Research has shown that babies can distinguish between their parents' and strangers' voices from 30 weeks in the womb—and the same study found that if dads speak to a baby before birth, the newborn will recognize his father's voice. So talk—or sing—to that belly, Dad! This is your chance to exercise your vocal chords! It doesn't really matter what you sing—Metallica, anyone?—your child will not understand the words, but will respond to the melody.
Be involved in the birth of your baby. Nadine Lahana, mother of toddler son Luka, with a second baby on the way soon, says, "Brendan felt he really bonded with Luka when he decided to take part in the whole delivery. He cut the umbilical cord, and he made sure he was the first to hold Luka in his arms and to make eye contact. Doing all that bonded him to Luka forever."
Massage that baby! Infant massage stimulates Baby and can help a dad bond with his child. Massage also helps babies with digestion, relieves colic, eases tension, helps with breathing, and spurs growth—lots of good things! An attending midwife or licensed massage therapist can give parents some helpful hints regarding infant massage, and which oils and lotions are safe to use on a baby's delicate skin. To get started, read our beginner's guide to infant massage.
Get into the tub with your baby! Yes, you read right, Dad. This is a fantastic way for you and Baby to bond. Many infants are startled when put into a bath and may not like it, so Dad getting in the tub with Baby can become a very soothing experience. "Quite often Bren will jump into the bath with Luka and they will 'chat' for ages. This is their time and I know Luka thrives on it," says Lahana.
Put Baby in a sling or carrier and go on with your honey-do list. This may sound obvious, but it really is an effective way for Dad to get some work done while maintaining close contact with Baby—and make Mom happy in the process!
Babies love dancing with their daddies, either strapped to their chests or held in their arms. Little ones enjoy being gently jiggled about, and this not only helps a dad and baby to bond, it can also soothe and quiet a fussy baby. With a bit of luck, it may even put her to sleep!
Although many new mamas and dads feel a little out of their comfort zone with a new baby, a new father is just as adept at learning what to do as a new mother—even if he may feel that for Mom "it comes naturally." If you're aware of your baby's routine, Dad, you'll be able to help out with feedings, diaper changes, and other everyday baby chores, including baths and going for walks—even that 2 AM feeding (hint, hint).
No, we don't mean the movie, though we're Dan Akroyd fans too. If you are a keep-fit kind of guy, there is no excuse not pack up a stroller and go for a brisk walk or jog. This will put a cranky baby to sleep and help clear your head, while you both benefit from the fresh air.
There are differing views on co-sleeping, although this practice is becoming increasingly common with parents today. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that shared sleeping surfaces in the United States are unsafe for infants, and that cribs are the safest places for babies to sleep. But if you've considered the pros and cons and safety issues, and decide co-sleeping is the right choice for your family, it will definitely help you bond with your baby.
Nothing like seeing a Dad being goofy with his baby! Making silly faces and noises with your little one will probably be the only time such behavior is acceptable in public. So go for it! Make animal noises, blow raspberries—ham it up, Dad!