Father-baby Love

Not every dad falls in love with his baby at the same time or in the same way. Many new fathers do not hear how other dads ‘fall in love’ in different ways with their new baby.

Here's what some dads say..

Father-baby love - baby love

It was about six or seven weeks before it clicked with me. Before that, I sort of felt some connection but nothing powerful like, this is my own child! Before the birth everyone joked about smelly poo and no sleep, but nobody said anything about falling in love.

Father-baby love - baby love

After she was born, these urges came out of me that I never realised I had … Working at night, I came home about two in the morning; about that time the baby would wake up for a change and a bottle, and I would take care of her and put her back to sleep

Father-baby love - baby love

When I get home I’m just with him all the time. When I’m at work I’m missing him. I don’t know what I’d do without him. Considering nine or ten months ago he didn’t exist… now I’d kill for him.

Father-baby love - baby love

I was in love with my child before he was born. But I was also very involved in his delivery. I held him for over an hour after he was born. My love was cemented at this time.

Father-baby love - baby love

She arrived in a very busy room with students, nurses and doctors there, and after a thirty- two-hour delivery. I remember holding her to my chest and cuddling her and thinking, Goodness me, I’m a dad! It was then that I fell in love with her.

Father-baby love - baby love

It took about three months to fall in love with my first. He was in intensive care for the first two weeks and I didn’t spend that much time with him once he got home. With my second it was about five months, as I was not able to split attention between my first and second

Father-baby love - baby love

The science tells us that when a dad forms a solid bond with his baby that helps that child through life. SMS4dads sends tips to dads on bonding with their baby and links to explore. But we also connect dads to other dads by passing on what they say.

Reproduced with permission from The Dad Factor: how father-baby bonding helps a child for life by Richard Fletcher Finch Publishing. © Richard Fletcher

Richard’s research revealed possible long-term negative impacts on the children of dads with mental health issues. Fathers’ depressive symptoms in the first year after the birth predicted behaviour problems in their children years later.

“If dads’ mental health has such a dramatic impact then we need to be screening dads for depression, not just mums,” Richard explains.

In response to these limitations, Richard and his team have designed a smart-phone based program that allows mobile connection for new and expectant dads.

Participants receive texts containing information and links, and self-report their mood. If the mood tracker identifies dads as needing extra support, they will be offered a phone call from a counsellor trained in this area.

Following the success of the pilot of the SMS4dads program, Funding was received to enable a National roll-out.

“When dad’s miss antenatal classes or activities, they also miss out on contact and links to other people.  They may never get the chance to say to anyone, look I’m really stressed,” he points out.

“SMS4dads is a way of bringing dads into the health system and keeping them linked in with services and support,” explains Richard.

Richard Fletcher

Associate Professor, PhD

Richard credits a varied career, a talented and innovative team, and much life experience for affording him the insight needed to address the challenges related to actively engaging dads.

After completing his masters in Medical Science, studying epidemiology, Richard earned his PhD focusing on fathers and attachment.

“Fathers are invisible in many places, and that is endemic. Not because people dislike fathers, but because the system is set up to be focused on mothers.”

Some services and organisations are aware of the need to engage dads, but have been unsuccessful in their attempts.

“When people are challenged about this, they generally want dads involved,” Richard affirms.

“Often, however, they just don’t know how to do it.”

Richard works with health professionals on issues related to fathers, and has delivered many antenatal programs for expectant dads.

He credits his own family with giving him an understanding of the role of fathers needed to make his work relevant.

“I have three daughters and two stepdaughters,”

“My kids would say they taught me just about everything I know and they’d be right. They’ve taught me a lot, and still do.”