Becoming Attached To Your New Baby

National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome

dad and pregnant wife

Attachment is the deep and enduring connection established between a child and a caregiver in the first several years of life. It profoundly influences every component of the human condition. Attachment is not something that parents do to their babies; rather, it is something that babies and parents create together.

Importance of Attachment
Establishing a healthy and enduring connection between a father and child can be a rewarding and vital connection for both dad and baby. As a dad learns about his baby, his baby is also learning about him. As with any other relationship there will be difficult times. During these difficult times, having a deep and mutually fulfilling attachment can help ease the misunderstanding and stress. More importantly however, a deep and mutually fulfilling attachment can help a dad build empathy and understanding towards his baby and can actually reduce any stress a dad may feel towards his child.

Difficulties of Attaching
Fathers experience a different dynamic than mothers through pregnancy. Most mothers normally attach right away to the baby because of the physical and emotional changes they go through during the baby’s development in the womb. Pregnancy for a father is usually much more abstract. Fathers may not feel the need to get involved or worry about the baby until it’s born. This approach can make the transition into fatherhood more difficult once the baby is born. Some fathers try to begin their transition into fatherhood during the pregnancy, but they often don’t know where to begin. A dad’s frame of reference on how to attach is different than a mother’s.

During the first part of pregnancy, he may feel life is still normal with his regular routine still in place; this may continue throughout the full pregnancy. Some fathers start to feel attachment to their baby when the mother starts “showing” more, and the baby’s movements can be seen on the mother’s stomach. Others start getting involved when a name is chosen and they can start referring to the child by its name. Though the father may not be experiencing the daily “kicks” and discomforts of pregnancy, involvement during this time is crucial to preparing for and attaching to the new baby.

Yesterday’s dads were expected to be good providers and taskmasters. Emotional support was the wife’s job. The expectation that today’s dad will be a sensitive caregiver to both his children and his wife makes for a difficult era of transition.

There is another explanation for the difficulties that men have connecting with their babies: lack of time. As much as women have progressed in the workplace, men generally remain the primary financial providers in most families. Moreover, women typically take a maternity leave of six to twelve weeks or more, but men usually don’t feel comfortable taking off more than a week or two after a child is born or can’t afford to. Hence, many new fathers have only nights and weekends to interact with their newborn. Add to this the fact that more than half of all new mothers breast feed – limiting dad’s role as a source for feeding the baby.

Attaching During and After Pregnancy
Dads should start attaching with their baby from the beginning of conception. It’s essential that the father go through every step of pregnancy. He should pay attention to the baby’s growth and assist the mother throughout her pregnancy.

father at ultrasound

Here are some examples of how a father can become attached to
the baby during pregnancy.

father changing

Here are some examples of how a father can become attached to
the baby after pregnancy.