Some fathers assume their role only really kicks in when their babies are weaned, but new research shows you can make a major positive impact right from the start. Find out how to give your baby a flying start.
In the womb – at about week 22. Deeper male voices are easier to hear than female voices. So, when that bump starts growing, time to get acquainted.
No - not fundamentally. For example, there’s ample research showing that a crying or smiling baby raises the heart rate and blood pressure of a dad in exactly the same way as a mum.
Breastfeeding obviously makes a difference, and there are other ways the newborn baby starts to distinguish dad from mum - larger hands, different smell, feel and voice, facial hair.
More touching, cuddling, talking, eye contact – and, basically, more time. In one study, a group of fathers of one month-old babies were given training in baby massage, and encouraged to apply it; another group was not. Two months on, the massaged babies greeted their dads with more eye contact, smiling, cooing and reaching and showed fewer avoidance behaviours than the control group.
When fathers are highly involved, their babies interact equally with both parents and more easily with strangers. For example, one study showed that babies of 12 to 14 months who had fathers who played an active, independent and consistent role in childcare were more sociable than babies with more distant fathers – both with their own parents and with outsiders.
Just as you’d expect: when dads cuddle, touch and talk to their newborns, they want more. For example, one study of premature babies found that the sooner the fathers held them, the sooner they reported feelings of warmth and love.
A strong father-baby relationship makes for a better adapted, more confident, more sociable and brighter child…