Attachment to a baby is a long-term process, not a single, magical moment. The opportunity for bonding at birth may be compared to falling in love – staying in love takes longer and demands more work. – T. Berry Brazelton
When my son was born, I felt very extremely excited and motivated to becoming a father. But it was my wife whom he needed most, at least during the first few weeks. So I gradually returned back to my pre-dad routines.
However, from the first time Rafael started smiling at me, I realized how much I was missing out on potentially some of the most rewarding moments life could offer. So I quickly decided to commit to scheduling our sacred play time together.
My boy reciprocated by demonstrating how much he loved interacting with me, confirming his need to have both his parents involved. In fact, recent research confirms that babies differentiate between their relationships with moms and dads. For example, in one study, Yogman (I981) compared videotapes of how comfortably seated eight-week-old infants responded to the arrival of their parents and found significant differences:
While anticipating to be picked up by their moms, the babies settled in their seat, slowed down their heart and respiratory rates, and partially closed their eyes. When however they expected their fathers to hold them, they hunched up their shoulders, widened their eyes, and accelerated their heart and respiratory rates.
One reason for these differing responses may be related to the fact that moms tend to speak in a quieter and calmer way to their little ones while dads seem to be more playful and physical.
In other words, it is our job as dads to be the fun parent!
With this in mind, I want to share three activities my son and I do together on a regular basis:
1. Weekly Swimming class: From the age of three months I took my son to swimming lessons with an instructor specialized for babies. Rafael instantly loved splashing the water and spending time together in the pool, and would giggle like crazy from the very first lesson. Of course, we swim together, and the instructor shows me how to interact with Rafael in the water. On one occasion, I was a bit sick and didn’t want to enter the pool—this was the only time Rafael cried. In other words, part of the fun is to be splashing and swimming with his dad.
2. Morning breakfast: Every morning, I take my son for a short walk, and usually we stop at my favourite coffee for breakfast. I do this to give my wife a chance to go back to sleep before she starts her busy day. While I eat my breakfast, I simultaneously entertain him, for example by playing with some of his toys or chatting with him. From time to time the waitresses come back to interact with him, which gives me a chance to eat without interruptions. Our time together helps me start my day on a very positive note.
3. Weekly play class: Once a week, I take my son to a one our play class with other kids. What makes this activity so special is that the parents usually moms- participate as well, creating a very fun and bonding atmosphere. The instructor creates a variety of stimulating games, and this is definitely one of our highlights together. It is also a nice opportunity for me to catch up and share with other parents.
It takes the time to create new habits. This is why it is worth investing into the relationship with your baby from an early age. By engaging in specific fun activities together, you will create regular sacred bonding moments that will become an integral part of your life. Ideally, these activities will become so fun and bonding for both you and your baby, that you wouldn’t want to miss out on them, regardless how busy you are.
For me, these three activities have become highlights that go beyond just bonding with my son: They serve as energy boosters that get me going for the entire week!
Now it’s your turn. Please share with me one or two activities you enjoy doing with your baby, and how they impact your relationship.