Here’s How New Dads Like Prince Harry Can Bond With Their Baby
It’s all about getting involved from the off
17 June 2019
All Credits: PA
Few things are more annoying to new dads than the trope of the ‘useless father’.
Or remarks to his partner that she’s “got him well-trained”. Popular culture doesn’t help. Our screens are filled with lovable but hapless dads like Seth Rogan in Knocked Up.
But most dads are far from useless and want to be the best possible parent to their baby.
Without the intimate involvement of pregnancy, though, some struggle to forge an instant connection with their little one and can wind up feeling something of a spare part in those vital early days.
So where do you – and the likes of new dad, the Duke of Sussex – start? The answer is: At the very beginning.
Set the tone early
Bonding starts before the child is even born, says Amy Delicate, ante-natal teacher with the National Childhood Trust. “We know that babies will recognise a parent’s voice after birth, so if you use the same phrases or sing the same songs throughout pregnancy, the newborn baby will recognise both parents immediately as care-givers.”
‘Reading to the bump’, much-mocked in TV shows like Friends, can work wonders – not least for helping the father-to-be acclimatise to parenthood.
Delicate says: “Mothers and fathers have to get on the same page and create space in their relationship. There needs to be a clear picture of what the family unit will look like.”
Best foot forward
At birth, the first thing newborns do is look for someone to look after them. Skin-to-skin contact with dad releases positive hormones in both parties, and means the baby quickly knows their father’s smell.
It’s obviously important that fathers get involved, but it’s equally important that mothers let them. For a new mum who’s just given birth to a tiny, vulnerable child that can seem counter-intuitive, and the protective instinct can linger.
‘Maternal gatekeeping’ as it’s known, manifests in a mother taking on total responsibility for the child, inadvertently restricting the paternal relationship.
As ever, preparation is key and Delicate advises: “If mums feel that they’ve gone through pregnancy alone, they can start to feel that it’s all down to them. If partners are more involved in advance, then mothers usually respond to that.”
Be part of the routine
Delicate debunks what she calls the ‘breastfeeding misconception’ – the idea that because the mother breastfeeds, the father has more limited opportunities to bond.
“Babies need lots of care,” she says, “and they put no more value on a full tummy than a clean bottom. All they know is that they were distressed, and somebody helped them.
“Burping the baby, settling them to sleep, changing them or giving them a bath – these are all things that both parents can do in equal measure.”
Even if a father is time poor, he can still take ownership of a specific part of the baby’s routine – be it bathtime, bedtime or breakfast.
Perhaps most of all though – fathers need to feel trusted and valued. “It’s a societal issue,” concludes Delicate. “We have to acknowledge the fact that both partners are just as important to the baby. If you could ask the baby, it would want both!”