Getting dads involved with their babies

Most new dads are aware of the responsibilities that are coming their way well before the baby is born. But, unfortunately, not all of them step up to the plate when the times comes. If your baby’s dad isn’t helping out, three things can happen:

  • The baby can miss out on vital care.
  • Your partner can miss opportunities to bond with the baby.
  • You might feel let down and resentful.

Your partner might assume that his role is to provide for the family, and not necessarily to offer care [1]. By putting food on the table, and clothes on backs, he may feel that his job is done, leaving the nurturing side of things to you. If his parents followed a similar family structure, he may be influenced by his own upbringing.

The support that parents offer each other is at its strongest during birth, and then steadily drops for both mothers and fathers. Fatigue and tiredness probably have a part to play in this, and it’s quite likely that this time will not accurately represent the supportiveness that you normally show each other in your relationship. Most couples return to their standard level of supportiveness within a year of the baby being born [2].  

Boosting the bond
 

If your partner has embraced the provider role and not the carer role, it might be helpful for him to try and bond more with your baby. If he bonds with the child early on, he’s more likely to develop a stronger attachment, which can encourage him to play more of his caring role. Try to provide regular opportunities for him to bond – feeding times, going for walks, and skin-to-skin contact are all great ways to support this.

The more the father engages himself during the delivery and postnatal period, the stronger will be his attachment to the baby [1].

It might be worth having a conversation with your partner and asking him how he sees his role. Be sensitive in your approach – he may not feel he’s neglecting the caring aspect of fatherhood, or he may feel that you don’t appreciate how hard he works to be the provider. Lead with how you feel and how it appears to you, rather than throw any accusations. Use “I feel” more than “You make me feel”.

Ask him about his expectations of fatherhood:

  • What did he expect it to be like?
  • Is it what he imagined?
  • What could you do to make him feel more involved?
  • Does he feel like he’s connecting with the baby?

Explore these questions together and see if you can start to find some solutions together.

References
 

[1] Plantin, L., Olukoya, A. and Ny, P. (2011) Positive Health Outcomes of Fathers’ Involvment in Pregnancy and Childbirth Paternal Support: A Scope Study Literature Review. Fathering: A Journal of Theory, Research, and Practice about Men as Fathers, 9(1), 87–102.

[2] Howard, K. and Brooks-Gunn, J. (2009) Relationship Supportiveness During the Transition to Parenting Among Married and Unmarried Parents. Parenting, 9(1–2), 123–42.

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