After all the excitement of welcoming your new baby into the world dies down, it can be hard for dads to work out where they fit into the newborn routine. This can leave some dads feeling a bit lost and sometimes even disconnected from their baby in the beginning. Others instantly feel a connection with their newborn and want to know if their baby feels it too.
So, do newborn babies know their dad is there and do they miss them when they are not around? Let’s have a look at what we know.
How important is a dad to a newborn?
Newborns have a unique bond with their mothers, there’s no denying it, but it doesn’t mean dads are not important too. Your newborn won’t be able to tell you this but you, their dad, are already very special to them. They most likely know your voice already and can sense your presence.
Studies have shown that dads who spend time with their newborn baby are less likely to develop paternal postpartum depression. This time is beneficial for your baby’s healthy development too and your future relationship with your child. So enjoy those newborn cuddles, change their diapers and rock them to sleep. It’s good for you both. Your partner will thank you too for taking your turn as she adjusts to life with a new baby.
Do babies miss their dad?
Between 4-7 months of age babies start to understand that things still exist even when they can’t see them. This means when you leave the room, they know you are no longer there and notice when you come back. This development is called object permanence.
It takes a bit longer for your baby to miss you when you are not there, but you will find they are pleased to see you return. Look forward to big, toothless beams when you walk in the room or back into the house if you have been out for the day by the time your baby is 1.
Can they forget their father?
Young babies may not remember the people in their lives before they develop a sense of object permanence. Yes, as babies get older they will find it easier to remember the people they see often and they will recognize them. However, when they don’t see someone regularly, even their father, they can forget faces and voices when they are only a few months old.
Some parents will inevitably spend time away from their babies and find that video calls and voice recordings help. Many military families who are apart for a long time like to share regular recordings to make sure their young children know their parents’ voices.
Do babies instinctively know their fathers?
Babies can hear their father’s voice from as early as 21 weeks in pregnancy so by the time they are born, most babies certainly know what their dad sounds like. Keep talking, reading and singing to your baby as they grow. They will love hearing your voice and learn along the way!
How long does it take for a dad to bond with their baby?
There is no set amount of time for a dad to bond with their baby and it’s an ongoing process throughout their lives. The best advice is to spend frequent time with your little one whether that’s at bath time, play time or bedtime, it all counts.
Some dads feel connected to their newborn baby right away. However for others it can take a little longer as they adjust to life as a parent. Try not to put pressure on yourself and just take it slow to get to know your baby, it will all come together in time.
How much time should a dad spend with their baby?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record there is no right or wrong answer to this question either! Each family has a different rhythm and its own demands which means every dad has a different amount of time to spend with their baby. Some dads are stay at home parents and are with their children most of the day, others work away from home or don’t live with their baby and see them less.
It may sound corny, but it really is the quality of time that dads spend with their children that matters and not the hours. Try to spend some focused time with your baby each time you see them and be present in the moment. This way, you will bond with your baby and create your own special memories too.
Do babies know their father’s scent?
A newborn baby will know their mother’s scent from birth and after time they will recognize their dad’s smell too. It will take a little while for this to happen and there are a couple of things dads can do to help their baby get to know their scent.
- Skin to skin contact
This is key for mothers and fathers to bond with their baby. Let your newborn baby lie on your bare chest in just their diaper and relax together.
- Cuddle and rock your baby
This is a similar rationale to skin-to-skin contact because it’s all about being close to your baby so they can soak up your scent and get to know you. Spend as much time as you can holding your newborn baby and snuggle with them. They will start to recognize your scent soon enough.
Can babies sense their dad’s stress?
Babies can sense stress in their caregivers and they are even affected by it. Stress can prevent babies from falling asleep or struggle to calm down when they are upset. It’s often easier said than done to leave your own stress at the door when you walk into a room with your baby, but it is important to try.
Sometimes caring for your baby will make you feel stressed, it’s not easy to stay patient when your baby wakes up for the 10th time that night or they wriggle all over the place as you change them. Take a break if you need to, take a deep breath and even walk out of the room for a moment if you have to. Be honest with your partner when you feel exceptionally stressed and support one another, especially during those first newborn weeks as you settle into life as a parent.
The best thing you can do as a dad to bond with your baby is spend time with them when you can and be as hands on as possible. It’s proven that dads who are involved in all aspects of care for their children are more likely to have strong relationships with them and their partners.
Graham is a father of two who founded Dadometer to share his parenting journey with other moms and dads.