Make the most of bonding with your baby with these ideas and start creating memories now.
WORDS SUE-ANN BAUMGÄRTEL
Nine marsupial months are over. The pre-delivery anxieties and mental preparations are replaced with huge relief and physical exhaustion. Like a magician putting a coin into his top hat — ta-dah! — in the blink of an eye, out pops a white rabbit. Your bump is now a baby. Add to that sleep deprivation and hormones that change with every breath you take, and you may well wonder how you are even going to drive a car responsibly, let alone look after a tiny baby.
It is time to take a step back and put on the brakes. Some women fall in love at first scan, connecting instantly with the little multiplying mass of cells in their womb. Others who have played it cool during their pregnancy, find themselves overwhelmed at birth by the intensity of their love, which was always there waiting to be given voice; whilst others simply need more time. The time after giving birth is a period of adjusting and embracing change, and finding a new outlook that suits your family’s needs and lifestyle. Here are a few simple ideas to try and incorporate into your new routine.
Numerous studies have highlighted the positive importance of skin-to-skin contact. During the hours following a successful birth, direct skin contact between mother and newborn has many advantages. The baby’s body temperature is steadier, latching on and breastfeeding is more likely to be easier, and the baby is comforted naturally. Skin-to-skin contact can also help stabilise a premature baby’s development. This close contact can also be encouraged beyond the delivery room — so, make the most of Singapore’s weather and let your baby enjoy your closeness.
This is perhaps the strongest link between mother and baby. Not only does breastfeeding provide the baby with all the necessary nutrients required for a baby to grow, it is a form of deep, almost animal-like comfort for the child. Although it can place pressure on the mother, fathers can also be part of the feeding routine by burping the baby.
Judging from your grandmother’s trusted sarong to the latest baby carrier, baby wearing is just a modern term for what mothers all over the world have been doing for countless generations. On a practical level, it allows the wearer full use of both hands — nothing to be underestimated! — as well as keeping the baby content by constant movement, easy eye contact and physical closeness. But the best thing of all is that baby wearing is the perfect task for dads!
Crying is the only way that a baby can communicate a need or feeling. From hunger to a dirty nappy, to simply wanting a cuddle, a baby’s cry can initially have all the subtlety of a fire alarm, but given time, you can learn to recognise the different cries. By listening, observing, and countless attempts at “trial and error”, you will be proficient at recognising your baby’s language.
Keep on Talking
Just because a baby can’t hold a conversation, there is no reason why you shouldn’t talk to your baby as you would an older child. Your baby loves the sound of your voice, even if you are reciting the telephone directory. Even if you can’t sing, your baby will think you are Pavarotti. There will come a time when your child will not want to hear another word from you, so enjoy it for the moment!
Set up some comfortable floor space and spend time lying next to your baby at the same level, or get on with those pelvic floor exercises. This is especially fun when your baby is a little older and is able to react and respond. Discover your baby’s likes and dislikes, fears and sources of comfort. Does he have ticklish feet? Babies have a great sense of humour, so take some time to find out what makes your little one laugh.
Touch has a powerful effect, both for the giver and the receiver. Giving your baby a massage can be very calming and comforting, and it can be a nice finish to bath time. Gentle exercising of your baby, like bicycling can also help aid digestion and release wind.
Breastfeeding aside, there really is nothing that dads can’t do, if not better than mums. Give mum a break to rest or just to shower in peace, by finding one-to-one time with your baby. Take your little one out for a walk, make bath time your special time with her, or burp and change her after her 2:00 am feed. Should I ever become a grandmother, my single piece of advice to my son would be this: “Try to do what you can without your wife having to tell you to do so.”