New dads: getting involved with your newborn
You might feel overwhelmed at first, but 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’re doing so in ways only a dad can. You probably parent in a different way from your partner, and adapting to your different parenting styles helps your baby learn social skills.
Here are some tips for getting involved with your baby.
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.
Resist the urge to hand your baby back to mum when things get demanding. One-on-one time will build your confidence and skills.
Spend one-on-one time with baby
This is a really important part of 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 your baby’s cues, a natural hormone called oxytocin is released in your baby’s brain. This hormone makes your baby feel good. It also 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 bonding and attachment between you and your baby.
Talk with your baby
While you’re caring for your baby, try talking to your 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 time they’re born. Babies don’t have to understand words to benefit from talking.
Make time for play
Playing with your newborn isn’t about games and toys – it’s about the interactions between you and your baby. Here are some ideas:
- Give your baby tummy time each day. It helps your baby’s muscle and brain development. If your baby doesn’t like it, just try it for a short time.
- Play with words, songs, rhymes and stories to 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.
- Try peek-a-boo. Simple play like this builds your relationship and also lays the foundations for your baby’s language, thinking, motor skills, and social and emotional development.