How New Dads Can Bond With Their Baby, Before And After It Arrives

Just because they're not pregnant, it doesn't mean they can't be involved.

Waiting for the arrival of your first baby can be an exciting, daunting and -- in the case of mums-to-be -- a sometimes exclusive time.

While your life changes the minute the pregnancy test comes back positive, for guys it takes a lot longer for things to feel any different. After all, aside from now having a rounder/more emotional/hungrier partner, not much really changes (finances excluded) until bub actually arrives.

But while a woman may enviously eye off their partner washing down a sushi roll with a beer, it's important to remember being 'free' from pregnancy can also mean feeling excluded. And, if the mum chooses to breastfeed, this is a feeling that can continue into the first months (and years) of a child's life.

So how can new dads get involved, both before and after the little one arrives?

During pregnancy

"Dads can be left out a little bit, can't they? I think, in terms of keeping them involved, communication is a really big one," Jen Hamilton, parenting author, mum of three and creator of the WOT Baby app told The Huffington Post Australia. "I think it's really important partners communicate with each other.

"I also think Dads can physically be involved by discussing and communicating the growth in the baby, the changes of mum's body, feeling her tummy, talking to bub. Babies can hear before they are born, so it's worthwhile for Dad to get involved with lots of talking and things like that.

"There are also heaps of websites and apps, such as BabyCenter, which send updates of baby's growth and what's happening from a week-by-week stage of development.

"It's something Dads might get at work and sit quietly and read without having to get out a big book."

After birth

The role of a Dad during labour is pretty much to Give The Mother Whatever She Wants Even If It's A Margarita. In terms of the baby, Dads can expect their involvement to kick off the minute he or she first enters the world.

"The very early part [after birth] is the bonding time, and mum is obviously very involved," Hamilton said. "It's time to establish a feeding process, for one, which Dads obviously can't really help with.

"What they can do is be there as much as they can from the minute the baby is born. They can also have skin-to-skin contact with the baby immediately after they are born, which is so lovely.

"Babies are very used to warmth so skin-to-skin is a great way the baby can access the warmth being generated from you. They feel nice and safe. They can hear Dad's heartbeat, which they love.

"Just that physical contact is such an innate human instinct we have, and it's a wonderful thing to have that connection."

At home

Once both Mum and bub are out of hospital and back at home, Dads can expect to have plenty of opportunities to bond with their newest family member.

"Once a [breast]feeding routine is established, you might want to introduce a bottle every second day or so if mum is happy to express and everything is going well," Hamilton said. "This is a really great way for dads to feel connected and involved. Of course, you have to be feeding well with no issues happening there, but if bottle feeding is introduced, allowing Dad to take over that process is a really good idea.

"Bathing is another great one. Dads particularly love getting in the bath with their baby, which can be something really fun for both of them to do.

"Nappy-changing is another one, as well as taking the baby for a walk by themselves. I think it's important for Dads to spend some alone time with their bubs. They need time on their own, otherwise they are always listening to mum and don't have the opportunity to figure things out for themselves."

It really comes down to them feeling like they're valued, that they can do it. Otherwise they are going to step away, and the more they step away, the less likely they are going to feel the rhythm of the baby and become confidently bonded with them.

On this note, Hamilton says it's important for mothers to relinquish some of the control (and the jobs) over to their partner.

"Personalities play a big role on this, and mums will naturally have this protective instinct over the baby," Hamilton said. "Dads often take it as 'oh, they are telling me what to do' so it's really important you discuss these things.

"Settling the baby is a really good example. So when they are a bit unsettled or having an unsettled period, let Dad take the baby and work it out for themselves. Allow them to get a feel for the rhythm of the baby and its routine and those sorts of things.

"It really comes down to them feeling like they're valued, that they can do it. That their viewpoint and their feelings matter. Otherwise they are going to step away, and the more they step away, the less likely they are going to feel the rhythm of the baby and become confidently bonded with them."