Lorna C. Aliperti, APRN, IBCLC

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Dads and Babies

Research Shows Involved Dads Make a Difference:

Children of fathers who play an active role in their care have fewer discipline problems, more confidence, and a greater ability to handle stress. Their sons are more masculine and their daughters are more feminine. Their language and problem solving abilities are increased. They do better in school.


Fathers teach babies and children different things–they play more with them while the mom spends more time caretaking. They tend to encourage physical challenges and investigation. The baby learns about two different people instead of one, so it makes sense that they get a better head start.

Suggestions to “do the dishes” and “change diapers” don’t address a new father’s desire to be an important part of his newborn’s life. Dads need ways to be of real help to their partner and to learn ways of caring for their baby, especially if mom is breastfeeding.

Be there for her

During the first days, one of the most important roles you can play is to encourage your partner in her breastfeeding efforts. Starting out is often marked by difficulty with latch on, confusion about when and how to feed, and much self-doubt. Boosting her confidence is invaluable. You might keep track of diapers (see the log) to help reassure her that the baby is getting enough or to know if there might be need for help.

Learn how to calm your baby

This is an invaluable skill. There are many tricks, and babies can be very individual about what works. Many babies have an irritable period which can last several hours when they cry for no apparent reason and you can try:

Movement: use a rocking chair, or walk around with the baby in a carrier on your chest. Put the baby in an infant swing, or, as a last resort, drive around in the car with the baby in the car seat—this usually works with even the fussiest baby.

Sound: helps especially when combined with movement. Play the radio, or try white noise, as with a vacuum cleaner, running water, or even TV static.

Skin to skin contact: babies having trouble falling asleep often like lying on dad’s chest. They like the warmth of his skin and sound of his heartbeat.

Finger pacifier: breastfed babies often like to suck on a (clean) finger with the nail side against the tongue. Move the pad of the finger to gently touch the roof of their mouth several times to start baby sucking—he will usually take it from there. This is handy when crying in public is attracting attention and mom can’t nurse. Dad’s larger finger is also helpful in “suck training” the baby who is having difficulty latching on.

Swaddling: ask someone to show you how to tightly swaddle the baby. Many babies will go right to sleep after a pat or two when snugly wrapped.

As you get to know your baby, you will learn what he likes and develop your own style. Don’t try to do it just like mom—dads are different and that’s what makes them so important to their baby’s development.

Sex life?

New moms are rarely enthusiastic about resuming sex and few count the days until the doctor’s OK. Many are “touched out” from a baby that wants to be held all day, exhausted, and are often not happy with their postpartum figures. Lower hormone levels tend to further inhibit sexual interest. However, you do need to maintain your relationship. As far away as it seems, someday this little bundle will walk away—with your credit cards—to be on their own, and you’ll have only each other. Try to be slow, gentle, and add whatever touches—sexy movies, candlelight, dinner out—that have worked in the past. Let her know she is still attractive to you.