There are innumerable benefits to being an involved father, both for yourself and your baby. Even if you are not the biological father of the child, being a significant male adult who is involved and present has a hugely positive impact. In general, psychologists agree that babies with attachments to their parents have better chances to be happy, successful, and well adjusted children. More specifically research suggests that children with involved fathers reach development milestones earlier, make better friendships, do better at school, and even develop higher IQ’s. Being an involved father also has a positive impact on your relationship with your partner. Parenting is much easier when done as part of a team, by getting involved you are halving your partners work and ensuring that you are supporting one another.
- Take the opportunity to get involved in antenatal or parenting classes, this will include you in the pregnancy process and help you prepare for fatherhood. Supporting your partner during this time, readying yourself for the adjustments of having a new baby, being informed about the early months of your baby’s life will contribute to a calmer and more controlled situation once your baby arrives.
- Where Mums have the advantage of physically bonding with the baby during pregnancy, Dads have to try other methods to feel connected and involved. Talking to your baby whilst in the womb can help you feel attached, present, and establish a familiarity. Research suggests that even within the womb, babies respond to recognisable sounds and voices. Whilst it may feel strange to begin with, you’ll get used to it pretty quickly.
- Skin to skin is the process when you hold a baby with your bare skin against their bare skin, usually just after the baby is born. This process is not just for Mums. The benefits of skin to skin include; baby getting to know your smell, spending one on one time together, and physically bonding.
- This physical closeness should remain even after the birth process. Being hands on with your baby; holding, cuddling, burping them is shown to change your body to make you a more effective dad. It increases your level of hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin. Both of which help to build trust with your baby, respond to them more positively, and feel closer to them.
- Baby massage has been known to strengthen the attachment between the baby and their parent as well as helping babies’ digestive systems develop. Baby massage is when you use gentle touch to promote relaxation within your baby. You can take classes to help you perform baby massage and understand its benefits.
- Continue to talk to your baby. Communicating with your child, making eye contact, reading to them, making silly faces all help to develop the ‘synaptic pathways’ in your baby’s brain which will later help them develop speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Ensure you make time to engage with your baby in these ways.
- Care for them. When your child is young you are instrumental in taking practical care; doing their hair, bathing them, dressing them. A great way to bond with your child and feel more involved is to participate in these everyday acts of care.
- Give them your time. While dads are traditionally more keen to play and have fun it is also important to play quietly with your child, too. Read to them, watch movies, go for walks and explore nature. Spending some quiet time, without Mum can be really advantageous.
- Join a playgroup or a ‘baby club’. Whilst often dominated by women these aren’t just for Mums. Look for a group that actively promotes Dad involvement or suggest going with other parents you already know. Being the only male is not something to be embarrassed or ashamed of, in fact most of the women there would probably love their partner to be as involved or confident to do so.
How are you involved in your child’s life? What steps did you take during the pregnancy process to be involved? Do you feel Dads are excluded from a lot of aspects of parenting? Share your advice, join or start the conversation below.
Have a look at the local support networks for Dad’s in Northern Ireland here.