How to bond with a newborn?

When Nora was born, all I could do was stare at her and be in awe of her”, said Jackson, one of our staff members. The question is… what to do when your baby doesn’t seem to be in awe of you? We’ve had questions about dads in this kind of unfortunate situation and because you might be going through the same struggle, we have decided to do a quick Q&A post.

Aaron* asked us:Whenever I hold my newborn daughter, she doesn’t seem to care about me or even know who I am. She does look into her mom’s eyes, though, and seems to always be more interested in her. What do I do?

DadLINE’s answer: That’s rough, man. But know that you’re definitely not alone. It is indeed hard sometimes to connect with a newborn as a dad. Kudos to you for trying because your effort will eventually pay off and have lots of benefits for you and your daughter. That’s true, research tells us that having a “loving and nurturing” father is just as important as having a loving and nurturing mother when it comes to a child’s level of happiness, well-being, social and academic success. So you are for sure doing the right thing. Now, here are a few things you can try to help improve your relationship with the little one:

  • Know that as a man, you are just as fitted to be a good parent as a mom. Yes, women go through pregnancy and hormonal changes, but men’s hormones (cortisol, prolactin, and testosterone) fluctuate too! And it’s proven that not only are men just as capable as women to form a strong attachment with their babies, they are also just as attuned as women to a newborn’s cues
  • Practice skin-to-skin contact with your daughter. This type of contact releases oxytocin, also called the “hormone of attachment”. Research shows that skin-to-skin is especially important in the first hour after birth, but even later on it still stays a great way to connect with the baby.
  • Take care of your baby’s physical needs. Yes, we know, changing a diaper is not much fun, but doing so will allow you to learn your baby’s reactions more and to create a bond. You can even talk to her during the diaper change and describe to her what you are doing, step by step. Baths and bottle feeding are other great ways to care for your daughter and develop familiarity between the two of you.

Dereck* added that he was experiencing the same issue and asked us:But how do I catch his attention? And why is it even so hard when it seems so natural for my wife?

DadLINE’s answer: In the first few months of their lives, babies are pretty sluggish. Their vision gets clear only around 12 months and they don’t fully recognize faces until they are around 6 to 9 months old. This sometimes makes it quite a challenge for dads to connect with them. Don’t stop trying, though. Try to play with your son, even if he doesn’t seem to react at first. Smile and tell him jokes. Eventually, the two of you will become more comfortable with each other.

Dereck* also asked:But when will this get better?”

DadLINE’s answer: There’s no one size fits all answer to this but many dads report improvements toward the end of the first year. This also corresponds to when the baby may start risking a few steps forward and will begin to communicate with sounds that are a little more elaborate than just “ah” and “oh”. Sometimes it gets better earlier and sometimes it takes longer, but remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that all good things take time. 

This all can be frustrating and frankly, sometimes even a bit depressing (added to the sleep deprivation and drastic life changes), and we get it. This is why in the meantime, you can connect with other dads and work on your fathering skills by joining our DadLINE coaching program. We specialize in walking alongside dads in their fatherhood journey and offer both group workshops and one-on-one case coaching.

Ready to take the plunge? You can read more about DadLINE here and schedule an appointment here.

* Names were changed for confidentiality reasons.