How Dads Can Bond with Baby Through Baby Massage
As parents, we are excited to meet and connect with our babies, and start adapting to our radically different lives and sleep schedules.
For Moms, this often means a lot of time spent physically holding the child and getting skin-to-skin contact with the baby, which promotes bonding and helps with postpartum issues.
But what about Dads? Outside of feeding or reading to their babies, Dads have less opportunity for meaningful interaction that happens in the first 6 months of life. Unfortunately, many Dads can feel relegated to a secondary role, especially in the first few months of life.
While there is a huge push for mothers to bond with their child, there just isn’t enough emphasis placed on bonding and connection for fathers.
WHY BONDING WITH DAD IS SO IMPORTANT
While fathers often get relegated to the side when it comes to connecting with the baby, the truth is that the Father-Baby bond is equally as important for our children's long term emotional and social development.
There has been a growing emphasis on research that has shown that when Dads spend time massaging their newborns, there are many powerful benefits for both parents and child, including:
- The child's physical and mental development is boosted when Dads take a hands-on approach to parenting from day 1.
- Dads have reported experiencing less stress and increased confidence when they have special time to bond with their baby through baby massage.
- A strong father-child connection has been shown to lessen the chances of depression for both father and child later in life.
- Kids who have better relationships with their fathers have been found to handle stress better.
- Kids are more successful academically, have better social skills and are less likely to do drugs or alcohol when a strong bond with Dad is established.
BENEFITS OF BABY MASSAGE FOR DADS
It isn’t a well-known fact, but many men actually experience postpartum depression as well. This number spikes between months 3-6 after the birth of the baby to about 26% of men, which is approximately twice the average rate of depression for men in that age range.
Many fathers may struggle to find opportunities to bond with their babies and form a close connection. This can also lead to an increase in parent-related stress which can accumulate over time.
The power of physical touch has been shown to be an opportunity for fathers to bond with their baby, increase the bond between dad and baby, and decrease parental stress.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND FATHERS & BABY MASSAGE
Tiffany Field, from the Touch Research Institute in Miami, conducted a study in 2000 that found fathers who massaged their infants were “More expressive and showed more enjoyment and more warmth during floor-play interactions with their infants.” Moreover, fathers who participated in massage experienced increased self-esteem as a parent. Field noted that while the dads reaped benefits, their babies also realized some advantages—they tended to greet the fathers with more direct eye contact, smiled and vocalized more (Early Child Development and Care).
A more recent study in the Journal of Perinatal Education showed similar results after observing two groups of 12 infant-father groups for four weeks. Fathers in the experimental group massaged their babies, while the dads in the control group did not.
After massaging their infants, the fathers demonstrated a decrease in their stress scores. The authors concluded that infant massage is a “viable option for teaching fathers caregiving sensitivity.” Additionally, the results suggest that fathers who massage their infants experienced “increased feelings of competence, role acceptance, spousal support, attachment and health by decreasing feelings of isolation and depression.”
When a bond is forged early on, the chances for a strong, healthy relationship later in life are increased. As men become more actively involved in their children’s lives, it is worthwhile to explore the benefits massage can provide for both baby and dad.
Dads find that baby massage can actually improve their overall mood and feelings of competence. Many Dads report loving using the Kahlmi Baby Massager, dubbed "The Theragun for Babies" by Fast Company magazine, since it is easy to use, lo-tech / high touch, and has little to no learning curve for starting a massage practice.
Baby massage is an incredible tool that fathers can use to bond with their baby and promote healthy growth and development in the near and long term.