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Coming home with a new baby is a wonderful, exciting experience. But once you’re home it can also be a bit daunting. And as a dad or non-birthing partner, you may even feel a bit left out – particularly if you’ve had to go back to work soon after baby’s birth. If this is the case for you, don’t let it get you down – lots of parents feel like this at some point. And the good news is, there are lots of simple things you can do to bond with your wee one right from the start.

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Tips for bonding with your baby

Tip #1: Be involved from the start

The more involved you are with your partner’s pregnancy, the easier you’ll find it to bond with your wee one when they finally appear. Our page on how to support your partner when they’re pregnant and tips for partners and dads-to-be have lots of suggestions for how you can do this, including attending as many appointments as you can and reading up on what to expect.

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Tip #2: Talk to the bump

Female partner hugging her pregnant partner

Did you can start bonding with your wee one before they’re even born? Babies’ hearing starts to develop at around 16 weeks. So talking to your partner’s bump and making sounds can actually help with your baby's brain development before birth. In fact, they find it easier to hear men's lower voices. This video on the Tiny Happy People website explains more.

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Tip #3: Get hands on

From around 6 months you may be able to feel your baby moving around if you place your hands on your partner’s tummy. The first time you feel your baby move is an amazing experience!

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Tip #4: Be there at the birth

These days, most partners attend the birth of their babies – which is great, as there’s lots you can do to support your partner while they’re in labour. This page on Ready Steady Baby has lots of good tips.

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Tip #5: Skin-to-skin

Having skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as they arrive is a great way to create a bond – fact! Cuddling your newborn baby encourages the flow of the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin. This hormone helps spark feelings of love, protectiveness and calm and helps build an emotional connection between you. It works even better if you place baby directly on your chest, next to your skin, so baby can hear your heartbeat. You can cover up with a blanket to keep baby cosy.

You can find out more about the chemical changes that happen in your body when you become a dad on the Fathers Network Scotland website.

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Tip #6: Get as many cuddles as you can

Photo of a dad holding his baby in a kitchen

For a new baby, there’s no such thing as too much cuddling! So give your partner a break and build your bond with your wee one by cuddling them whenever you can. The sling in the Baby Box means you can even stay close while you get on with other tasks – win win!

Cuddle time is also a great time to start chatting to your baby (see our next tip…)

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Tip #7: Singing and chatting

Image of a dad looking at the baby in his arms.

Believe it or not, your baby is born ready to communicate with you, and you can start helping them develop their communication and speech and language skills from day one. Pulling funny faces, speaking to them in a tuneful voice, singing nursery rhymes or just chatting to them about what’s going on around you isn’t just playing – it’s a vital way to help their wee mind grow and develop.

You can find lots more tips for helping your baby feel connected and helping them learn to communicate here.

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Tip #8: Become a nappy changing champion

Once you’ve mastered the basics, changing your wee one’s nappy is another great way to bond with them, by chatting and playing simple games like peekaboo. You can find a guide to changing nappies on the Ready Steady Baby website, and tips for making nappy time happy time here.

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Tip #9: Try baby massage

Baby massage can be brilliant for building a bond between you. You can find some tips to get you started and watch a ‘how to’ video on the Tommy’s website.

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Tip #10: Bath time

All new parents get a bit nervous at the thought of bathing their wee one. But once you get used to it, bath time can be a lot of fun, and it’s another good opportunity to bond with your baby by playing games together and chatting. Our page on bathing your newborn has some tips.

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Tip #11: Story time

Reading your baby a daily story is a really good habit to get into from the start. Sure, they won’t understand what you’re saying at first but they’ll love to listen to your voice, and if it comes with cuddles too, even better!

If reading’s not your thing, why not make a story up, or tell a fairy tale in your way? You could even act it out with toys!

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Tip #12: Get out and about

Getting out and about is a lovely way to bond with your wee one – but it can be a bit of a palaver! Gone are the days when you grabbed your phone and keys and headed out. Plus if your partner is breastfeeding, your window for getting out between feeds will be fairly small at first. So it’s a good idea to keep a bag packed with nappies, muslins or wipes and a spare onesie, to make your getaway a bit quicker.

Once you’re out, it’ll be well worth it. Walking around will give you lots to talk about as you point things out to your baby, like buses, birds and trees. And the outdoor air will clear your head, and maybe even help your baby sleep a bit better.

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Tip #13: Give it time

Building a bond with a baby can take time, so don’t worry if it doesn’t happen all at once in the first week. You might feel as if you’re putting in a lot of effort without getting much back, but even if they don’t show it, your baby will feel comforted by your voice and your attention. And as they get better at telling you what they need, using expressions, actions and sounds, your relationship will grow even closer and stronger.

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How to hold your baby

Your baby’s head is big and heavy compared to the rest of them, so it needs to be well supported when you pick them up and hold them.

Here are some safe ways to try holding your baby:

  • by cradling them lengthways in your arms - this is a great position for looking at each other, smiling and talking
  • by cuddling them up close to your chest
  • by lying them on your chest - take care not to do this if you might fall asleep, such as if you’re tired, have been drinking alcohol or smoking
  • using the sling in your Baby Box – this is a good way to keep your baby close, with your arms free to do other things.

Remember to always support their head and neck well to help them feel safe and secure.

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Finding bonding difficult

Many parents – mums and dads – struggle to bond with their babies at first. Often, they’ll feel guilty about this, and feel that they’re the only parent this has ever happened to. But this is simply not true! So if you’re having difficulty bonding with your wee one, the first step is to talk to someone about it – this could be your partner, a friend or family member or your health visitor, family nurse or GP.

You could also try joining a dad/partner-friendly parenting group – you can find one near you using the directory on the Fathers Network Scotland website. Talking to other dads and partners who are in the same boat could make all the difference.

Our page on mental health for partners and dads-to-be has more tips, and you can find more advice on NHS Inform’s Ready Steady Baby website.

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