributing editor to "Full-Time-Dads" magazines, and columnist for Parents' News in San Francisco, California. He is the author of Finding Time for Fatherhood. Bruce is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and received his doctorate for his research on men's development as fathers.

Copyright © Bruce Linton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.