Do Fathers Bond as Strongly with Their Babies as Do Their Mothers?

Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005

Do Fathers Bond as Strongly with Their Babies as Do Their Mothers?

WebMD Feature

Q: Do fathers bond as strongly with babies as do their mothers?

A: Since fathers don't carry the baby for nine months, give birth or breast-feed, the process of bonding is often slower and different. But the feelings can be just as strong, experts say.

The term "engrossment" has been used to describe the powerful response fathers often feel toward their newborn, including his attraction to the infant, perception of the newborn as "perfect," extreme elation and heightened self-esteem.

"Fathers can do everything but breast-feed," says Dr. William Sears, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at University of California School of Medicine at Irvine and co-author of "The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby -- From Birth to Age Two."

Experts encourage fathers to hold and to examine their babies right after they're born to take advantage of the baby's alert and sensitive period. "Draping baby over daddy's chest, wearing baby in a baby sling -- those enhance father-infant bonding," adds Dr. Sears.

Studies have shown that fathers can be just as responsive to their infants. Both parents increase their rate of cooing and response following a sound from the infant, although fathers are more likely to talk rapidly and mothers are more apt to respond with touch.

Bonding for a father usually begins when initial eye contact is made and the baby responds to him, says Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, professor emeritus of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and author of "Touchpoints: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development."

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