Some fathers don’t really feel that they know how to interact with their newborn, and that their role really finds it feet as their babies get older and become more responsive… However, research shows that dads make a major positive impact, right from the start. Find out how to give your baby a flying start with Dad Info…
Q: Can babies in the womb sense their dad?
Your baby starts to get to know you from before they are even born, while they are in the womb! There is even some evidence that a fetus can smell and taste what their mother smells and eats. So get them hooked on your favourite curry from before they are born! By about 24 weeks, your baby can hear sounds from outside, and that includes your voice. This means that for most of the pregnancy, your baby can hear you, and through that, is getting to know you and start bonding with you.
Once your baby is born, when you talk to her, she will recognise and respond to your voice from the times she heard it during pregnancy.
The dad pregnancy timeline
Q: How can a dad build the bond and relationship with his baby?
By making sure you are as hands-on as you can be in daily care tasks like nappy changing, winding, bathing – these are all essential care roles which also promote bonding.
If mum is breastfeeding, you don’t need to introduce a bottle to build a relationship with your little one, there are plenty of other ways – cuddle them, talk to them, take them for a walk, wear them in a sling, etc. You might be wondering, can newborn babies see? They can, but their eyes aren’t focussed yet. You might have to wait for two weeks before their eyes will follow you as you move.
You can even sign up for classes you can enjoy together, such as baby massage or swimming. The important part is to be hands-on and communicating with your baby. In one study, a group of fathers of one month-old babies were given training in baby massage, and encouraged to do it; another group was not. Two months on, the massaged babies greeted their dads with more eye contact, smiling, cooing and reaching and showed fewer avoidance behaviours than the control group.
Q: What impact does being an involved dad really make?
A strong father-baby relationship impacts on the development of your child as they grow up:
- Several studies suggest the quality and quantity of baby-father contact has a direct impact on how secure children feel growing up. There is also research showing that toddlers and young children who spend more time playing with their dads are more likely to be sociable when starting nursery school.
- Babies with strong attachments to their dads tend to have fewer behavioural problems later on. In fact, some studies suggest this relationship might have an even greater impact on the behaviour of pre-teen children than the mother-baby attachment.
- Substantial father involvement from at least the first month after birth promotes better language development and better cognition skills (suggested by higher IQ scores) among toddlers and young children.