Experienced dads have lots of great advice to share with daddies-to-be. Here, three dads of babies, toddlers and older kids share their best tips and strategies for new fathers.
Two, three and seven years old
Be present at baby’s feedings
I would always try to be in the nursery whenever my wife was breastfeeding our babies—even if it was late at night. Whenever my wife needed something, I was there to support her. After she was done breastfeeding, it was my special time to bond. I would burp and change the baby and then enjoy some quiet holding time.
Make time for skin-to-skin contact
I’m a big believer in skin-to-skin contact and it’s something that I was very intentional about with all of my babies. After a feeding or a bath, when my babies were in their diapers, I would take off my shirt and just have them lay on my chest for a little while so that we could snuggle.
Turn bath time into bonding time
Because my wife sometimes works nights, I've been in charge of bath time since my kids were babies. This nighttime routine doesn’t just involve bathing; you have to dress and diaper baby, brush her gums or teeth and comb baby’s hair. It's a routine that can involve a lot of great bonding time because there are plenty of opportunities in between all of those tasks to hold your baby close and give lots of kisses.
Brooklyn, New York
Build daddy bonding time into your birth plan
Both my wife and I wanted to be able to hold, hug and have skin-to-skin contact with our baby as soon as possible after she was born. This was something that we included in our birth plan and very clearly communicated to our doctors. Being able to hold our baby close in the moments after her birth was very important to both of us.
Take time off after baby is born
Taking a paternity leave to bond with my baby was a priority for me. I realized our baby’s first few weeks were a precious time that I really wanted to experience. I knew I could catch up on work if I took time off, but I would never again have the opportunity to share this time in my daughter’s life.
Help your baby start and end her day
I like to be the one to wake our baby up in the morning, so I’m always the first to pick her up from her crib. I hug and hold her and then get her ready for the day. I also feed our baby every night. No matter how much I have going on at work, I always make sure that I’m home on time to feed and hold her before she goes to sleep.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Three and five years old
Consider being a stay-at-home dad
When I attended a local parenting class for dads, they talked about how to feed and diaper a baby. Many people assume dads won’t be as involved as moms – the class never mentioned being a stay-at-home dad as an option. I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for almost five years now and it has been an amazing way for me to bond with my kids, both when they were babies and now that they are three and five years old.
Ponder your own childhood
Consider what you loved as a child, and what you missed out on. Taking a little bit of time to think about this can help reveal what your baby might need from you. I missed time with my parents and now, as a stay-at-home dad, I have the time to snuggle and play with my kids. That’s something that I didn’t get a lot of when I was growing up.
Be the kind of dad that hugs
My dad is not much of a hugger; he’s more of a fist bump or handshake kind of guy. That’s why I was determined to hug my babies a lot when my wife and I started having children—I definitely was not going to fist bump my newborns! Now that my boys are a little older, we’re still hugging and I will keep on hugging them throughout their lives.