14 Ways for Dads to be Engaged with their Breastfed babes

“Dad needs to feed the baby so he can bond.”

We’ve all heard that, right? What the misleading misnomer, but more importantly, such an emotional Booby Trap, since it leads Babes to feel the need to supplement or pump, and if it’s not something she’s already doing, it can open the window to such an onslaught of struggles — but it can feel like not doing it is denying the father the opportunity to bond with his babe.

Fortunately, there are so, so many other ways that dads can be engaged in their babe’s lives, that we can tuck this certain idea away back in the archives of “unnecessary advice.” Feeding is only one tiny portion of a babe’s life and by no means one that anyone else has to take over to be a special, integral part of the babe’s life. If you’re looking for ways to help your baby’s father* to feel connected, or even just want a list of things he does with your baby to squash some well-meaning family or friends who keep suggesting that you’re hogging your baby by not busting out the bottles, I’m your go-to girl.

(*If ‘father’ isn’t the appropriate term for your relationship/situation, please feel free to insert your chosen term in it’s place as you read.)

  1. Take over bath time. Well, assuming your baby enjoys baths, that is. Otherwise it might be more comforting to be the one to dry baby off and dress him or her afterwards.
  2. Sing songs. Not only helps with language development, but I guarantee your heart will melt watching the baby’s father singing to their tiny love.
  3. Play with the baby, with toys or even just simple hand games. For more physically-oriented dads, infant play can involve helping baby learn how to track with his or her eyes, or holding a toy for the wee one to bat at.
  4. Babywear! Dad’s time with the babe is only limited to feeds, so strap that little person onto their father for a walk around the block, or even just while sitting on the couch. Bare-chest it for some beneficial skin-to-skin (or skin-to-hair, as it may be — tactical learning?).
  5. Tend to other needs. Diapers may not be exciting, but involving dad in diaper changes, dressing the babe, or anything else needed helps enforce that he isn’t merely a bystander.
  6. Attend any doctor visits or be involved and educated in any/all choices and discussions about the babe’s health.
  7. Learn body language, and help teach signs and of course verbal language as well. A dad who understands his baby’s requests through body language or otherwise will enjoy responding to early communication as well.
  8. Give baby massages. Not only can this help relieve tension (in dad as well as the babe) but it has a lot of health benefits as well.
  9. Read to the babe. It doesn’t matter what it is. Spoken language, versus recorded language, teaches language skills no matter if you’re reading the Wall Street Journal or Twilight (okay, that last one’s a “maybe”).
  10. Fetch and tuck in the babe at night. If you’re not bed-sharing, dad can wake up to the babe’s call and also help settle them back in. During the day at naptime, he can help send the little one to dreamland.
  11. Do the Daddy-Gas-Dance. Many men instinctively hold a baby belly-down across their arm, the head near the crook of the arm with the supporting hand generally around the infant’s belly. This is a fantastic position to help relieve tummy problems.
  12. Make ‘em laugh. Dads are often masters of inciting infant laughter, whether it’s through weird voices, faces, or some other silly trick. If they manage to encourage that first laugh, they’ll remember that forever (and likely brag about it as well).
  13. Cuddle up for nap time. If bed-sharing, older babies can take naps with Daddy, or even sleep on his chest while he reads a book or watches TV. (Snuggling a sleeping baby is one of my favorite times!)
  14. Have him advocate for your breastfeeding. A dad who understands the importance of breastfeeding is less likely to feel that it takes anything away from him.

I’m sure there are many other things dads can do. What else do YOU do with your baby when not breastfeeding? Everything except feeding is something the father can do, especially if given the opportunity. Give him plenty of quality time, and let him really learn his baby too. Feeding time, while a great bonding time for Babes, is only a tiny part of the baby’s needs. I’m sure there are many things I missed as well that you all can tell us about. How do your babes’ fathers spend quality time with them, outside of meal time?

Brought to you by A Mother’s Boutique!

Image credit: Laura Slomkowski via Matt Phoenix Photography

Christie Haskell is a coffee and tea-addicted wife to Kyle and mother of two wee beasties — Rowan (7) and Aurora the Destroyer (2). She’s a true geek at heart and spends too much time playing video games and reading fantasy novels when she’s not typing her fingers off for CafeMom’s The Stir or her personal blog-love, DailyMomtra.

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26 Comments | Last revised on 07/11/2011

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