Fathers and Babies

In recent years, we have seen the trend towards more fathers having greater involvement in their baby’s lives.

Two or three generations ago, the idea of a Dad preparing formula for his infant would have been a bit unusual. Now, dads worlwide are involved in their baby’s care nearly as much as moms.

Recently, I heard a quote from a great Rabbi from a prior generation. He said that a father’s responsibility towards his young children, is to make sure that the child has a happy and relaxed mother!

How do you feel about that?

If you are a man- how involved were/are you in taking care of the baby? If you are a woman- how much does your child’s father help out?

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  1. Lindsay says:

    While I am pleased that fathers are taking a bigger role in their small children’s life, I don’t think that the natural bond between mother and infant should be manipulated to achieve that. Of course, a few generations ago it would have been unthinkable for a father to prepare formula as formula didn’t exist. The child nursed for food and for comfort. This definitely seems part of God’s infinite design for children and mothers. Science backs this up by discovering the many physical and emotional benefits to both child and mother by fostering this relationship.
    Our son is also very attached to his father. He is saddened when he leaves for work, rejoices when he comes back, and tries to imitate him all the time. My husband was very involved from the beginning: changing diapers, giving baths, holding baby so mom could bathe. While my husband enjoyed these things, their biggest value in the earliest days were to relieve mom! Other aids were loading and unloading the dishwasher, throwing a load of laundry in the wash, etc…
    So, I think it is important for men to step out of their stereotypes when raising children. Ironically, this is the best way to ensure the happy and relaxed mother the rabbi spoke of. And yet, I don’t think that means the father has to become like the mother. They provide two different roles and both are important to having a healthy child.

  2. Lindsay, thanks for your compelling comments! I quite agree, however I suppose that all men are different and that there is that minority of men out there who do feel an instant bond with their infants, and a consistent desire to partake in their care. (Not sure if I’ve ever met a man like that, perhaps I just read about him in a baby magazine!)

    At the end of the day, moms have the “maternal instinct” – not dads.

    On that note, I was greatly inspired by the male penguins in the movie ‘March of the Penguins’ who remained in the freezing cold, without any food, for 120 days, warming their eggs. Most guys I know can’t wait much more than 120 minutes for food, lol!

  3. I became a dad about 11 years ago, and to the dismay of everyone around me (except my own sis) I took the view that our child required the best possible care and guidance. Have been an educator for over 33 years and have tried applying all my intuition as much as my skills to bring up our daughter. I have been consistently the “primary caregiver”.
    Having said that, the mother has not been successful in understandinfg that, apart from the Stereotype of “Maternal Instinct” (which can easily be balanced with “Paternal Instinct”) the level of commitment from a dad lays in his “WILL” and not in his hormones or “biological forces”.
    I guess we’ll all agree that humans are so far removed nowadays, from their basic natural backbones, that many parents concentrate more on their careers or ‘likes and dislikes’ than upon the undeniable truth which lays under their implicit liability to raise healthy children (mainly in the emotional area).
    I’m certain all parents can understand that their kids are the jumping board to their own 2nd childhood… only if someone else would let them into the secret !!!
    Fathers are taking a larger part in the upbringing of their chilren also as a response to the changing politics, and the fact more women than ever before are out of the home.
    My life spins around my daughter’s upbringing, but this is a CONSCIOUS decision of mine. We all like talking about free will; I do not talk I just try to apply it. Happy 2nd childhood everyone!!!

  4. “Happy 2nd Childhood”- Sweet!

  5. Hayes Johnson says:

    I love the idea that fathers have become more involved, however, inour family, my husband has never prepared a bottle of formula. Neither have I. Our children have all been breastfed, as God intended, and as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. My husband has changed diapers, bathed, clothed, and cared for our children since birth. However, you are perpetuating the formula feeding push. Please don’t do that. Let daddies be helpful an dlet mommies feed their children as they should, with their breasts, as God made us.

  6. Hi Hayes, thanks for your comments. I am in no way perpetuating one sort of feeding over the other, rather using the bottle as an example of childcaring! In fact, one of my sons was supplemented by forumula at the age of 6 months, and the others never had formula in their lives! Every family must weigh the decision on their own and do what is right for their circumstances:)

  7. Natalie says:

    We have a 5 year old and a 7 month old, our 5 year old spent 7 and half weeks in the NICU, and much to many of the nurses surprise my wonderful Husband was and still is a very hands on Daddy. He wanted to change our tiny little guys diaper, even when our son only weighed a little over 2 pounds. I never felt as though the “Mother Baby bond” was jeopardized by him giving our children a bottle. My son did receive Breast milk for the first 4 months of his life but in a bottle.

  8. this whole breast feeding stuff makes me crazy . bc i CHOOSE to not bf my girls does not mean i love them any less . i think that a lot of this bonding stuff is pure and simple hype . adopted children feel no less loved if they were bottle fed or bf and neither should biological children . as my daughters ped. told me in the 1950’s you would have been hard pressed to find a mother who breast fed … it is a trend these days to be anti-bottle .

  9. Natalie Valles says:

    My husband is very hands-on. He has been the primary caretaker for the past two years almost. It has been great for him, my children and our marriage since now he knows how much work it is to care for little ones and the home. We are soon to make the switch so that I can return home again full-time and I am excited. I can’t wait for more cuddles and the little expressions that I miss when I am out to work as a teacher. I believe that it is for the best for both parents to “know” their children. Today, at least in So Cal. there are too many parents commuting 1-2 hours a day, coming home tired and wanting peace and quiet. They don’t know what their kids like, what they eat or don’t eat and who their friends are. I can see directly the improvements in my kids life with both of us involved–I can tell the difference with my family’s children and other children. The investment that mom and dad make is worth it and for daddy to know their kids is priceless and can’t be bought later. My husband thought he was invovled and knew his kids until he was home. THen he realized that he had only had a couple of hours a night, if, …and some time on the weekend. I appulad all the daddys and mommys who are sacrificing their entertainment and rest to put their energy into their children while it makes a difference. By the time they are teenagers, its about too late.

  10. Natalie Valles says:

    I don’t think the trend is to be anti-bottle, I think its BF mamas standing up to BF when baby is hungry. A bottle fed baby can eat where ever, but I’ll tell you, society through their looks, snubs and even words, will almost demand you feed your child in a bathroom rather than make them feel uncomforatble! I have nursed babies for now six years! Unbelievably! And my son was supplemented with super shakes (breast milk and formula) when he was doing poorly at age one due to a congenital digestive problem. I personally don’t have anything against bottle feding–I know many who try to nurse and can’t. But I wold like to say that I don’t have to go to a changing room or bathroom or my car orwhereever the second my child is hungry. I don’t understand why some poeple actually think its gross, or associate sex with it, or ??? We are the only mammal who feeds young with something articficial–and yes, formula was created to save and improve the lives of babies. Bey good! But to put me in the bathroom to feed a BABY? Kiddng! Would you eat in a bathroom? Keep BF if you choose, keep BF if you choose, and feed the baby when they are hungry is what I say!

  11. A. Frances says:

    Ellen says, “Lindsay, thanks for your compelling comments! I quite agree, however I suppose that all men are different and that there is that minority of men out there who do feel an instant bond with their infants, and a consistent desire to partake in their care. (Not sure if I’ve ever met a man like that, perhaps I just read about him in a baby magazine!)

    At the end of the day, moms have the “maternal instinct” – not dads.”

    Unfortunately, scientifically, this simply isn’t true. We know from study after study that maternal instinct is almost entirely something which needs to be learned and nurtured. Women with children who didn’t get that learning and never had the behaviors modeled for them often turn out to be abusive, or neglectful -not always, of course – sometimes they’re just frustrated and struggling to catch up.
    And to the contrary, there are certainly men who are fabulous fathers: my own is one of a number in the area in which we live who stay home and are the primary caregivers. They have all, as far as I can tell, done a wonderful job – and I know that my husband does a better job at it than I ever could – or would want to.
    As for breastfeeding – I BFed my son until he was a year – pumping while I was at work- until he quit on his own. But I have to say, Natalie is completely right – it’s very difficult to BF out of the house in our society. The stupid struggle with the towel or blanket half-smothering the baby so that you don’t have to go into a bathroom to feed them- feh.

  12. Have been thinking about:
    At the end of the day, moms have the “maternal instinct” – not dads.”

    A simple response could be:
    At the end of the day, dads have the paternal instinct- not moms.

    The assumptions and presumptions that cause schisms between caring parents should be disregarded, maybe.
    Perhaps keeping away from false claims can help both mothers and fathers, to recognize the positive aspects of each one (their merits) in regards to caring effectively for their children.

    Just a thought

  13. I realize the focus of all of these ideas are on parenting however, there is no mention of nurturing the marriage. Ultimately the marriage bond must maintain its foundation in order to keep the family together. My daughters parents are divorced because her parents relationship fell apart and they only cared for the daughter instead of each other. As a father I miss my daughter very much. Picking, loving, partnering with a spouse needs to be the first layer before we entertain the parenting function. Please share with your readers the importance of picking a spouse and finding child care where the parents can spend time alone and nurture their relationship. Although children are a lifetime commitment-one day the children will have their own lives and all that will be left are the parents.

  14. My husband and i are parents to two adorable toddlers. my husband bonded with my son from day one, and he is still “best buddy”. As time has gone on, Dad has been stepping in more (at mom’s request – i don’t have the energy to do it all!)and enjoying it. DS gains immeasurably from being bonded to BOTH of us (despite the fact that Mom played ‘milk truck’ until he was over a year old). however you choose to feed your children, be sure they have as much cuddle time as they can – with both parents if possible!

  15. Heather Thibodeau says:

    My husband is the primary caretaker and he does an awesome job. My kids are happy and well-adjusted. What keeps you from giving this a try? How might the world change if we allowed men to opportunity to care for their children? Peace.

  16. Cool man. This totally rocks

  17. I am speaking as a new mother, as someone who grew-up as the child of an emotionally distant father, and as a professional who has had some experience working with families and children in the mental health field. I can tell you that what REALLY counts is that the parents are both emotionally available to their child. Period. Look at the child when they are launched from home (whether attending elementary school, a trip to the grocery store for the first time by themselves, or whatever, away from mum and dad). Are they confident, or do they second guess themselves? Are they happy, or are they anxious all of the time? I have met children and adults who have lots of adjustment troubles (myself included before I examined my own family’s history and came to terms with the roles I have assumed, and my responsibility in taking control of my life). Some have been bottlefed and some breastfed – so what? Feeding method only becomes a moral issue when the child is not growing, indicating that they are being abused/neglected. Mother and father roles are NOT about the parent, they are about the child. I was breastfed, and my mother gave all that a mother should give in nurturing and support to a child. But, she was only a mother, and not a father too. It would have helped to have a dad who was emotionally there for me. It hurt to have him there in physical presence, but never really know how much, or if, he even cared. Who knows – a bottlefeeding from dad may have been just what would have started a beautiful relationship between us! I would like to hear a story about the time my dad fed me, but it is not there, and never will be. What it comes down to is nurturing from within, and the outlook on life that we pass down to our children. These arguments over feeding trends are petty, and only establish insecurity and guilt in new parents. Of course we must pay attention to the nutritional needs of our children – that is a given basic responsibility. Let us not scrutinize one another, but support one another as parents and respect the souls of our children. Can you guess how I choose to feed my child? I breastfeed now, because of the nutritional benefits and because I am able. But, I will give it up when my child lets me know that it is time to move on, and with the recommendation of the pediatrician (she has years of medical training and experience with pediatric nutrition, and she is the mother of 3 children, of whom she breastfed). My husband gives our baby occassional supplements of formula and expressed breastmilk from a bottle. It is OKAY! Baby appears to be happy and healthy eating from either of us, and he has a special bond with each of us. He seems happiest when we are all together as a family. I am not a medical doctor and refuse to advise other mothers on how to feed their children. I am too busy trying my best to parent my own! Babies grow up to be children, and children into adults. As the saying goes, “children are not things to be molded, but people to be unfolded.”

  18. I have 4 children. My youngest is 5 weeks old. I breastfed/am breastfeeding all my children. My husband is the burper. He is just better at it then I am. He bonds with are babies every chance he gets. He makes them smile, he rocks them, he sings to them etc. Daisy is right, dads need to be there emotionally. A great way for dads to spend time with their kids is to take them out for an outing to give Mom a break and get stuff done. It is especially important for dads to have a special bond with their daughters so that they grow up to have respect for themselves and not seek attention from men for the wrong reasons.

    Harvey makes a great point about marriage. Our children can not be emotionally healthy if they observe their parents not getting along. They learn how to be good spouses from the example of their parents.

  19. Dario is right:
    Perhaps keeping away from false claims can help both mothers and fathers, to recognize the positive aspects of each one (their merits) in regards to caring effectively for their children.