How can fathers bond with their newborns?

New father holding his newborn daughter

On Father's Day, we often think of the important milestones fathers share with their children. Right from the start, dads play critical roles in their kids' care and development. UChicago Medicine spoke with Child Life specialists Aimee Karas and Catherine Ney at Comer Children's Hospital about how fathers can be supportive to their newborns.

What are some of the ways that a father can be supportive during and after birth?

Aimee and Catherine: Fathers are more than welcome to be at bedside during labor and delivery at UChicago Medicine. They often act as a big source of emotional support to mom and can help to advocate for a desired birth plan or communicate mom’s needs to the medical team. They can help provide updates to other family members or coordinate care for older children. Fathers often need support and should feel free to ask questions when they have them so that they feel as comfortable as they can throughout the birth process.

What are some of the important roles fathers play in their newborns’ care?

Fathers can be an essential caregiver for a newborn baby. Because babies begin hearing while they are in the womb, a father’s voice is well-known to a baby at the time of birth. To enhance this bond and encourage language development, fathers can read to or speak to their baby throughout their childhood. Fathers can also change diapers, offer bottle feeds, rocking and holding, soothing, skin-to-skin holding, and playing.

What is kangarooing, and why should dads do it? Do Comer dads kangaroo?

Kangaroo care is when a parent or caregiver holds a baby skin-to-skin on their chest. Typically the caregiver will remove their shirt and remove baby’s clothes (except for diaper or hat). Holding a baby this way allows for skin-to-skin contact while the baby is able to hear the caregiver’s heartbeat and the sound of their voice in their chest. There are many benefits to babies when being held this way, but there is also a big benefit for dads! When dads hold their babies skin to skin, it can help to bond the baby to their dad through smell and give both the dad and the baby mood-boosting hormones that also help to keep the baby calm. Dads definitely kangaroo at Comer! We have several dads that bring a button-up or a quarter zip shirt to bedside for this very purpose!

What are some of the other things dads can learn about childcare at Comer?

There are lots of classes offered at Comer Children's for all caregivers, including a support group specifically for new dads. There is also an infant massage class, a new parent group, and infant care classes. Parents in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) also learn infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) prior to going home. Dads can be included in all education at bedside and are welcome to ask any questions they may have prior to going home. It is important for dads to get involved in learning so that all parents feel as confident as possible when it comes time to take the baby home!

Mother and newborn baby skin to skin in the Family Birth Center

Family Birth Center

The Family Birth Center offers a customized birth experience in the comfort and privacy of our nurturing environment. Our team of experts support expectant mothers and families with compassion and respect through pregnancy, childbirth, bonding, breastfeeding and healing.

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