Bonding isn't always as easy for Dad. Here are some tips on how to keep him from feeling like a third wheel.
You're a natural! You're a mom and that mothering instinct helps you bond and figure out just what your new baby needs. But what about daddy? It's not unusual for a new dad to be doubting his capabilities as a new father, unsure how to best support you, and perhaps feeling like a third wheel — wondering exactly where he fits in. The good news is there are some things you can do to help him find his inner mom!
First, step back and consider how different you and your husband's experiences have been so far. That nine-month pregnancy allowed you to bond with your baby long before she was born. The entire process was fascinating and miraculous. But he didn't have the same opportunity for such a deep and early connection. And now he sees you pouring all of your energy and love into caring for your new baby.
That can be tough for a devoted husband, as first-time father Martin explains: "All through Kristen's pregnancy, I worried about her. She and I have always been a great team, and this was the first time I felt like I couldn't hold up my end of things. She didn't feel well a lot of her pregnancy, and there was really nothing I could do."
"So when Isabella finally arrived," he continues, "I wanted to dive in and help with everything, but Kristen kind of dug her heels in and didn't seem to want me — or trust me — to take over."
Kristen says, "After Isabella was born it was surprisingly hard for me to let Martin take over. I was a little nervous taking care of her, and even more nervous when Martin was in control. At first, we did a lot of negotiating about what I would do and what he would do. But the more I started letting go, the easier it got.
He's got the knack for calming nighttime fussiness. He's a champion burper and I don't know what it is, but he has just the right touch and tone when she's fussing. So from now on, he's the nighttime fuss master!"
So what can you do, exactly, to make your husband feel wanted, needed and confident? Involve him in the basics such as feeding, burping, diapering, bathing, rocking and soothing. Be keenly aware of your own attitude. If he requires a Baby Basics 101, give him the scoop, and then let him do it — without watching over his shoulder or correcting his technique.
Show him you have complete confidence in him, and tell him how much you appreciate him. Whenever the two of you are with friends and family, tell them what an awesome, hands-on dad he is — and be sure he's within earshot!
Let him have some one-on-one time with the baby, too. He can stay with the baby for a few hours while you accomplish some errands. If he's a runner, invest in a jogging stroller. The two of you can get her properly bundled and buckled, then the two of them can trot off into all that fresh air — that's a bonding experience he'll enjoy.
Finally, look for opportunities for just the two of you to reconnect. Remember, before baby came along you were all his! So rediscover the pleasures of spending time together. Ask grandma to babysit for a few hours and try a new restaurant or catch a movie. Show him you appreciate him by sending him a sweet e-mail at work or taping a card to the bathroom mirror. If you used to enjoy reading the Sunday paper in bed, you still can — with baby safely propped on a pillow between you. While baby naps, sit on the couch and rub each other's feet, and by all means watch some of that old James Bond movie with him.
Here's a revolutionary idea: Just ask him! If your hubby is a straightforward, problem-solving kind of guy, ask him directly what you can do to help him feel more connected to you and the baby. This was a surprisingly simple solution for Roxanne and David.
"When I talked to David about sharing, he had a couple of suggestions," says Roxanne. "For some reason when we went out for a walk, I would always carry the baby in our front pack, and David would manage our dog on the leash. He told me he'd like to carry Daniel sometimes. I don't know why that hadn't occurred to me — especially since my back was sore for the first few months after Daniel was born. So that was kind of a 'light bulb moment' for me."
David adds, "I also asked Roxanne for some napping quality time. While the baby was napping, I asked her to just spend time with me rather than getting busy with a project or housework. We used to play a lot of Scrabble when we were dating, and we've actually started doing that again. What can I say? I still like hanging out with my wife!"
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