Dads and baby bonding: How to share the care
It’s his baby too, so how can dad be involved and bond with his new bundle of joy?
Mums are chemically and biologically wired to feel extremely protective of their newborns, says author and parenting expert Pinky McKay.
“During the third trimester of pregnancy you are brewing a mummy margarita of hormones preparing you to nurture your baby – scientists call this chemistry of attachment ‘the motherhood mindset’ or maternal pre-occupation,” Pinky says.
But she reminds mums it’s important to try to cage the “mother lioness” so that partners can share the care – because they can be your best ally and support.
The popular author says studies show new fathers’ hormones shift when a baby is born too, with up to a 30 per cent drop in testosterone.
“The more engaged dads are with their newborn, the more their connection will develop as they release hormones like oxytocin and beta endorphins that will enhance their attachment,” she says.
- More from Pinky: What to do when your ‘mummy mojo’ has been hijacked
Bonding before birth
Research shows babies can distinguish between their parents’ and strangers’ voices from 30 weeks in the womb, which means bonding can start well before birth.
“The same study found that if dads speak to a baby before birth, the newborn will recognise his father’s voice. So, talk – or sing – to that bump and your baby will know you as soon as he hears you on the ‘outside’,” she says.
Pinky says another Australian study of infant massage and father-baby bonding found that at 12 weeks old, babies who were massaged by their fathers greeted dad with more eye contact, smiling, vocalising and touch than those in the control group.
“Other studies show baby massage reduces paternal stress and increases confidence and bonding between fathers and infants,” Pinky tells The House of Wellness TV team.
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Pinky’s tips for dads to bond with their baby
- Tame the mother lioness: Step back mama, and let your partner do it their way.
- Get your shirt off: Snuggle baby skin to skin. Netflix and chill with baby on your chest.
- Just do it: Don’t let performance anxiety stop you, especially if your baby is upset – dads can be the best baby calmers! The more you participate in the care of your baby, the better you will get to know your child and the more your own confidence will grow.
Catch up on the full episode of The House of Wellness TV show to see more from Zoe, Ed, and the team.