Bonding Time for Dad and Baby
Making the most of your time with baby
Time Off for Good Behavior
Your willingness to feed your baby from a bottle will become especially helpful at weaning time. You can give your baby a bottle while your partner stays out of sight-and hopefully, out of mind.
If you possibly can, take a good chunk of paternity leave when your baby is born or shortly thereafter. Both you and your partner could use the extra rest you'll get by sharing baby care duties in the first weeks. In addition, you'll have the opportunity, never to be repeated, to get to know and enjoy your new baby in a relaxed, leisurely way. Paternity leave affords you the chance to get comfortable with your child. If leave is either not available or not affordable, then take some vacation time or personal days.
If spending time with your baby is a priority for you, consider some of the alternative employment options discussed in Deciding to Work After Baby Is Born. You, too, can perhaps customize your work schedule to spend more time with your family. You may be able to take advantage of flex time or working part-time (at least for a month or two). If you have a marketable skill, you might want to consider starting a freelance business from your home. Or you and your partner might work out an arrangement where you both work part-time or you stagger your work hours to share baby care.
Even if you cannot or will not alter your work schedule after the baby is born, try to make yourself available for emergencies. After all, you are just as capable of taking time off from work to take your baby to the doctor or to stay home with him when he's sick (or the baby sitter is unavailable).
Breast-feeding! How Can You Compete with That?
Whether feeding your baby, playing with her, or doing any other activity with her, try to maintain as much eye contact as possible. Eye contact is as important as physical contact in creating and sustaining an intimate relationship with your child. Singing or cooing softly to her while feeding her or cuddling her can not only keep her gazing up at you, but can also deepen your relationship. A warm smile will also keep your baby's eyes glued to your face.
You may be able to put your baby back to sleep in the middle of the night more easily than your partner can. Precisely because you don't have breasts to excite your baby, your hugging, rocking, and singing lullabies may have a more soothing effect on her than your partner's attempts to do the same. Your partner's breasts can become a distraction or obsession no matter how tired your baby seems.
Some new fathers wonder whether their inability to nurse will prevent them from bonding as completely as their partners do with their babies. Though it's true that if your partner breast-feeds you can't bond with your baby in quite the same way she does, you can demonstrate your love in so many other ways besides nursing that this one area should not interfere with your ability to get to know and love your baby.
Your baby will bond with both you and your partner not just through breast-feeding, but through smiling, clinging, seeing, hearing, and crying. If you respond to your baby in a loving way, she will love you regardless of whether you have the ability to lactate. Besides, just because you don't have breasts that produce milk doesn't mean you can't feed your baby and take advantage of the opportunity it presents to forge a stronger bond between you both. If your baby needs bottle-feedings to supplement breast-feeding or to give your partner some time away from baby care, you can give all, or at least most, of them.
If and when you do feed your baby, take full advantage of the opportunity that feeding provides to bond with her in a special way. Don't nonchalantly prop a bottle in your baby's mouth while you watch TV or read the newspaper or talk with friends. The food (whether formula or expressed breast milk) you give your baby is important. But just as important (if not more so) is the warm physical contact that comes with holding her close. Loving, gentle touch gives your baby an all-encompassing sense of support, calm, security, and love. So cradle your darling in your arms, hold her against your chest, and stare into her beautiful eyes.
If your baby gets fed breast milk exclusively, you can still participate in the feeding process. You can help, for instance, by getting your baby out of her crib when she cries in the night. You can also help out with any other middle-of-the-night activities: changing soggy diapers, for instance, or getting your baby to go back to sleep.
If you can feed your baby an occasional bottle, great! If not, then make the most of all your other opportunities to do for your child. When your partner is nursing your baby, admire the miracle of breast-feeding (as long as it doesn't make your partner feel too self-conscious). But try not to feel jealous or left out. You are not in a competition for your baby's affections or attention.
More on: Babies
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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