How can fathers bond with their newborns?

Smiling father holds sleeping newborn

On Father's Day, we honor the important milestones fathers share with their children. Right from the start, dads play critical roles in their kids' care and development.

As certified child life specialists at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, part of our role includes helping fathers understand and explore meaningful ways to bond with their newborns.

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

Fathers are an essential part of the care team during labor and delivery at the Family Birth Center. They provide important emotional support for their partner, which may include being an advocate for their desired birth plan or communicating their partner’s needs to the medical team. They can also help provide updates to other family members and coordinate care for older children. Fathers often need support as well. They should feel comfortable asking questions throughout the admission to increase their understanding and confidence in their role.

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

In a baby’s earliest days, fathers can provide consistent nurturing and care.  These are the building blocks of the bond that they will share with that baby forever. Even before birth, babies spend many weeks getting to know their father’s voice. Fathers can read or speak to their baby to enhance this bond and encourage language development. Fathers can also change diapers and offer bottle feeds, in addition to rocking, holding (including skin-to-skin/kangaroo care), soothing, and playing with their newborns.

What is kangarooing, and why should dads do it? Do dads kangaroo at Comer Children’s?

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 the 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. There are many benefits to babies when being held this way, but there is also a big benefit for dads. When dads hold babies skin-to-skin, it provides both dad and baby with mood-boosting hormones that increase the parent-baby bond and can help the baby feel soothed. Yes, we welcome this kind of parent-baby bonding throughout the hospital!

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

There are many prenatal and family education classes offered at Comer Children's for all caregivers, including a Support Partners Workshop. 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's time to take their baby home!

Child life specialist leading a play activity with two patients

Child Life and Family Education

At the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital, our certified child life specialists have extensive training in child development and can provide effective, appropriate support to meet the needs of your youngster or teen.

Learn more about our Child Life team