Getting Dad into the Game

by drmariablois on September 9, 2008

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I often hear new moms tell me they are pumping so that dad can give the new baby a bottle. Over and over I hear that they want dad to feel involved and feeding an infant a bottle is just the way to do it.

As the mother of four, this seems redundant to me. My motto is always to prioritize and simplify. If you are nursing your baby, feeding the baby is not a task that needs doing by someone else. You pretty much have that one covered… and you can accomplish it while ostensibly sitting down and thumbing through a magazine or checking your e-mail. In my world, that means nursing is a baby duty I am happy to do! To let someone else feed the baby actually means more work for me, not less, as I have to figure out a time to pump when the two-year old does not tug at the machinery and what the heck do you do with a crabby newborn while you use both hands to juggle the pump anyways? Such a production!

So then, where does that leave dad? And older siblings? And grandparents? And everyone else who wants a piece of that delicious baby-care pie? Fear not, new babies are nothing if not, how can I put this graciously, full ’o needs. Even when mama is taking care of 100% of the feeding needs, baby still needs changing, bathing, dressing and holding. There are still plenty of baby-care duties that can be delegated and provide those special moments for bonding… tasks that actually need doing.

Send dad off on a walk with a well-fed, drowsy baby in a soft baby carrier and put your feet up and enjoy 20 minutes to yourself. Dad gets to bond with the new baby, dad feels competent because babies are generally content nestled in a soft carrier. Win- win! Let older siblings be in charge of choosing the outfit for the day, or singing to the baby during diaper changes. Grandparents can bathe and cuddle the new baby. There is never a shortage of baby care duties. And, hey, if someone really, really still wants to feed the baby, no worries, in 6 to 8 months, baby will happily accept cheerios, banana and avocado from just about anyone.

Breastfeeding can be intense the first few months. The nursing relationship between mama and nursling can seem exclusive. How have you included other members of your family in baby bonding time outside of the nursing relationship?

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drmariablois (12 Posts)


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Theresa September 9, 2008 at 6:05 am

This is something that I had and still have trouble with. I pretty much did and do everything myself, and as such, baby and daddy haven’t bonded as much as I would like. I have only myself to blame here. Now, most times it just seems easier for me to do it myself, since she is so attached to me anyway. Although it does leave me very exhausted and longing for a break. It will take time, I know, for them to fall in love with each other. Thanks for reminding me that it is important.

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drmariablois September 9, 2008 at 9:27 am

I feel your pain, sister! But don’t worry too much… all is not lost. In my experience, even if baby is all about mama for the first year or so, the toddler years offer endless opportunities for bonding anew. Many dads seem to appreciate the toddler years more anyways, loving those trips to the park, the library, the zoo. Hang in there. It keeps getting better.

Warmly,
Maria

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Nicole September 9, 2008 at 10:21 am

Great post, Maria! I agree, I never quite bought into the need to pump so Dad can bond. My husband bonded just fine, particularly with the younger ones when I was busier and he had to step in more.

DH swaddled, diapered, dressed. By the 3rd he was a master baby soother and could soothe #3 better than I could. He is also much, much better than I at burping babies so he’s the designated burper. There is nothing like a big warm Daddy chest for babies to sleep on and men’s deeper voices are really calming to babies.

My mom also took a lot of the baby care as well – dressing, soothing, burping. I have a large, involved extended family and they all feel like they got and get a special role in each kids’ life. Babies are hard work and I find that there is plenty of work to go around! I feel relieved that my babes can get what they need in terms of touch etc and I don’t have to be responsible for every minute of it.

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Jeannette September 9, 2008 at 12:35 pm

I loved that our first child, a DD, suddenly became Daddy’s Girl right around age 18 months. It was like a switch turned on and suddenly it was all about Daddy. She is 3 years old now and there are times that only Mom will do, but being in Daddy’s sling (made of Kansas City Chiefs print fabric) is always a favorite! So, even though the first couple of years can be pretty intense for Mom, if Dad hangs in there and helps where he can, he will be rewarded later!

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Half Pint Pixie September 10, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Great post Maria, I was exhausted by the sheer volume of people who suggest to you when you are pregnant that if you breastfeed you’re doing the Dad out of all the bonding. My job was to put the food into Littlepixie, Mr. HPP became proficient at removing the results later :)

LP is such a Daddy’s girl now, it’s still all about Mama a lot of the time, but often she’ll turn around, grab him by the hand, say “bye, bye mama” and drag him off to play a game while I get a rest! It’s adorable!

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Kiera Pedley September 12, 2008 at 8:18 am

Wonderful post!
It took sometime relaxing into the parenting partnership with my husband. But we’re both glad that we picked up our parenting roles, mine’s feeding the bub, and Dad’s is anything else!
And he’s also pretty proficient are removing the results afterwards!!! :D

Bub and Dad enjoy some great reading time, and playing time, and walking time, and all that great stuff, that daddy’s are just fabulous at. It’s empowering for Dad to be involved, and once we both realised that feeding isn’t the be all and end all, it was really relaxing.

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