Clearly we live in a time when both mom and dad need to find time to bond with their children as the dual income family is quite commonplace. And while more and more fathers are opting to take parental leave, the majority of parents on maternity/parental leave are still mothers. So when does dad get to bond with baby when mom is home on maternity leave?
I’ve been quite lucky that during both of my maternity leaves my husband had flexibility: the first time he worked from home for the first 6 months, and the second time he was able to work from home twice a week. Therefore, we have had times where finding time for my husband to bond with the baby has been easy, while other times it has been challenging.
The two best times to bond with baby is in the morning before work, or during the bedtime routine after work. If dad can do both–even better! For instance, in the morning dad can give the baby a bottle and get him or her dressed. If you are strictly breastfeeding you can always pump the night before, so dad can do the morning bottle and you can get a half hour more of shut eye. However, even if baby won’t take to the bottle yet, husband dearest could simply do the diaper change and get ready for work while you feed, so he can then have some snuggles with baby afterwards.
Many fathers like this opportunity in the morning and will readjust their schedule to wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual to have this time. As the baby gets older and starts solids, dad can enjoy early morning breakfast with baby too. Alternatively, if dad is in a mad rush in the morning and has a long commute ahead of him, then he can always put his focus on the bedtime routine. You know that moment when dad walks in the door and babies face lights up and he starts giggling in a way you haven’t heard all day!
In our home my husband has always done bath time for the baby boys. I remember when my one year old was a few months old, I could literally count the amount of baths I had given my baby. By dad doing bath time, they get their one on one time, and mom gets to either decompress after a long day, or has that window of opportunity to bond with the other kids or get dinner going.
Bath time can become play time with the use of bubbles and bath toys of course. We recently started also incorporating blow bubbles, in addition to bath bubbles, which he loves. But then again, any time with dad is play time, isn’t it? I always wonder what the heck is taking my husband so long to get the baby into his pajamas, only to discover them playing peekaboo or having tickle fights.
When time allots, dad can always enjoy some extra bonding time on the couch watching his favourite sports, while snuggling (I know this is a favourite), or taking baby for a walk in the neighbourhood. Lastly, another great way to bond with baby is to take him or her to an activity, such as music or swim class. I remember one week my husband’s schedule was quite flexible so he took my first baby to his weekly music class.
There are endless opportunities for dad to bond with baby either during or in between feeds. If your husband is not as hands on as other dads that you know, you could always suggest an activity. Either way, bonding with the baby is a special privilege and some jobs afford more time than others of course. But forming that bond at that early age sets the stage for a stronger bond in the toddler years and beyond.