There is a multitude of things that mothers and babies do together every day. There is diaper-change time, with songs and animated conversation to keep the baby entertained. There is massage-time, with many snuggles and cuddles thrown in. There is bath-time, feeding sessions, nap-time, walk in the stroller...so many things for baby and mommy to bond over. But what about daddies who don’t usually get to spend as much time with their babies? What do they enjoy doing with their bubs?
When fathers spend time with their babies and do things together, it helps the baby understand her daddy better. She realizes that daddy is also a core part of her home and world, just like mom. Fathers also benefit immensely from spending time with their babies – it gives them confidence in their parenting skills, lets them support their wives in this challenging phase, and come to terms with their new life-designation of Daddy.
Fathers Share Favourite Things to Do With Their Babies
We wanted to understand the kinds of activities that men enjoy doing with their babies, and why. Based on our interviews with new daddies, here is the top ten list. Time to unravel what’s actually going on in the new dad’s mind!
Encouraging The Baby to Say “Da-Da”Until the baby starts talking and addressing all her family members, this activity tops Daddy’s activity list! As soon as the baby is about four months old and has started making some sounds, many new fathers enthusiastically start encouraging her to say “Da-da” (or “Pa-pa”). It is almost a competition to see whom the baby will address first – Mommy or Daddy!
Fun Fact: Phonetically speaking, it’s much easier to say Ma-Ma than Da-Da because the “M” sound can be produced simply by opening and closing the mouth. The “D” sound, on the other hand, requires more complicated work. If your husband has long been waiting for the day the baby will call out to him, you may give him a tip – consider aiming for Pa-Pa instead of Da-Da.
Swinging The Baby
“I love seeing the happy look on my daughter’s face when I am swinging her. It’s as if she is completely at peace with the world.”
Many new dads, it seems, enjoy swinging their little ones and making them giggle. The swinging movement tends to relax babies and can be helpful in making them fall asleep at nap-time. It is also beneficial for your baby’s muscular development.
Dads can gently sway their babies while holding them close. Another option is to use a swing that comes with an automatic/manual cradle.
Tip: Childcare experts recommend that until the baby develops head control, you should avoid baby swings. Lay the baby on a bedsheet folded in half and swing her gently on this homemade hammock.
Telling The Bed-Time StoryFor several fathers, bed-time is the preferred time of bonding with the baby. They are back from office, done with their day-to-day tasks, and also want to give their wives some rest. A bed-time story ritual is a great way to both relax the baby and leave her with some valuable lessons about colours, animals, etc., that she can process during sleep.
According to childcare experts, babies can start picking up things from picture books as early as 6 months. Fathers can point to colourful pictures in the books and, if the baby seems interested, start labelling them too.
“I sometimes let my baby hold the book and try to flip the pages. That keeps her busy while my wife moisturises her skin before bed-time. She loves both – the mild fragrance of her moisturising Baby Dove Lotion and the colourful pictures that I point out to her. This ritual makes her one happy baby!”
Wearing The Baby OutdoorsSurprisingly, babywearing emerged as a popular activity with new fathers! Daddies told us that they like to wear their little ones in slings, especially in front-carriers, and go out for walks in that position. “Wearing my baby makes me feel so close to her. She can snuggle up to me and I know that she is safe. Also, it helps my wife a bit – she can have her hands-free when we are finally out for a stroll, after hours of looking after our child.”
When your husband is wearing the baby, have him ensure she is facing inward and not outward. This will prevent her from getting overstimulated. It is recommended to get an ergonomic carrier that has enough space to keep your baby comfortable and give her adequate room to breathe.
Playing Games“The day my baby was born, I could almost visualise a time five years later, when the two of us would play Cricket in the park!”
For some dads, play-time with the baby is the highlight of the day. They cannot wait for the little ones to grow up and become play companions, so they start early! Playing with balls, pretending to be an aeroplane and taking off with the baby, giving the baby rides on their shoulders, etc., are extremely popular with new fathers.
Regular play-time is healthy for the baby’s overall physical development. Not only does it boost her muscle strength and body coordination but also improves bonding with Daddy dearest.
Splashing In The Bath Water
Another activity that many fathers told us they enjoy is bathing their babies. If truth be told, dads seem to enjoy the splashing about more than the actual process of bathing! “My baby and I play with the rubber ducks and splash the water, making a big whooshing sound. That really delights him, even though I admit it makes the job a bit difficult for my wife..”
Participating in the baby’s bath-time can be a good bonding opportunity for fathers. Let your husband soap or sponge the baby, concentrating on body parts such as the belly, legs and buttocks. Use a moisturising bath soap or bodywash such as the Baby Dove Rich Moisture Bar. This paediatrician-tested baby bar is infused with 1/4 moisturising cream and does not cause skin dryness. This will protect the baby from any skin irritation during or after her bath.
Tickling is fun to do and makes babies giggle endlessly! Many daddies enjoy tickling their babies and then watching enamoured when the babies laugh. “It is the purest and most beautiful thing ever, my baby’s laughter.”
Most babies are born ticklish, at least to an extent, and start responding to tickles by 3-4 months of age. It is also a form of social awareness, when the baby realizes that the normal response to being tickled is to laugh and squeal. (This is also why it is recommended to tickle your baby only after they are older than 4 months. According to research on tickles, infants younger than 3-4 months can’t understand what/whom is causing the tickling sensation and may feel trapped.)
Dads can also blow raspberries on the baby’s tummy. Simply make different sounds with the mouth while doing so. As the baby grows older, she may even start mimicking these sounds.
“I absolutely love doing this. I keep my eyes closed and pretend to be asleep. My baby does everything she can to wake me up so I will play with her – she tries to pry my eyes open, slaps my back, pulls at my hair, makes funny sounds. Then I suddenly wake up and catch her, making her giggle non-stop!”
Many dads love being sleeping monsters – letting their babies figure out new ways to wake them up, and then suddenly surprising them. Another fun activity that dads can do while lying down is to let their babies climb on their legs and shoulders. Let the baby figure out how to tackle this ‘fort’ - it’s a great way to have some fun as well as get the little brain working!
Making Funny Faces and Sounds
When it comes to playing the joker, most dads excel! They love making funny expressions and encouraging the baby to imitate them. Babies are fascinated by faces, and when they see such an expressive face, they get even more drawn to it. This means many long minutes of bonding, no-crying, and also learning some communication skills.
You can help your husband come up with simple games that involve face-to-face interaction. Make up silly songs with a variety of sounds and sing them to your baby. Not before long, your little one will be participating full-throttle at mimicking and imitating you!
Saying “I Love You”
“I rarely said ‘I love you’ to my wife before our baby was born. But now, I cannot help saying it to both my wife and my baby. They are at the centre of my world and I want to let them know this.”
This one has got to be our favourite item on the list! After the birth of their baby, many men rediscover themselves. They see themselves becoming warmer, more open to expressing emotion, and more attuned to the needs of their loved ones. Saying ‘I love you’ to your baby is a beautiful way to show you care and raise the little one to become an affectionate adult.
Spending time with their fathers reassures the little ones that someone besides their mom is also looking out for them. Through fun and play activities every day, babies come closer to their fathers, feel secure in their presence, and form a bond for a lifetime. As a mother, encourage your husband to spend time with the baby and figure out his own unique ways of bonding. Be his support system in this journey, not his monitor. After all, there is no right or wrong way of being a parent, only your way!
So, what is your husband’s favourite pastime with the baby? Tell us in the comments.
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