When it comes to parenting, generally mums carry the bulk of the load in the early years. From pregnancy to birth and breastfeeding, there’s a lot that men literally can’t do. But there is also a lot that they CAN. Here we outline some ways to strengthen father/child bond.

Writer: Rebecca Walker, The Conscious Wordsmith 

Encourage connection before bub is even born
The best way to cultivate the father/child bond early is to encourage involvement before the bun is even out of the oven. Take papa-to-be to scans, keep him updated on the baby’s development as you reach monthly milestones and decorate the nursery together. Ask his opinion when it comes to his thoughts about birthing options, educate him about your birth plan and discuss parenting philosophies so you know where he’s at. Talk about your family values and beliefs with transparency. That way, you can be on the same page when it comes to labour, birth and beyond. He may have been raised in a very traditional household, but is keen to raise his kids differently. It’s better to know these things before the baby is born so you know which direction to steer the family ship when things like discipline strategies arise later on.
Let him know where he can pitch in where & when he can

Whether it’s nappy changing, bath time or reading books before bed, there are plenty of opportunities for dads to get involved in their children’s daily routines. And while the initial stages of breastfeeding puts papa on the sidelines, you can always express milk and let him bottle feed bub…especially in the middle of the night when you are desperate for some sleep. Even if your husband or partner is working long hours, he can still sneak in a few morning and evening baby cuddles. And once bub hits the toddler years, there’s no reason he can’t get up early to have some quality time with your little ones over breakfast while mama sleeps in.

Encourage babywearing

Although men can’t physically carry their children during pregnancy, they can wear them once they're born. Babywearing is the perfect way for a dad to have close contact with his offspring and is an amazing way to nurture the papa/child bond. There is a long list of positive health benefits of babywearing, which include everything from increased oxytocin levels to decreased colic & reflux symptoms. It allows babies to become familiar with the smells, sounds (including their father’s voice) and sensations of their caregivers. This includes feeling their papa’s heartbeat as they snuggle, which is extremely comforting to newborns. Not to mention the fact that babywearing gives dad’s hands-free convenience so they can focus on other tasks while carrying bub.

Have specific ‘dad activities’

While parenting isn’t a gender-specific job, one way to strengthen the father/child bond is to create certain rituals that revolve around ‘daddy time’…activities or time slots that are exclusively reserved for papa bear. For example, you might be the Queen of craft in your house, but outdoor sports might be dad’s domain. In which case he can take the kids scooting, biking or skating every Saturday. Or maybe the Lego collection gets pulled out every Sunday for a construction session with papa. This also applies to homework time. Maybe you are great at English but your husband or partner is a maths whizz. Explain to your kids that any maths assistance should come from dad so he can participate in their schooling journey.

Have regular ‘Daddy dates’

Separate from the normal family rituals, regular daddy dates are a sure way to cement the father/child bond. This should revolve around pure fun! Perhaps he can take them to the cinema, a cool park or a novelty activity that’s not in your usual neighbourhood or routine. Even taking them for a special ice cream or play date is something a child will store in their memory bank for years to come. What’s important is that they get to enjoy dad when he’s not working or preoccupied with other adult responsibilities. After all, if you want to have a strong relationship with your child later on, they need to get to know you as a person, not just a parent.