This week, the topic comes from a reader (Yay! Send me your questions ladies!).
What are some good ways to include daddy in bonding if I am solely breastfeeding?
bond·ing n. a. The formation of a close human relationship
Bonding is a process, and it doesn’t necessarily have to happen within a certain time frame after birth. For many parents, bonding is a result of everyday care giving.
For nursing mothers, we already have a leg up. When a baby suckles, the mother's neurons respond by putting out the hormone oxytocin, also known as the love drug. Men just can’t compete with that, leaving many fathers feeling distanced and irrelevant.
But fathers are very important to their babies, and they can and should play an important role in nurturing their breastfed babies. Since the early weeks of parenthood are filled with learning what a new baby likes and dislikes, both parents can learn together. Here are some ideas.
To Mama (from the always genius Dr.Sears):
There's no need for you to hover around your husband at all times, ready to rescue your baby if she gets fussy in his arms. It may be tempting, especially if he isn't up to speed (or doesn't think he is). But if you fall into this pattern, you're likely to erode his self-confidence, and your baby won't get used to being comforted by him - which will leave you without a moment's peace. So let them work things out on their own. You might be surprised at the fuss busters your partner musters up with absolutely no help from Mother. When given freedom, he may start to develop his own rituals with the baby, like soothing car rides or a special song.
(Good, but sometimes-difficult advice!)
Food. After nursing is established and going well, supplementing with a bottle of pumped breast milk can be a positive bonding experience for both dad and baby, and give mama a much-needed break. Armin Brott, author of New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year cautions dads though, "Try not to take it personally if your baby seems less than interested in taking a bottle from you. Once they've gotten used to their mothers nipples, babies get a little surprised when presented with a plastic one. Plastic nipples come in all sorts of shapes and you may have to do a little experimenting before you and your baby find the kind she likes."
If you decide against ever giving a bottle, for middle of the night feedings from mom, be the child's escort from the crib to the milk source. Or get involved by adding the finishing touches! Be the primary burper. The over-the-shoulder burping position works well with dads. Their shoulders can put just the right pressure on the baby's tummy to help bring up air bubbles and can relieve the baby's discomfort. Another idea: When little one's finished nursing and is getting drowsy, have mama ease her off the breast and into your arms, so baby can get used to you putting her to sleep. You can also be the main solid-food feeder later.
Diaper. Not the funnest, sometimes smelly, but besides being uber helpful, becoming the chief diaper changer will give you plenty of time for eye-to-eye contact with babe.
Senses. Sight: Speaking of eye contact, which is a big help in promoting bonding, cradle the baby in your arms at about chest level, and you'll be at the right spot for connecting visually. Touch: Skin to skin contact is a biggie. Remove your shirt when cuddling with babe. Take a bath together. Massage your baby. You can learn infant massage from a certified instructor, or from a DVD, or the Internet. Massaging your baby is soothing for both of you, and really beneficial for your tot. Smell: Taking in the smell of dad, like mama, is an important bonding mechanism for babies. (Goes with the skin to skin part…) Sound: Daddies have deep throaty voices that can lull a tired and cranky baby with their humming or singing. Babies love music, and they can be soothed when dad sings and dances with them. Put some music on and hold your baby while you dance.
Go. Take the baby out yourself. When he’s fed and happy, simply go out with your child. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated at first, just put babe in a sling or carrier that works for you, and wear him as you walk around your neighborhood. You can even try it when he’s fussy, but not hungry. The motion of your movements may calm him and go miles to making you feel awesome and necessary.
Don't get discouraged as the process develops; again, it’s a process. The feelings of bonding are definitely worth the wait. Fathers are really important to their babies. Both parents have a lot to offer, and the differences between mothers and fathers are just as important as their similarities.
Did YOU have any tricks I may have missed? What worked for your family? Tell us here, or send me your own question, and I’ll do my best to answer.