Fatherhood can be a slow burn.
There’s no doubt when your child is born you are overcome with intense feelings of joy and excitement. Dads often feel euphoric, exhausted, proud, and nervous for what’s to come. As the first few days pass the bond between mom and baby grows stronger and at times dads start to feel a bit more distance.
Mom is baby’s lifeline, dads can sometimes feel left out at sea.
Dads, there is no magic wand that says the instant your baby is delivered you’re going to feel the same intense bond your wife or partner does, and that’s ok.
Kimberly Bepler of ABC Doula works with new parents and often sees the difficulty dads can have creating a bond in the early days. Though stresses there are steps to take to dramatically boost your feelings.
“We know there is research that if dad and baby are alone even 15 minutes in those first early days or weeks, they spend much more time with their babies in the first three months,” says Bepler.
So dads, what can you do? Bepler suggests skin to skin contact often in the first few weeks. Spend time with baby, feel the contact between you and baby and allow yourself to feel comfortable spending time with baby. Whether it’s on the couch, in the nursery, or somewhere else calm and quiet in the house, pick a place for you and baby to spend even just a few minutes alone.
“They (dads) need some time to bond with the baby on their own without a bunch of women watching and saying ‘hold the head, be careful, don’t hurt him!’”
Few parents feel confident right out of the gate, building your confidence one step at a time helps build that bond with baby. Many dads begrudgingly take the pre-birth class only to discover it’s worth the time. What happens after however, is dads often don’t return to some sort of resource to continue to seek information, unlike their wives. Put simply, dads don’t feel comfortable going to support groups, which can lead to postpartum depression for dads. Yes, it can happen, and yes you should feel ok about it.
“The rates for postpartum depression with dads is actually the same as for moms. But it’s higher in families where mom has depression or anxiety herself.” Bepler says Postpartum International is a fantastic resource for BOTH parents and has started dad focused resources as well. Knowing you are not alone is a big help, and can be the difference between seeking out resources and suffering on your own.
In the stress of lack of sleep, feedings, work, and more, communication is often one of the first things to break down. Men are often solution oriented. We see a problem, we fix it. Bepler says moms often want dads to “read their mind” and “just know” what to do. Though she says that’s just not fair for either side. Use specifics, be direct, and help each other reach the goal together.
“Ask your partner specifically what she needs. That’s what I tell moms to tell their partners. Don’t say ‘I need help.’ Say ‘here’s what you can help me with, that would be great.’”
Fatherhood is nothing short of amazing, even with all the peaks and valleys it’s a journey that provides unbelievable joy even if it starts a bit slow for you.
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