New dads can strengthen their bond with the baby, help with post-labor recovery, and be involved with their newborn's growth and development, beyond just changing diapers
Parents are advised to give babies sponge baths until the umbilical cord falls off (usually within the first two weeks). Sponge baths are a great way for dads to begin to establish their bond with and feel more attached to baby, while also giving moms a little time to rest and recover.
This article from Johnson and Johnson gives you a handy step-by-step guide on how to give sponge baths. From our personal experience, you can never have too many washcloths during this period! (In fact, this is why we include an organic cotton washcloth in our Rad Dad Newborn Starter Kit.) We also want to warn you that this is not always a pleasant task, as many babies seem to hate sponge baths!
I will be honest, Mr. Rad Dad bathed our baby until he was 7-8 months old – basically, until he could sit up on his own. I wasn’t strong enough, especially in the early days, to hold the baby under running water and my hands and arms weren’t big enough to support his head and neck and bathe him at the same time.
Also, if bathing the baby requires you to kneel down, remember that it is very difficult for Mom to bend down when she is still recovering from giving birth. Bathing is a much more pleasant experience than sponge bathing, and it can really help new dads feel more involved and have fun with baby at the same time.
Reading to your baby is encouraged from day one, and it’s also a good bonding experience for Dad and baby. Even if it seems like there are only 30 minutes a day where your baby is awake and not eating, that’s still a little time where you can squeeze in a story! Check out our previous post on a few good dad-themed books to read to your baby, some of which have been included in our past boxes.
Since newborns sleep almost all the time, one way for Dads to bond with their babies is to have some skin-to-skin time with the baby. The physical contact, the feeling of warm skin, and a beating heart is very soothing for babies.
If you don’t like the idea of constantly dressing and undressing yourself and the baby, then simply holding the baby while they sleep works just as well. Trust me, as your baby gets older, they will never fall asleep in your arms the way a newborn does – so take advantage of this and enjoy while you can!
Tummy time is a great opportunity for dads to be involved from early on, especially as parents nowadays are encouraged to start tummy time as soon as they come home from the hospital.
Tummy time is the practice of placing the baby on his/her tummy and practice lifting their head and exercising their neck, shoulders, body, and their eye muscles. Moms are encouraged to lie down and place the baby on her stomach or chest as early tummy time practice, but we would actually encourage Dads to do this as well.
Doctors suggest starting off with 3-5 minute sessions, 2-3 times a day, although from our personal experience, we did this once a day during the first two weeks of our baby’s life, and usually stopped when he started crying. Read more about tummy time on WebMD.
Baby massage is not only a great way to bond with the baby, but researchers have found that it also promotes better sleep and relieves colic. Parents.com provides a good step-by-step guide on how to massage your baby.
Newborns aren’t very interested in most toys, but if you want to try to play with your newborn, they do react to toys that make sound. We recommend rattles, as they are also good for development and have a long shelf-life as toys, as well as Baby Paper, which is crinkle paper sewn into fabric. Babies LOVE crinkle paper. And make sure to have a camera handy to capture your baby’s first reaction to the rattle!
Contrary to popular belief, there ARE ways that men can help with breastfeeding. If your partner is having trouble breastfeeding, you can sit with her while she’s breastfeeding, help her position the baby, check on latch, and you can attend sessions with the lactation consultant and read up on breastfeeding so you are well-informed to help in this aspect.
If your baby is nursing like a champ, there are still ways you can be involved: washing the pump parts, bringing your partner water while she’s nursing, and making sure the remote and phone are nearby.
If you and your partner aren’t averse to it, bottle-feeding is a very nice way for dads to bond with the baby – while also giving Mom a break!
If you’re bottle feeding pumped breastmilk, dads can easily feed breast milk to baby with the Nanobébé bottle. It’s specifically designed to preserve the precious nutrients momma worked so hard to make, and its breast-like shape will help you bond with Baby just like mom. The best part about Nanobébé is that mom can pump directly into it, store in it, and breastmilk feeding duties can be passed on directly to dad.
This bottle also helps with middle-of-the-night feedings as it warms 2-3 times quicker than any bottle on the market, so no excuses in taking over late night feedings so mom can rest. This bottle also helps with smooth transitions back and forth from breast and bottle if she doesn’t decide to exclusively pump.
This can be done with or without your partner, but taking the baby out for a walk is a great way for Dad to spend time alone with the baby or for the entire family to get out of the house for a little bit and spend time together. Each new experience helps develop the baby’s brain, and you will be fascinated by how your newborn baby observes leaves, trees, houses, and takes in everything around them.
If you don’t have any family members helping you out, cooking is one thing you can do to allow your partner more time to recover. Your partner is probably exhausted from giving birth, breastfeeding, pumping, and waking up at all hours (especially if she’s decided to exclusively breastfeed), so why not take one thing off her to-do list and do the cooking?
Think about it this way: by making sure your partner has enough to eat, you are also ensuring that your baby will eat well! If you can’t or don’t want to cook, no judgment! There are also frozen meal and delivery options. Taking care of the food area, whether through cooking yourself or ordering out, makes one less thing for your partner to worry about. Less stress for your partner = faster recovery!
Speaking from personal experience and the experiences of other moms we spoke to, cleaning, sweeping the floor, washing dishes, doing laundry, shopping for groceries and other household tasks are all things that Dads can do in the early days that allow their partners time to rest and recover from giving birth.
We know we said "besides changing diapers" but let's be honest - regular diaper changing is a huge part of caring for a child and neither parent should be stuck doing it exclusively. No one enjoys changing diapers, but it is still a chance to bond with your new baby and help keep them clean, healthy, and happy.
Last of all, it’s important to practice self-care during this time. You will be tired from shouldering many of the household tasks and taking care of a newborn baby during this time, and possibly working full-time as well, so make sure you get a little rest and time to yourself, too.
So, dads, we hope that this list will give you an idea of how you can be involved, how you can help your partner recover, and how you can bond with baby after you and your partner bring your little one home from the hospital!
*Nanobébé is thrilled to welcome guest bloggers. The views and opinions represented in these blog posts belong solely to the guest blogger and are not the legal responsibility of the company. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by the guest blogger and will not be held liable for any errors or omissions of information nor for the availability of this information.
Michelle Lin is the founder of The Rad Dad Box, a monthly subscription service providing self-care products for new dads and toys and activities to help them bond with their babies. She and her husband, who co-runs the box, have a three year old son and a newborn daughter.