Are you a new dad struggling to bond with your infant? Well, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. It happens to many new dads as well, and there are reasons for it. Not every new father will have a “love-at-first-sight” experience with their infants. Instead, most first time fathers get hit with a sense of responsibility and protection. This might interfere with the bonding process, but these feelings should improve with time.
According to a study by Oxford University, the traditional way of thinking where a mother raises her children and a father supports them still holds true. As much as fathers want to be more hands-on and involved with their children, societal norms and mindsets will need more time to change. Mothers can help by consciously sharing child care responsibilities with their husbands.
Mothers have a headstart in bonding with their infants before birth as oxytocin levels increase during pregnancy. This is why fathers should use as much of the 2-week paternity leave as possible. Take as much of the paternity leave as you can, even if you cannot take all of it.
As you become intimate with your newborns through feeding, changing, bathing her, your oxytocin levels will rise as well and bonding occurs. Physical contact with the infant is the way the father bonds with his child. Many fathers I have spoken with expressed feelings of joy and closeness during these times.
One father said “I feel closer to my baby because of these experiences (bathing, feeding, and diaper-changing)”. Another said, “It was the most beautiful experience of my life to take care of my little girl.” I am confident that you will have many similar experiences as well.
If you still feel guilty about the lack of bonding between you and your infant, consider spending time with other dads to find out what they have gone through. This will help to normalise your experiences and you may learn a trick or two from them too.
By Parcsen Loke, Family Life Coach, Centre for Fathering