Dads can struggle to feel close to their baby during the pregnancy, but there are some simple ways to get involved!
As a dad – especially a first timer – it can be tough to begin developing a bond with your child while they’re still in the womb. You don’t get to feel them wriggling about inside you, your body doesn’t experience the huge changes and you’re not constantly being reminded of their presence.
Nevertheless, studies have shown that dads who spend time creating a bond with their unborn baby are better and more attentive parents straight after the birth. This connection can also have positive effects for both you and your little one, even leading to a confident emotional state which carries over into those early stressful months of fatherhood.
Here are some simple things you can do to start building that special bond before your bawling bundle arrives:
Talking to your baby
Although your partner is the one carrying your baby, your youngster isn’t just recognising her voice, but yours as well! By 30 weeks, babies are able to pick out their father’s voice and respond (if he has been present).
Try chatting to your baby, greet them when you get home from work or – if you’re stuck for words – then reading a book is always useful! If you feel silly talking to the baby then don’t worry, chat to your partner instead and your voice will still be heard frequently. Try to focus the conversation on things to do with your baby for a good while each day, talking about them means they stay on your mind.
Stay for scans and keep the snap
It can be hard to imagine your baby developing, particularly when it isn’t your body going through the changes. Lots of dads find it very beneficial to go to at least one of the scans. When you see your baby on the screen, it can often reaffirm that they’re real and give you a more emotional reaction.
Make sure you get a print-out of a picture and once you do, don’t let it sit hidden away in an envelope – get it out and look at it! If you keep it in your wallet or close by then this will help you to picture the baby as a person and aid in you imagining them growing.
Massaging the bump
You’ve heard of dads feeling the kicks, but it can be really useful for dads to massage their partner’s bump. Obviously, it’s a lovely bonding experience for themselves and their partner, but it’s also a great way of bonding with your little one. They will be feeling your touch and often give an elbow in response. Feeling your youngster move and focusing your thoughts on them during these moments can really help increase your connection.
Read up on the now
You may be reading books about after the birth, or planning financially for baby things, and that’s all good, but you also need to keep updated with your baby’s current development. Set aside a few minutes per week to read about how your baby has developed, what weight they might be and what experiences they are having while in the womb.
Knowing what’s going on for your baby is useful because you can imagine their responses and grow excited as they continue to grow closer to meeting you. The more you read, the more you may find you have questions about, and – just like after the birth – taking this interest in your child will only help be able to value them.
Be a family unit
So you’ve been doing some reading for when your little one arrives, but what is your opinion? Your partner is suggesting a cot in a separate room, what are your thoughts on it? From the time your partner got the little blue line on her pregnancy test, you have been a family unit and as part of a unit, you need to be involved in making decisions.
Depending on how your individual relationship works, you may decide that one of you makes more decisions about one thing and one more about another, or you may decide that you always make them as a team. Whichever way you go about it, it’s so important that you are fully involved with the choices being made during pregnancy.
Many of these choices will go on to shape your first experiences of being a family, like deciding whether to co-sleep or feed on demand. If you are part of making decisions for your child, you will start to feel pride and responsibility for them and may surprise yourself in how strong some of your feelings toward certain approaches are – which is brilliant because it just shows exactly how much you care!
The decisions made won’t always necessarily be about your baby, but sometimes the choice you make will have a huge impact. As a new dad, you will be learning about prioritising for both your baby and family. Sometimes the choice of whether to get the new Xbox one isn’t about the argument between Xbox and Playstation at all, but about whether you want to prioritise that or put the money away in order to spend some quality time together after the birth.
Learning to think in this mind-set in a big part of feeling close to your child. If you factor them into your decisions now, you will start to see them automatically as a tiny little person with needs and feelings. Good advice can be that if the only person you’re thinking about is you, then you haven’t thought clearly enough about the situation.
In times gone by, women may have knitted and sewn the baby a full wardrobe whilst men laboured over creating a wonderful cradle. These days, we usually forsake this and pop to the shops instead. Actually, though, it can be a very awakening experience to create something for your unborn child. Setting time aside not only allows you to physically demonstrate your love for them, but also gets you thinking about what they might like and enjoy and what may be best for them.
You may feel that a wooden rocking cradle is pushing it a bit, but what about some wooden alphabet cubes you’ve shaped and painted yourself, a sock puppet to entertain them during your paternity leave or a mobile to hang above their crib? Don’t forget – your little one has never seen anything but yours so it will seem amazing to them even if it’s smudged or uneven!