The changes taking place in your life as a new dad are many and varied. This article touches on a few key things to think about while you settle into your new role.
Getting involved with your newborn
You might feel overwhelmed at first, but even brand-new dads come fully equipped for fatherhood. Fathers are just as good as mothers at recognising and responding to the needs of their newborns. They’re also just as able to care for older children.
In fact, when you care for your child, you are doing so in ways only a dad can. For instance, you probably parent in a different way from your partner. Adapting to these different parenting styles helps your baby learn social skills.
Here are some tips on getting involved with your baby.
Try your hand at everything
Dressing, settling, playing, bathing and nappy changing – these are all great ways to bond with your baby. Parenting skills are partly a matter of practice – you get better and more confident the more hands-on experience you get.
Keep at it
Resist the urge to hand your baby back to mum when things get demanding. One-on-one time will build your confidence and skills.
Go solo sometimes
Spend time one-on-one with your baby. This is really important to developing a strong and lasting bond. It’s also good for your partner, who’ll get a much-needed break.
Show your affection
When you show your baby affection and respond to baby’s cues, a natural chemical called a neuropeptide is released in your baby’s brain. This chemical plays a key role in emotions. As well as making baby feel good, it builds connections between nerve cells, stimulating brain development.
You can also imitate your baby’s facial expressions – frowns, tongue-poking, sounds and smiles. All this helps the connection and communication between you and your baby.
Have a chat
While you’re caring for your baby, try talking to baby about what you’re doing. For example, ‘Let’s get dressed now – on goes your top’. Using a warm, sing-song voice (called ‘parentese’) helps your newborn feel content and protected.
Talk is like brain food for babies. It helps them build language and communication skills – from the earliest age. Babies don’t have to understand words to benefit from talking.
Make time for play
Your baby might be young, but you can play plenty of games together:
- Placing babies flat on their stomach to play (tummy time) helps muscle and brain development. If your baby doesn’t like it, just try it for a short time.
- Different sounds, sights and sensations will help your baby build skills in different areas. Try toys with interesting textures or varying sounds.
- Words, rhymes and stories build language and memory skills. Start with some old favourites like ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ and ‘Old Macdonald’. Check out our Baby Karaoke if you need some help remembering the words.
- A game of peek-a-boo builds your baby’s skill at communicating and expressing emotions.